Why should women feel guilty if they choose not to wear make-up?
In Saturday’s Guardian, Katie Puckrik mused somewhat cynically on the “latest celebrity ruse”: not wearing make-up. She writes about her terribly trying adventure of not wearing make-up for a whole day, and reports how “self-consciously unglamorous” she feels. She actually uses the words, “The line between fetchingly low-maintenance and letting yourself go is easily crossed.” Hey, Katie, the 1950s called – they want their rhetoric back.
It’s totally infuriating, not least because if somebody chooses not to wear make-up, it’s not a “trick”. It’s the complete absence of a trick. All women go barefaced sometimes, and some of us do it most of the time. For about six months recently, I chose not to wear make-up except on special occasions – not for any particular reason, but simply because I didn’t feel like it. And lo, the world kept turning. The fact Katie found it hard and in some way remarkable not to wear make-up for one day is pretty shocking. But we can’t blame her, for she did not build the weird cult of waxing and plucking and make-up and vajazzling. That culture has been gaining momentum for a long time, and it’s a curiously ubiquitous malaise.
During my six (largely) make-up-free months, some of my female friends confessed to me that they were occasionally “too lazy” to don warpaint to work. “Jeez, ya big slobby slattern. How do you look at yourself in the morning?” It actually made me feel sad, because that notion of laziness betrayed a sense of guilt (“I ought to do it, but I don’t/can’t”). It’s the result of that aspirational culture championed by the majority of the media – from the Daily Mail even to Stylist magazine – that believes it is somehow in women’s interests to encourage them to be career-driven as well as glamorous as well as keeping it natural as well as being well-read as well as great mothers as well as being able to afford lamps that cost £2,000 as well as staying slim as well as throwing incredible dinner parties…I can’t tell you how many exhortations I read every day telling me to improve myself in oddly conflicting ways, but I can tell you that they annoy me.
In the first few days of the six months of no make-up, one male colleague commented that I looked tired. On another occasion I was asked if I was ill. Well, in fairness, I guess I am tired, and so are many women – because we’re all trying so hard to do so much. Does the effort show on my face? Gosh, I’m terribly sorry, I appear to be totally human. How embarrassing.
I’m surprised with the Guardian for letting a voice of shame and fear (I paraphrase, but it’s along the lines of “I feel vulnerable without my make-up. Pass me the lip gloss, I can’t bear it any more!”) speak on behalf of women on this subject. Whilst the shame and fear is understandable (we’re subjected to so much scrutiny and criticism – not just from men but from each other), perhaps it would be better for everybody if they published something that looked a little more in-depth at the reasons behind and results of the pressures that are integral to the experience of being a British woman in the 21st century.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t wear make-up. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t acknowledge the shame and fear that arise if we expect ourselves and others to use it constantly – just that maybe we oughtn’t reinforce those feelings.Tagged in: feminism, having it all, Katie Puckrik, make up, women
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