Women have nothing to make up for

NOVEMBER 26 — I was at work on a Wednesday morning for an important meeting and afterwards a colleague said in passing, “Couldn’t you have put on a little make-up?” The colleague was male, and my face was bare.

It is not that I am an active make-up refusenik; my defining style is laziness.

I only wear dresses (no need to match top and bottom) and I typically wear either slippers or the same pair of black ballet flats (again comfortable and goes with anything) while my hair is either tied back or left to its own devices.

Full face make-up has always been rare in my case but it has been known to happen.

Growing up, I suffered from acne and saw the appeal of foundation. I am truly envious of the wizardry of the various YouTube make-up artists who perform those amazing transformations.

And I’m a big Kim Kardashian fan marvelling at her flawless or flawlessly made up complexion.

But that morning when I was made to feel bad for my mindless decision not to daub pigment on my face, when it was basically implied I was less professional for appearing without some product on myself I decided I was going to stop wearing make-up consciously — at least on a day to day basis.

Occasionally, I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror and feel tempted to apply some concealer or mascara (and sometimes I cave) but I am trying to understand why I feel this pressure and fight it.

It just makes no sense that one gender is expected to smear colours and liquids and minerals on the most important and visible part of the body just to appear presentable while another category of human is exempted from this practice.

Kim Kardashian is always flawlessly made up... but are we any less if we choose not to be? — Picture by AFP
Kim Kardashian is always flawlessly made up... but are we any less if we choose not to be? — Picture by AFP

While I fully accept that make-up can be feminine, empowering and beautiful (or that men should be just as free to use it) this doesn’t apply when it’s mandatory, then it becomes just another means of the control, shaming and double standards that hold 50 per cent of people back.

This is where things become objectionable; if it was just a matter of something extra to look sexy, or for a bit of creative expression... red eyeshadow for National Day, dramatic cat eyes for Diwali, that’s fine but it is not.

The very word is troubling: make-up.

Frankly I have nothing to make up for. My face is my face, why should I need to add an extra layer to it to appear in public?

Make-up implies that we are not good enough as we are. Literally that we need to “make up” for some sort of innate defect.

Fortunately, the no make-up movement is catching on with celebrities like Alicia Keys going bare-faced and brides documenting make-up free wedding photos.

Again, this is a simple and obvious point but it isn’t made often enough because the truth is every bit of oil, balm and chemical you put on your face costs money. Lots of money.

The global cosmetics industry is worth billions. Of course, these billions also fund just about every publication, TV programme or paid blog post related to female beauty.

Therefore, the media which is where women and girls learn about beauty and beauty standards is created by or for people with a vested interest in making sure that women feel ugly without make-up.

From little girls’ make-up kits (still a thing) to full-on contouring make-over videos, we are told that being a woman means smearing (expensive) things on your face. This is the association that needs to be stopped.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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