On a superficial level, most of us don’t think about why we do our makeup in a certain way and there isn’t a simple answer to that question. The beauty debate heated up in the early nineties with the publication of Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth, in which she claimed the wearing of makeup (as well as diets, having plastic surgery, etc.) are a violent backlash against feminism that used images of female beauty as a political weapon against women’s advancement.‚3 Later a wave of postmodern feminism put forward less radical thinking. Liz Frost, for example, states in her 1999 paper Doing Looks‚ that makeup can no longer be viewed as an optional extra but rather as a central identificatory process which can offer meanings such as pleasure and creative expression.‚4 That we have options seems a more realistic view, as Slater sums up: Makeup is what you make of it. It is a choice.‚
Cosmetics can be a means of empowerment, so long as lots of different types of beauty are acceptable‚ in society and we don’t have to conform to just one ideal as our ancestors in ancient Greece or Renaissance Italy did. In an ideal world, there isn’t just one thing we should be,‚ says Marsh. There isn’t a perfect face or one perfect look. There’s paradox at the very heart of every woman’s makeup bag, and like all paradoxes, it can’t be solved.‚
I adore makeup. It’s creative. It’s fun. Whether I’m applying it to my own face or someone else’s, I love the fact that you can conceal a temporary blemish on your chin and immediately feel more confident a touch of blush to feel healthier and a coat of mascara to look and feel wide awake. As the saying goes: look better; feel better. I personally like to have makeup-free days when the world has to accept me as I am Other times a bold red mouth is the order of the day, just for the hell of it. If you need to be strong and powerful, a stripe of war paint may just give you the edge. Some women wear none, some wear a little, and others apply a full face on the train to work each morning. In many parts of the world, we’ve come a long way.
Ultimately, nothing empowers a woman more than the right to a good education, and the freedom to choose whether to wear a red lip and smoky eye . . . or not.