It’s so hard being a woman. It would be so much easier being a woman if answers to the questions that I constantly ask myself—questions like Should I do what I want? What are my choices? How can I rule the world?—were all answered in a handy online discussion hosted by the New York Times and titled, “The Power of the Rouge Pot.” Oh, wait. Such a thing exists? And it turns out that “women should do what they want” and “choose whatever they want” and “red lips can rule the world”? Well, then. Thank you New York Times for being as reductive as possible when discussing women’s choices with regards to their appearances. Thank you.
The New York Times asked several people—I guess they’d call them “experts”—to weigh in on the topic of why women wear makeup. The discussion starts off by referencing a recent survey, saying, “Some would argue that makeup empowers women, others would say it’s holding them back from true equality. A recent survey seems to come down on the side of makeup—at least superficially—saying that wearing makeup increases a woman’s likability and competence in the workplace. If makeup has indeed become the status quo in the public realm, does it ultimately damage a woman’s self-esteem, or elevate it?”
So, this is a pretty idiotic premise, isn’t it? Right after saying that makeup and, by extension, the way that a woman looks in general, is directly correlated with how much she is liked and trusted in the workplace, the Times wants to know if makeup is also ultimately damaging to a woman’s self-esteem. Well, there’s obviously something in this setup that can be damaging to a woman’s self-esteem, but it’s not the makeup, New York Times, it’s the workplace. In other words, it’s society. Makeup can’t damage self-esteem, but a society that privileges people who are more attractive according to its own, somewhat arbitrary standards can. Makeup is the straw man here and it’s pretty fucking annoying to see the Times giving it any value at all.
The experts that contributed to this discussion give the predictable range of opinions, and one of the more obvious quotes comes from Natasha Scripture, a blogger and author, who claims that “a harmless touch of makeup makes me feel better. I wear it for myself, not for anybody else.” How can this possibly be true? Unless she is putting on makeup for a day spent completely alone, it defies logic that Ms. Scripture is not wearing makeup to get a certain reaction. It is not the makeup that makes her “feel better,” it’s the response garnered by fitting into our modern conception of what a conventionally attractive woman looks like.