Let's Talk About The Double Standard For Women And Our Makeup

By Meghan Dillon··  4 min read
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Like many twenty-something women, I love makeup. I started wearing lip gloss when I was in elementary school and started learning makeup trends from teen magazines when I was in middle school.

I graduated to women’s magazines and YouTube tutorials when I was in high school and college, and I still can’t get enough. I love watching makeup tutorials and reading about beauty trends.

We’re all introduced to makeup at young ages. I loved playing with my mom’s makeup when I was little and always wanted to copy how early 2000s starlets like Britney Spears and Hilary Duff did their makeup. From glossy magazine covers to Instagram influencers, we’re constantly fed images that we need makeup. But we’re also told that we don't need makeup and that makeup is vapid. The double standard is real, so where’s the truth?

The Science behind Makeup and Self-Esteem

I’m not going to lie, I get a bit of a self-esteem boost when I put in a little extra time when putting on my makeup. Most women I know feel the same way, and there’s science to back it up. This is known as the "lipstick effect" —  “a known psychological phenomenon in which wearing makeup can give individuals a confidence boost by making them feel more physically attractive, increasing feelings of self-esteem, attitude, and personality.” Studies show that makeup not only boosts confidence, but can also help women feel smarter.

The lipstick effect is a psychological phenomenon where makeup boosts the wearer’s confidence.

Most of us know this to be true and enjoy putting our faces on for a few minutes every morning, but that doesn’t stop societal attitudes from confusing us about how society views women who wear makeup.

Are We Prettier with or without Makeup?

Have you ever been told you look tired, hungover, or sick if you show up to work without makeup on? There’s a pretty strong chance that I am tired and a slight chance that I am hungover, but it’s a pretty rude statement regardless. The same rude thing happens when we put on a full face of makeup — we’re told that we don’t need to wear so much makeup.

We’re told to put makeup on. When we do, we’re told we don’t need to wear so much makeup.

This phenomenon has become a cliché in music. Drake sang, “Sweat pants, hair tied, chillin' with no make-up on, that's when you're the prettiest, I hope that you don't take it wrong.” One Direction sang, “Don't need make-up to cover up, being the way that you are is enough.” Comedian Amy Schumer satirized this phenomenon in a music video for her show Inside Amy Schumer in 2015.

In short, we’re confused. Whether it comes from the guys we date, coworkers, family members, and even friends, we’re told we need to put makeup on. When we do put makeup on, we’re told we don’t need to wear so much makeup.

Do Feminists Hate Makeup?

With the rise of the body positivity movement and radical third wave feminism, we’re also told that wearing makeup is patriarchal. Radical feminist Julie Bindel wrote that wearing makeup is antifeminist, but throwing out your makeup is an act of rebellion against the patriarchy.  

Bindel wrote, “From birth to death, females are pummeled with the message that we are not good enough as we are. We are told to look younger, sexier, taller, thinner, darker, lighter, smoother and just better...Do yourself a favor, and throw your makeup in the bin. It would be a much more revolutionary act than burning your bra.”

“Throw your makeup in the bin. It would be a much more revolutionary act than burning your bra.”

It's important to note that some feminists strongly disagree with Bindel. However, it’s also important to acknowledge Bindel’s rhetoric in a society that claims rejecting traditional femininity is empowering

There seems to be less debate over makeup in the body positivity movement. Popular publications like Bustle and Cosmopolitan have published articles on how makeup can be seen as body positive.

In short, the more radical factions of the feminist movement seem to be against makeup and promoting femininity. But if feminism really is about equality and women feeling empowered in their own skin, then feminists should let any woman do what she wants with her face in the morning. Whether it’s no makeup, a couple of coats of mascara, or a full Kardashian-style contour — all should be seen as acceptable in the feminist movement.

Closing Thoughts

The double standard behind women wearing makeup is both confusing and annoying. As women, it’s important to empower one another to be our best selves. It’s a woman’s choice to wear makeup and wear as much as she wants, and we should all embrace that attitude.

  Beauty Culture
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