Two streams of thought argue about the relation between feminism and outer appearances; one of them claims that feminists should discard any adornment, believing that it’s a kind of subjection to patriarchal institutions, while the other seeks to argue that women should use whatever means they choose to prove their femininity and express themselves, including wearing makeup.
Liberal feminists support the idea that makeup is empowering, and believe that wearing makeup is a sort of taking control of our appearance and reclaiming femininity to boost our self-esteem.
On the other hand, radical feminists see a woman’s decision to wear makeup is influenced by the patriarchal societies we live in, where women indulge in certain stereotypes.
Simply, one of the two sectors, believe that makeup help women say “Who I am”, while the other believes, it’s an application of sexism and objectification, and in the end, both are feminists in their own way, because there’s no one rulebook of feminism that we should stick to.
Makeup is anti-feminist and oppressive
This book was one of the first inspirations to the activists of the Women’s Liberation Movement, and thus it’s understood why the second wave of feminism between the 1960s and 1980s was against women’s adornment, promoting it as a sexual objectification.
The supporters of such stream of thought drew their hatred of the feminine appearance from novels of the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen and that alike, where it was evident that women of the noble class of the old United Kingdom should wear makeup and act decently with a low tone of voice of “humming” to emancipate an idea of femininity, in order to attract men for marriage since getting married was the only concern of any family, and there was a prime competition among girls to attract wealthy men during ballroom dancing halls, as those scenes were prominent in many British novels, especially in the nineteenth century.
An example of such course of action, lies in the novel “pride and prejudice”, when the mother of 4 girls clearly stated that she has four daughters who have to get married, so that they have to widen their social circles, attending all social events to display her daughter, particularly mocking the second tomboyish girl for caring about her pride, barely displaying any flair of femininity, referring to the heroine of the novel for that she kept her feelings of love for Mr Darcey for herself without exhibiting any sign of feminine weaknesses nor any sorts of prey-attraction, as her sister used to publicly display.
Currently, some feminists link the messages implied within cosmetics advertising and television shows to exportation of the idea that women are imperfect and need to fix ‘flaws’ in their faces and bodies by buying their products.
Therefore, from such linkage, the feminist thinkers decided to break the shackles of such a link, by hiding their own femininity seeking to imitate men, such as Simone De Beauvoir, who was amongst the early feminists to smoke a cigarette, since such a course of action was male-oriented only in that era.
On the other hand, Pierre Daco, a Belgian psychiatrist and writer, drew attention to the psychological effects of seeking to get rid of your own gender identity, in his book ” Comprehend Women and Their Profound Psychology “, by seeking to copycat the appearances and actions of the other gender, which creates deep psychological disturbances, because it stems from the idea of gender-hatred, insecurities and self-degradation, instead of seeking its assertion. He clearly dedicated his book to all feminists stating that they should be proud of their femininity, “in and out” for their own mental wellbeing.
Makeup is compatible with feminism… The other side of the coin
This thought is supported by a wide portion of feminists, especially after the lipstick feminism arose, which is a school of third wave feminism, in which women wanted to reclaim their sexuality after becoming tired of the angry-sexless-feminist stereotype created by second wave feminism.
One of the most prominent Egyptian feminists who belong to this stream was Dr “Dorrya Shafiq”, who was famous for her pride in being a female, quite recognized for the strong scents of her “perfumes”, being always elegantly dressed and applying “full make up”, while seeking to do her PHD, giving a striking example that any female should be safe in her own identity, since her outer appearance have nothing to do with her own deep feminist beliefs.
The origin of the female make up and beauty lies in the ancient Egypt
The first archaelogical evidence, dated from 4,000 BC, of cosmetic usage was found in ancient Egypt, where both men and women believed makeup did more than just enhance their natural features. They believed their elaborate eye makeup could ward off evil spirits and improve the sight.
Wearing make-up and perfumes, have been interlinked with the female identity since “Cleopatra”, who was known to bathe in the “Oasis of Siwa”, to keep her body young and her flesh cells tight, such as indulging in milk and honey showers and mixing various herbs onto them as well.
Also, she was known for putting heavy makeup and drawing lengthy winged eye liners, dying her hair and painting her nails with a mix of henna and juniper berries, let alone the jewelry of the ancient female Egyptians, which was sophisticated, not simple, and all of this doesn’t contradict being one of the greatest rulers of Egypt.
Not only Cleopatra, but all the female portrayals on the ancient Pharaonic temples prove how women used to draw an elongated cat-eye black liner, and you can simply browse the net for “Egyptian eyes” to find that the heavy black liner with that sexy elongated wing, which was part of our ancient female-identity, which we all should be keen on preserving not hiding.
Women leaders wear bold makeup
The Author “Autumn Whitefield-Madrano” wrote an interesting book entitled “face value” in which she researched many women, suffering guilt complexities for wearing makeup, especially if they are serious working women, or those who engage in social activities.
The writer stated in the Huffington post that she wrote her book to dismantle the link between wanting to care for your outside beauty and having feelings of guilt and shame.
For example, the case of “Amal Clooney” breaks such a link, because she wears makeup, while performing her role as an international humanist lawyer.
Not only Clooney, “Theresa May”, the prime minister of the UK, is known to put a very bold lip liner since being in office in 2016, while “Angela Mirkhel”, the chancellor of Germany, draws a fine eyeliner over her hooded lids with no feelings of shame nor guilt and they are strong women ruling the G8 nations.
The last word in this argument should be “Women who choose to wear or not wear makeup are making a decision about how they wish to be perceived. A feminist who doesn’t wear makeup, is no more a feminist than a woman who does. It’s just two sides of the same coin.”
A Researcher and Writer at Wlaha Wogoh Okhra