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Daisy Buchanan

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A Woman's Right to an Un-Bare Face

Posted: 18/04/2012 01:00

I LOVE make up. I love it so much that sometimes the very thought can make me foam at the mouth and I have to have a lie down. I dream of getting a copywriting gig at YSL so I can pitch my Touche Eclat line - "It's Tippex for the face"!

Eyeliner was the first cosmetic that made me feel like a grown up lady and I still believe that an inch of Rimmel kohl makes me Bardot, Garbo and Rizzo (although the reality is a little more Klaus Nomi). If I ever get arrested for an obscene act, it will happen in the Selfridges Beauty Hall. My make up bag is my grown up pencil case and I'm just as protective of my Rogue Allure as I was of my Caran D'Ache.

This is why I was a bit shocked by last month's No Makeup Day and the subsequent reverberations of support from high profile feminist writers. Why is there a school of feminism that wants everyone to give up their lady pencil case and use the cosmetic equivalent of manky crayons and foam safety scissors from an old biscuit tin? It blows my mind daily that there are so many smart people who still conflate feminism with "dressing like an Amish person". That if you want to look hot, you might as well put all your knickers in a sack and hand it over to the Patriarchy. The only thing that is truly antifeminist is telling women how they must behave. To say "you can't wear make up and be a feminist" is like founding Gossip Club and deciding that the first rule is "you do not talk about Gossip Club."

And then there's the PR issue. Why do so many clever people refuse to identify as feminists? It's because the shouty no make up brigade are making it look so miserable. A friend recently complained "Feminists make me feel like Hester Prynne, only with scarlet lipstick instead of a scarlet letter." I wanted to cry. That, or scream "Don't hate the feminists! They fought for us to have contraception and our own bank accounts! Some feminists are miserable fun sponges, but that's not an inherent part of the cause. Loads of us just like fighting the good fight, cooking a good steak and reciting the whole of Anchorman to ourselves in a questionable Swedish accent. We LOVE lipstick."

Some people think that make up is about pleasing men. I do wear make up to look nice on dates. But I like to look nice when I'm in the post office or home alone doing Swedish Anchorman. The only person to say "let's put on make up so that boys will like us" is Lisa Simpson's talking Malibu Stacey doll. There's something a bit creepy about guys who like girls to look "natural". Aside from the fact that a boy's idea of "natural" is "a metric tonne of dew effect foundation", going barefaced is associated with extreme youth and vulnerability. If you don't like women to wear make up, you don't like women who have taken control the way they present themselves. As brilliant beauty writer Sali Hughes frequently points out, women who live under Sharia law are forbidden from buying make up and risk their lives to do so. As much as it angers me when UK newspapers are bitchy about celebs looking "tired", I'd take that over a Benefit ban that comes with a death sentence.

We're insidiously cruel about famous lady make up wearers too. How often have you overheard people slagging off the TOWIE girls because of their association with artifice? These women do make questionable life choices, but that's related to the scripted reality shows they appear on and the subject of a whole different debate. Yet people comment on their promiscuity stupidity, frequently linking these criticisms to their use of fake hair and fake tan. In fact, "fake" is often the biggest insult levelled at a female reality TV star. Their male counterparts aren't vilified to the same degree.

There's nothing wrong with not wearing make up. You can choose to go out in three sets of false eyelashes, no sets of false eyelashes, or a load of mascara on your chin to create a "beard effect". You can pin your hair back and write one of Hilaire Belloc's shorter Cautionary Tales on your forehead. If painting your face isn't for you, fine. But make up isn't a mask of acceptability we use to cover ourselves with because we think we're hideous. It's not because we want the patriarchy to fancy us, with our unreal glossy lips and artificially embiggenned eyes and pretend promise of fertility. Some days it feels like armour, but usually it's a source of joy, fantasy and fun.

 
 
 

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