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Can you be a feminist and wear makeup? Short answer? OF COURSE


by Holly O'Neill
23rd Jan 2019
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Holly O’Neill wants you to know, there is no dissension between being a feminist and wearing make-up


According to Julie Bindel in The Independent, self-appointed decider of who can be feminist or not, no you can’t. A quick Google search of her name will show you she’s been dining out on this particular hot take (and many other crusty opinions) for a few years now. Boob job? We’re terribly sorry tell you that we cannot offer you admission to Julie Binder’s Guide to Feminism. Spiked heels? It’s gonna be a no for you, but can you let me borrow your time machine so I can get some spiked heels from 2001 too?

Here’s my feminist agenda when it comes to make-up: you do you. You don’t want to wear any make-up? Be my guest. You want to blend your blusher so far that you apply it on your ears like Diana Vreeland? Let’s be best friends. You want to do a full face for the gym? Whatever makes you happy. You want to get so much surgery that your body has less organic matter than a hot dog? I support your right to bodily autonomy.

Please don’t get me started on the notion that women wear make-up to gratify the male gaze, as if I’ve spent weeks of my life watching eyeliner YouTube tutorials or understanding the number chart of MAC foundation shades just so men want to impregnate me and I can have lots and lots of babies.

Julie has decided to spend “the average of nine days a year women spend applying make-up” – can I get a LOL from the unskilled amongst us who spend nine days a month getting their eyeliner right on the bus – to “campaign against sexist stereotypes.”

Can we rack this one up for once and for all. There is no dissension between my being a feminist and wearing make-up. There is no conflict in my belief that women should be equal to men and in my being a beauty editor. There’s no amount of eyeshadow palettes or money spent on highlighting my hair or time spent every two weeks getting my nails painted the exact same shade of firetruck red (Gelish in Wish Upon A Starboard, if you’re asking) that can make me “let down the sisterhood.” Please don’t get me started on the notion that women wear make-up to gratify the male gaze, as if I’ve spent weeks of my life watching eyeliner YouTube tutorials or understanding the number chart of MAC foundation shades just so men want to impregnate me and I can have lots and lots of babies.

As complex nuanced beings with many interests, women can enjoy cosmetics and equality. Radical, I know. The confidence to be who you are and allow others to do the same is empowering. We can care about it all and talk Trump and lipstick in one breath – take 28-year-old congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez debating problems facing the American working class while also answering questions on her lipstick. Stila Stay All Day Liquid in Beso, if you were wondering.

And as complex beings, we should have nuanced conversations about beauty, especially on the double standards; don’t be fat but don’t be thin (eat anyone who makes any comment, good or bad, on your weight), don’t shave but don’t be hairy (do as you please), don’t dye your hair but don’t be grey (do both). But telling women to down their make-up brushes in the name of feminism is not an emancipating preach, it’s a sexist reach. It would be just as sexist for me to write that you must wear lots of make-up.

In an effort to prescribe every choice of women into categories of “is this feminist or not?”, we pander to patriarchy.

It’s your life. We’re not in rehearsal mode of life, it’s happening right now, so get a boob job if it makes your days easier, wear red lipstick if it gives you strength in a hard work day, apply a glitter eye if it brings you one ounce of joy, dye your hair pink if you’ve always wanted to.  

In an effort to prescribe every choice of women into categories of “is this feminist or not?”, we pander to patriarchy. Having the ability to make the choice to do exactly as you please is feminism. Telling women there is one imposing or enforcing rule to live by or look like is not female empowerment.

According to Julie, throwing my make-up bag in the bin would be more revolutionary than burning my bra.

What would be truly anarchist and radical would be if we could just stop telling women what to do.

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