Ladies, we can all relate to the emotions entwined with purchasing a new Mac lipstick right? Now, up until last week, I was unaware that the pleasure I received from this exchange made me unworthy of feminist status. If you can't detect the sarcasm you're either a misogynist or haven't been raised in cynical old Blighty. I'm hopeful it's the latter.
I was rendered speechless (rare, very rare) when a friend of a friend (this breed is always hit or miss) piped up about how 'if you feel the need to change your appearance you can't be a feminist'. Oh I'm sorry, wanting to look my best means I have no right to social equality. Wearing clothes I like equals no say on politics. Spraying perfume means I couldn't possibly give a toss about being paid the same as my male counterparts. Rather than rage in on this woman, I pitied her. How awful that there are women out there who believe they need to choose between self grooming and registering to vote. Surely we are past this sort of nonsense by now.
It comes down to choice. The beauty industry thrives on us feeling inadequate and pressured into buying this, lathering that and applying those. I don't love the beauty industry, but I love what the products can do for women. Beauty is powerful and if used correctly products can make women feel strong. The idea that we are all trowelling on makeup to hide away because we feel so insecure about ourselves is ridiculous. There are cases of that, of course there are, but most of us just like to take pride in our appearance, which filters through to our mood and mindset.
The routines and rituals of applying makeup are comforting, special and often the only time in a woman's day when she is concentrating solely on herself. This moment is sacred. Let us not forget that just like clothes, makeup is a form of self expression and creativity. The freedom to express ourselves through our appearance is liberating and should not be shamed or belittled.
The idea that we are doing it for men also sends shivers up my spine. Of course there are women whose whole look is discernibly designed to court male attention, but they use clothes too, are we saying that everyone who wears clothes is 'doing it for men'? Those women, no matter what tool they use to achieve their 'I'm an object for your pleasure' look, make me feel sad because they are rendering themselves powerless and destined to attract a not-so-lovely type of man. When I think of my mum, sister and girlfriends, all strong and beautiful, NONE of us own 27 lipsticks for our boyfriends or husbands who can't tell the difference between Chanel Rouge Allure and Benefit Airkiss.
Last, is the poor argument I dispute most of all; that women who care about their appearance are shallow or unintelligent. Because I know my Nars from my Bobbi Brown doesn't mean I haven't read War and Peace. Because I have made a careful selection of my favourite Essie nail varnishes doesn't mean I can't reel off Latin verb patterns. Because I take ten minutes to perfect my eyeliner cat flicks each morning by no means prevents me from understanding Pythagoras's theorem. It would be the intelligence of the person suggesting such a ludicrous idea, that I would deem questionable. I don't think a love of beauty products is shallow in any way. People can be shallow, of course, but those people will be so in whatever they do. Beauty itself is inspirational, powerful and creative. Marian Keyes (lovely Irish author of the best chick lit EVER) has said (in an interview in Sali Hughes brilliant 'In The Bathroom With' Youtube series) that during her lowest point of depression, whilst browsing a department store, she spotted a Chanel nail varnish that gave her a sudden, immense surge of happiness in what was otherwise, an awfully dark time. Since then, her loved ones have always bought her these glass bottles of joy and she remembers where each one came from, who gifted it and why. For 30mg of liquid to prettify hands to give someone hope whilst in a suffocating, clinically depressive headspace is absolutely wonderful.
I can speak for myself and the women I know, and trust me, we are not wearing make up for men or because we hate ourselves. It simply elates and empowers us. In what is sometimes a testing world to endure, it gives us the strength we need to battle through. They don't call it war paint for nothing.
This post originally appeared on Lily's bloghere