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Rosy Cheeks Or Not: My Femininity Doesn't Lie In The Makeup I Wear

Wearing make-up doesn't define femininity or womanhood. How can wearing make-up or not show the character, upbringing and independence of a woman? Isn't wearing make-up a choice? 

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Rudrani Gupta
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Constantly Look Good

I was in my class, quite oblivious to the surroundings, when I was nudged back into the present by a sweeping and sexist statement made by my professor. He was teaching how culture is a crucial part of society. And out of nowhere, he said, "Educated women are not expected to wear make-up." Whether it was a marker of cultural influence or his patriarchal mindset, his uncontested statement definitely landed into my mind raising an array of questions. How does make-up define a woman? How can wearing make-up or not show the character, upbringing and independence of a woman? Isn't wearing make-up a choice of a woman? 

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Let me begin with a personal anecdote. I didn't like wearing make-up as a teenager and also as a woman in her early twenties. I liked embracing simplicity. My mother often forced me to wear make-up to look elegant and even 'beautiful'. But I used to rub off everything as I believed my simplicity defined my beauty. But now, my choices have changed. I like wearing light make-up not to look 'beautiful' but to make a statement from my looks- I am an independent woman with freedom to choose. 

My choice of avoiding make-up to embracing it is self-expression

The way my choice of wearing make-up changed over the years was just a medium of self-expression. If simplicity made me comfortable, I preferred that despite all the enforcements. But now if light makeup helps me feel confident, I wear it even though people say "Why do you take so much time to get ready?"

In "The Independent Woman", a part of The Second Sex (1949), Simone de Beauvoir says that society expects woman to lose her femininity to become independent. Femininity, which Beauvoir says is a construct that changes over time, is crucial for a woman to be loved and accepted in society. The day when a woman renounces the traditional definition of femininity and puts on trousers, she becomes unlikeable, defiant and even deprived of love.

A brief of Simone de Beauvoir's take on femininity

She goes on to say that a man hardly has to think about his clothes. But women are judged based on their appearance. Beauvoir rightly states, "Man is a human being with sexuality; Woman is a complete individual, equal to the male, only if she too is a human being with sexuality. To renounce her femininity is to renounce a part of her humanity." 

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Even though Beauvoir might connect wearing make-up and fashionable dresses to femininity, in the current generation, femininity has various definitions. A woman who wears make-up is as much feminine as a woman who doesn't. A woman who is athletic is as much feminine as a woman who indulges in hobbies like cooking, sewing or shopping. Femininity is an innate value of a woman and depends on her personal experiences and aspirations.

Coming back to make-up defining womanhood, we need to understand that no matter how a woman dresses or how bold her make-up is, she is as valid as other women or men. Society is of the conception that a woman who wears a lot of make-up is coquettish while the one who keeps herself away from styling is more dedicated and independent. Then, answer one question, if wearing make-up is 'coquettish', why does society find those women attractive who wear make-up? Why does it reject a woman who is plain as 'not beautiful'? 

The hypocrisy of the society

We all are aware of the marriage market in India. When women get their pictures clicked for the marital biodata or when they are presented in front of the prospective groom and their family, why are they decked up in shiny clothes, jewellery and bright make-up? If a woman without make-up looks independent and confident, why don't grooms and their families like to see women in their bare form? 

Defining make-up and relating it to womanhood is full of hypocrisy. The society doesn't know what exactly do they expect from women. But why should we care about the half-baked knowledge, hypocrisy and perplexities of society?  

We are independent women. Independence means that we have the choice to do whatever we want. A little rouse or red lipstick will not decrease our worth and performance in our careers. Neither will the bare face. Make-up is self-expression, not beauty standards, not a medium to attract others. And not applying make-up doesn't desexualise a woman.

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Until society gets over its obsession with women's looks, let's keep defying the norms. 

I will sign off with a stanza of my poem:

"Why did society

Confine femininity to

Charm, colour and composure

When women are free 

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Like the wax of the burning candle

Plain, while with choice

To spill colours, or be bare"

Views expressed are the author's own 

women's independence make-up and femininity make up
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