Why Is Makeup Shaming Not Taboo?

We’ve embraced body confidence and shaken off binary gender assumptions. So why is it still OK to humiliate women for the products they put on their face, asks blogger Ree Lodge

kylie jenner

by Ree Lodge |
Published on

Natural. That’s how we’re supposed to look, isn’t it? According to this season’s catwalks, flawless skin and the merest hint of mascara or blush is the only acceptable look.

That’s fine if you’re a Hadid or Kardashian but, if you’re like me, and not in love with your pigmentation or pores, it’s totally terrifying.

Even before I was a beauty blogger, I loved the ritual of applying layers and layers of product, with high-coverage foundation and concealer taking centre stage. I still take a ‘more is more’ approach, and for me it’s not about appearing bare-faced – I want to look heavily made-up. I’m not ashamed of it.

Ree Lodge

Picture: @reallyree

But thick foundation, heavy contouring or thickly lined brows do lead people to make judgements about you. They assume you earn less and have a less professional career. For example, you wouldn’t expect your GP or MP to have a full face of make-up on, but when I do it, I’m fair game to the critics.They’ll comment that I look fake, or like a clown. Wearing so much make-up is a meaningless self-indulgence and obsession, they tell me.

I’ve learned to live with my detractors but, in the real world, where we’ve already made so many leaps towards sexual, gender and fashion diversity, people still feel it’s OK to ridicule you for your make-up – and say it to your face. And it seems the more made-up you are, the meaner their comments become.

Just last week, cashier Kerry Whittaker hit back at a mother who proclaimed, ‘Look at the state of that!’ to her daughter about Kerry’s heavily made-up look. ‘Why don’t you lead by example, empowering other women rather than tearing them down?’ she asked on Facebook.

Sadly, makeup shaming like this isn’t new. I remember back when I was at university, a girl talking about how she had never seen me without make-up. She wondered, very loudly, whether I woke up early to put my make-up on before my boyfriend could see me. She found it so ‘silly’ that I felt the need to always have my face on. Was I ever just myself? Did I look so bad without make-up that no one could be allowed to see?

There was so much I wanted to say to her. I wanted to tell her that she had no right to question my extremely precious personal ritual. I wanted to ask her, why did it matter to her when and how much make-up I applied? Instead, I just felt silly and shallow and quite ugly. I’ll never forget feeling like that and I really wish I hadn’t just accepted it as my problem.

More recently, I had to defend the fact that I make my living from writing, reviewing, wearing and filming myself with make-up. A male member of my extended family (slightly under the influence of alcohol) dismissed it all as a trifle, and declared that it put pressure on women to be something they are not. He suggested that I cared too much about very stupid things and that it was a pathetic, worthless obsession.

I was absolutely flabbergasted. I would never question his love of watching men kick a ball around a pitch.

I know that the whole ‘make-up is power’ thing is often an overused concept, but I genuinely believe in how life-changing it can be. When I am feeling good about my makeup, I feel more comfortable making eye contact with people and feel more confident when I communicate. I’m sure Kerry Whittaker feels the same. But maybe it was the fact that she dared to wear her full face to work at a supermarket that so enraged her beauty bullies.

In my opinion, what they should have been doing is applauding her artistry. As she pointed out, it takes skills to create a look like hers. Of her picture-perfect eyeshadow, she said, ‘When you can do a cut crease as sick as this, then come back to me and tell me I look like shit.’

I’m willing to bet she learned those skills online following YouTube stars and beauty bloggers like me. I know from personal experience that the videos that rack up the most views are the most extreme makeup looks. And if I’ve in some way inspired women like Kerry to express themselves when and where they want to, I’m thrilled.

Everyone has the right to have fun with make-up. They haven’t applied those products to their face to please other people, but to please themselves, or at least I hope so. If anything is pathetic, it’s allowing yourself to get angry and feel disgust about someone else’s vision of themselves and their make-up. Or to make sweeping assumptions about their place in society based on that. Surely that’s more shame-worthy?

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