I have never relied on make-up to look good, confident and bold. In fact, at occasions like weddings or farewell parties, when my loved ones tied me down to dab foundations, blush, red lipsticks and whatnot, those were the moments I felt the most insecure. Does this make me less a woman or decrease my abilities? I am not questioning women who wear make-up as a symbol of self-love, after all, it is a matter of choice. But why should make-up be essential for a woman to look good or womanly? Why can’t we accept and value a woman who is bare-faced with or without freckles? It is the restrictive toxic femininity that defines womanhood in terms of looks – the fairer and rosier, the more beautiful and feminine. Doesn’t the constant focus on blush and beauty objectify and dehumanize women, simultaneously undermining their hard-work, struggles and achievements?
We have all grown up watching movies where a woman wearing glossy lipstick, fair skin with no visible pimples and soot-rimmed eyes grab the attention of the hero and the audience. And later, when the actress removes her so-called “prettier than the moon” make-up and goes bare-faced, her “no make-up look” becomes a social trend followed by millions of trolls. This is just an example of how society values the physical beauty of a woman to be accepted in society with respect. Due to this obsession with the “beautiful women,” there are high-standards of beauty set up that a woman struggles to meet. In Indian families, women with dark skin are forced to internalize that they don’t meet the beauty standards of society. So make-up is deemed as essential for them to not only avoid the name-callings but also to have a good and uncompromised marriage in future. While a woman with fairer skin should also wear make-up to enhance her beauty even more, hence pushing the bar of feminine looks higher for other women.
In Indian families, women with dark skin are forced to internalize that they don’t meet the beauty standards of society. So make-up is deemed as essential for them.
The obsession with the beauty of a woman, unfortunately, extends to the workplaces also. A study revealed that a woman who wears a “professional” make-up is considered more competent, capable, reliable and amiable than those with bare-face. While another study also revealed that a businesswoman who is too much attractive (wearing make-up more than the “professional” level) is seen as less truthful than the one who is less attractive. These findings clearly show how society judges the merits of a woman based on the amount of blush she is wearing. Not only this, but it also polices what amount of blush is “professional” or is too much. Why are the merits of a woman summed up in how much thicker her eye-liner is? Besides, why should society decide how much make-up a woman needs?
These findings clearly show how society judges the merits of a woman based on the amount of blush she is wearing. Not only this, but it also polices what amount of blush is “professional” or is too much.
Marriage or recruitment in a firm that is based on the fragile and narrow concept of feminine beauty is artificial and bound to meet failure. These beauty standards only objectify and dehumanize women and her personal life as shades of blush and lipstick. Is the worth of a woman so fragile that a darker or lighter lipstick decides her perfection? Though there is no denying that many women wear make-up for themselves, but has this changed the mindset of the society that correlates femininity with beauty and fragility? This only points out the deep-seated misogyny of the patriarchy that cannot accept a woman as a natural, defying and free human. It cannot do without restricting a woman in one or the other way. If a woman wears make-up, she is slighted as a beautiful face with no brains. And if a woman doesn’t wear a make-up she is not accepted as feminine, confident and professional and is forced to wear make-up for the sake of the society.
Though there is no denying that many women wear make-up for themselves, but has this changed the mindset of the society that correlates femininity with beauty and fragility?
Though the few dabs of the foundation might ultimately “highlight” the talent and career, the one decision to pick up the make-up brush against your choice involves the suppression of the belief that you can ace a bare-faced look and that your face colour cannot match the radiance of your internal confidence and talents. On the other hand, the decision to defy the toxic femininity and to wear and champion that plain and bare-faced look symbolises the power and agency of a woman that has always threatened patriarchy. Therefore, the problem is not so much about whether a woman should wear make-up or not. But why should patriarchy get to decide that?
The views expressed are the author’s own.