Ask A Feminist

“Why it’s high time we challenged the idea of the feminine beauty ideal”

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The Stylist web team
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Ask a Feminist is our regular column tackling issues on sexism and womanhood in a real-life, 21st century context. This week, Stylist’s beauty coordinator, Giselle La-Pompe Moore is fed up of people suggesting women wear make-up simply to ‘trick’ men into finding them attractive, calling the accusation out as blatant misogyny.

The debate over why women wear make-up has waged on for centuries. Initially considered a display of power, today it is criticised by many as a symbol of female subjugation.

Now, a YouGov poll has revealed that not only do 43% of American men think women wear ‘too much make-up,’ but a whopping 63% think women wear it to ‘trick’ men into thinking they’re more attractive. There it is, so-called discussion of ‘cosmetic sorcery’ rearing its ugly misogynistic head once again. The fact that there’s even a term for this so-called deception exposes the deep-seated sexism in our society.

According to misogynists, our bodies are up for grabs and discussion so it’s not surprising that they weigh in on our use of cosmetics too.

On the very cusp of our teenage entrance into the world of make-up, women are told not to wear too much. Look ‘natural’, they say (though not too natural). But this age-old fiction that women enter into beauty rituals purely for the pleasure of men is something we’ve brushed off for yonks.

brushes

"On the very cusp of our teenage entrance into the world of make-up, women are told not to wear too much."

It’s so boring that so many refuse to accept that most women wear make-up for themselves. Just read Patriarchy 101 and you’ll see that men think they have a say on women’s bodies, from reproductive rights to wearing heels at work. According to misogynists, our bodies are up for grabs and discussion so it’s not surprising that they weigh in on our use of cosmetics too. 

Let’s all gather and sip on some green tea from our ‘Male Tears’ mugs and think about the pain we’ve caused by daring to put make-up on.

Just one quick scroll on Instagram and memes abound with cautionary tales of taking a girl swimming on a first date to see what she really looks like, to calling make-up artists witches in before and after shots of their clients. The comment sections are a collection of trolls tagging their buddies in dismay at the ways they’ve been fooled and deceived by a little swipe of a contour stick and some false lashes.



The sheer horror of a woman’s bare face can clearly be too much for some. Let’s all gather and sip on some green tea from our ‘Male Tears’ mugs and think about the pain we’ve caused by daring to put make-up on.

There’s an inherent fear of female power and that we’ll use the agency we have over our bodies to ensnare and trick. Women have fought back in many ways such as beauty influencer NikkieTutorials using her “Power of Make-up” video to spearhead a wider initiative with MakeupPlus and the Peacemakers Network to end make-up shaming as one example. But there’s still an ever present tension between artifice and authenticity when it comes to beauty; there always has to be an agenda for embracing it. Whether it’s tricking people into thinking you’re attractive or trying to hide imperfections. Have we forgotten good old-fashioned self-expression?



I do my make-up every day to appease anyone. I’m not about the no make-up, make-up look, I wear false lashes, liquid liner and lipstick because it’s my style. It’s as ingrained in my identity as my personality is. And I don’t feel the need to caveat this by saying ‘I totally feel confident going bare faced to the supermarket on a Sunday’ because there’s an instant assumption that by embracing make-up you’re somehow fearful of going without it, lest people see the ‘real’ you.

make up

It’s time we challenge the idea of ‘feminine beauty’ and stop telling women that men prefer a natural look.

Is it really of concern to anyone that we want to cover our dark circles and ripe pimples? It’s embarrassing that the men in this survey think that there’s trickery going on, you only have to take a look at #bblogger or #beauty to see that we have nothing to hide, we’re showing our routines from beginning to end from bare-faced to completion for millions to see, taking down one troll at a time.

It’s time we challenge the idea of ‘feminine beauty’ and stop telling women that men prefer a natural look. Because these same men criticise images of the cleansed and moisturised make-up free fresh faces that we wake up with, and yet accept the multiple steps and products involved in recreating the baby-faced, soft, natural look that they’re so in awe of. I think the joke’s on them.

Images: Giselle’s own / iStock