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My Want to be Feminine Does Not Make Me a Bad Feminist

“I’m a natural beauty,” one of my fellow interns said. “I don’t need makeup to feel good about myself.”

When I didn’t answer, she added, “but your’s looks good on you.”

I shouldn’t be offended, I mean, at least she wasn’t as forward as the girls in my literature class who spent a whole study period explaining that I couldn’t be a feminist because I wore high heels to class. And compared to my roommate, who passive-aggressively suggested I had low self-esteem every morning as I applied my eyeliner, her words seemed kind.

Maybe offended is the wrong word to describe how these opinions make me feel. Confused is a better way to explain it. I mean, these are women who claim to be feminists. They’ve read The Feminine Mystique. They’ve organized pro-choice marches. They’ve written their thesis on the danger on gendering toys. On paper, they’ve made a commitment to fighting the patriarchy.

But despite all of the research and activism they’ve done, they still suggest to me what I should and shouldn’t put on my body to make me a better feminist.


As Margaret Sanger said in A Parents’ Problem or a Woman’s, which was published in her magazine Birth Control Review, “No woman can call herself free who does not control her own body.” Meaning, what a woman does with her own body is no one else’s business, and that includes how much makeup she puts on it, the clothes she chooses to wear, and anything else that society deems to control. So why do so many of my feminists peers seem to think that my choice to adorn my face is anti-feminist?

Being anti-feminine does not make you a better feminist, but it does breed competition among feminists to outdo each other.  And that’s anti-feminist.

It’s been suggested to me that women who wear makeup are shallow or that they’re catering to the male gaze.

You know how we, as women and feminists, don’t always dress for the approval of a man? Well, I don’t wear makeup to get approval from my peers, or anyone for that matter. I wear makeup because I want to. Some women, myself included, consider makeup application a hobby or an art form. It’s fun to try wacky lipstick colors on or to draw eyeliner stars on my face. I’m not seeking out compliments; I just wanted to try something new. And besides, I’ve never met a man who thought my green lipstick was sexy.

As previously mentioned, I had a roommate who insisted I must wear makeup because I have low self-esteem.

I have my fair share of insecurities and perhaps I do use makeup to “fix” these, but how does that concern you? If concealing my blackheads makes me feel more confident, if just that a drop of concealer (or even a full-face of make-up inspired by Emilie Autumn) improves my mood, then what’s the harm in wearing it?

And I’ve course, many people have suggested I wear makeup to sexualize myself.

I don’t know why some people associate make-up with promiscuity. Make-up just adds a little bit of color to you face; and that has nothing to do with sexual behavior. You know how you can’t look at someone’s sleeve length and accurately predict what that person ate for breakfast? The same thing goes for makeup. The shade of eye shadow I’m wearing does not reveal my personality.

I’ve had several 8am morning classmates who look at my makeup and say, “Wow, I never have time for that. I have so much homework and projects to do,” as if suggesting that the time I spent on my makeup would have been better spent doing something productive. The time I spend in the morning listening to music and picking out my color palette is calming to me and beside that, I enjoy wearing makeup. And anything you enjoy is not a waste of time.

The idea of natural equals superior has always puzzled me. When I hear women bashing other women who choose to get plastic surgery I always think it’s assuming. We don’t know why that particular woman felt the need to get surgery, so we can’t possibly know if it was the wrong decision for her. And I’ve had several male friends (and female friends) tell me they prefer women without makeup, only to tell me that I look sick or tired or weird when they see me without it. I know when someone says they prefer “natural beauties” that it is supposed to mean they are more down to earth, but it seems to me that since most of these people also think I look “sick” without makeup, that they really would like me (and all women) to be flawless effortlessly. And that is not down to earth.

I tried to explain all of this to my fellow intern then, but she kept insisting that I didn’t need makeup to be beautiful. But we both agreed on this, she just didn’t realize it. Instead, she was too busy focusing on her preferences and the confining measures of what constitutes a proper feminist.

So next time you have the urge to tell someone, “You’d look so much better without all that black gunk on your eyes,” imagine how it would feel if someone said, “you would look so much better if you learned how to use concealer,” because they are both equally shallow, uncalled for comments.

Wear it, or don’t. It’s your choice.

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Image via Helga Weber.

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Written by Nicole Hebdon

Nicole is an writer with a penchant for alternative fashion, anything fairytale related and literary fiction. She recently graduated with degrees in magazine journalism, multi-media journalism, and communications and is currently pursuing her MFA in creative writing. Though she prefers writing fiction, she loves writing journalism pieces that draw attention to often ignored topics. She hopes to one day publish a book or start a magazine, but until then, you can find her freelancing for several publications or working on her thesis.

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