Have you ever picked up a bright shade of lipstick to wear at work, but then traded it for a more subdued one? Have you ever felt that you’ll be judged for wearing a certain colour on your lips to work? Get called an attention-seeker, a flirt, or worse, unprofessional. While you may put it on just because it looks good, people tend to read a lot into the shade of lips colour that you choose to wear. So, is that all it takes to undo years of hard work and a reputation built on degrees, dedication and determination? Just why does a woman lipstick get to define what kind of employee she is, than her resume and work?
- Have you ever refrained from wearing a certain lipstick to work because you fear being judged?
- Do we tend to categorise women as insincere, attention seeker, or dull based on the choice of their lipstick?
- Just why does a woman’s lipstick get to define what kind of employee she is, than her resume and work?
A bright lipstick. Is that all it takes to undo years of hard work and a reputation built on degrees, dedication and determination?
I remember someone I know telling me once, how she was determined to wear a shade that she loved to her work one day. This wasn’t a shade of lipstick that she would usually wear to work. It didn’t go well with her work persona, that of a calm, sincere woman who was always under the radar. Someone who would mind her own business, barely even talking to men around her. This was one of those shades which many ‘other’ girls who were not her ‘kind’ wore to work. But my friend just felt this itch of wearing that specific lipstick, while having zero courage to execute it. She finally overcame her inhibitions and wore it to office, only to wipe it off before she even reached her desk. She just couldn’t bring herself to be seen wearing that shade by her colleagues.
Like my friend, I know many women who carry perceptions about lipstick with them. Only attention seeking women wear bright lipstick to the office. Those who wear subdue shades are dull and boring. A woman who doesn’t know what shades goes with her skin tone and clothes aren’t sharp. This is a grudge I have more with women than men that they bring their lipstick prejudices even to the workplace and create a hierarchy and lay down boundaries, and then they are passed on everywhere. This is yet another example of how we let our clothes and physical appearance define us in all walks of life.
Our choice of lipstick thus becomes dominated by what impression it will leave on others, and not what we want to wear and how is leaves us feeling (confident, happy, beautiful, sharp) thus defeating the entire purpose of painting our lips.
How does it affect us as working women? Well for starters, we stereotype our female colleagues and then adopt a certain way of dressing to be taken seriously at work. Lipstick forms a big part of women's daily dressing to work, and often, we make a cautious decision stick to certain colours and avoid others, especially if we are on our way up the professional ladder. The higher we move, the lesser women there are around us. And we want our male colleagues to take us seriously, to treat us with respect. Our choice of lipstick thus becomes dominated by what impression it will leave on others, and not what we want to wear and how is leaves us feeling (confident, happy, beautiful, sharp) thus defeating the entire purpose of painting our lips.
A lipstick shouldn’t come in the way of a woman’s work. It shouldn’t decide her capabilities or define her ambitions and personality. She may not wear a lipstick for all she cares, that doesn’t make her shabby, and which is why we shouldn’t label her so. She may wear a Russian red one to work someday, because she feels dull and that is the only thing that perks her up right now, her red lipstick. But that doesn’t mean that she is craving for other people’s attention. A woman’s lipstick isn’t a reason for her promotion, a certificate of her character, or proof of her sincerity. It is just that she may or may not like to colour her lips with a certain shade. Why not keep the focus on her work, and leave the interpretation of the shade a woman is wearing to just her.
Image Credit: Darren Nunis on Unsplash
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.