We live in a highly visual culture. The emphasis placed on the appearance of politicians, celebrities and even corporate bosses, the prevalence of advertisements and the even the increasingly high-tech, high-definition screens on computers and phones speak for this fact.
So naturally, people invest a good deal into their own outward appearances. There are many ways in which this is done, including everything from clothing to teeth whitening, but one of the most widespread (and relatively cheap) ways in which women enhance their exterior image is through the use of makeup.
Most women over the age of 13 wear makeup on a regular basis, covering the gamut in amount and obvious visibility. While women are not required to wear makeup by any means, they are strongly encouraged to do so by friends, mothers, employers, lovers and even strangers as a way to cover their flaws and conform more ideally to beauty.
Many women have worked to erase makeup from the faces of their gender, at least part of the time, to help begin to adjust the message, inescapably ingrained into many women by society. This message conveys that in order to merit time, attention or recognition, they must be physically attractive.
In an age where Photoshop is frequently used to turn real women into synthetic, airbrushed fakes, several companies have actually gone out of their way to claim to represent the normal, average woman and to celebrate her beauty in its own right.
For example, Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty sought out “real women and real curves.” But Dove still heavily retouched these images, continuing to avoid the publication of what very few people have ever seen in the public eye: a flawed, average woman who is comfortable with who she is and not just a before shot of a makeover feature.
Many women are advocating a “Makeup-free Monday” movement encouraging women to go sans makeup. The hope is that women will see and accept their natural look and their self image will improve.
This emphasis on beauty is unsettling and ultimately dangerous for the psyche of women. But makeup is not the problem. Makeup is not the enemy. Makeup is not what makes girls wake up in the morning and feel as if they will not measure up. That is society’s projected images and expectations.
If women want to give up makeup in any capacity, then that is great for them. Whether they want to give up the stuff to make a statement about our society, to criticize an industry or because they have such busy lifestyles that they do not have enough time to be bothered with it, women have that prerogative.
But to claim that makeup itself is what is keeping the expectations/reality disparity going is a bit of an overreaching statement. Makeup can be legitimately used to enhance facial features that women most love about themselves.
It also can be used as a method of self-expression, conveying just as much as a smile or frown can. For some women, makeup is just a way of hiding themselves and their shame. For others, make up is just another thing taking up space in the drawer that they use because they like it.
The hope should be for women to have enough confidence and self worth that they do not feel the need to rely on or cover up with makeup at all times. But many women do not, and for these women, a day without makeup would be torturous, uncomfortable and would serve no purpose but to intensify an internal berating about aspects they cannot change.
Change the industries and those who put out visual images for negative self worth, and the women subject to these images will begin to change, following what is shown to them as beautiful. However, after all this, makeup will probably still be a part of women’s daily routines just because women like putting it on.
Allana Wooley is a freshman anthropology and history double major from Marble Falls.