Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Condescension really isn't a good look on anybody

This is a post I've been wanting to write for the past few days- would have a few false starts then put away to write later. It doesn't help that, even now, I'm having a difficult time focusing my eyes to write this. But more on that in a different post. Perhaps. I don't promise eloquence on this one, just an expression of something that I find maddening.

There is very little that I find more insulting than an individual or organization advocating for my "own good" against my desires. About a week ago I found myself reading a discussion on the Evils of the Cosmetics Industry that followed the same regurgitated pattern of:

"The cosmetics industry manipulates women into thinking they need to wear make up to feel pretty!"
"It perpetuates poor self-image and low self-esteem!"
"Those poor girls!"

Hold on, now. As a woman, a self-identified third wave feminist, and a lover of cosmetics, I do take offense to this. The notion that I am somehow too weak-minded to see that I'm being taken advantage of by big bad corporations feels incredibly insulting. Telling me that I'm not capable of making my own decisions or thinking for myself in the name of feminism makes that insult so much more scathing.

I'm making this personal because I cannot speak for other women. I can only speak for myself and don't pretend to have an omniscient view into the heads of Every Woman. What I know is this:

I do not think I'm hideous without makeup. I am not afraid to leave the house without foundation/eyeliner/whatever. I do not wear makeup to give me "confidence." Sometimes I wear it to enhance features, sometimes for a more polished appearance, mostly to play with color. I love cosmetics because of the ways that they can be fun and artistic. I spend money on good cosmetics for the same reasons an artist spends money on quality art supplies- you can most assuredly tell the difference in quality as you use them. Just because you *can* create an amazing drawing using Crayola colored pencils, that doesn't mean you don't want the richer pigments and superior blending ability of a box of Prismacolors.

That's not to say there aren't women who have an unhealthy attachment to cosmetics, but in my experience the vast majority of women do not fall into that category. Many-to-most women think they look better with makeup on, but just because a guy thinks he looks better in an Armani suit that doesn't mean he thinks he's cripplingly disfigured in sweat pants.

Ultimately, this rant isn't just about cosmetics. It's also about anything that sounds as though it is speaking for your gender, your race, or even you as an individual, but in the process places that group or individual in a diminished capacity to speak for themselves.

Knock it off.


  1. I love makeup, it's pretty. I love not wearing makeup, it's comfy. I wear what I want when I want, not for a man or men in general, or women for the matter - for me. Some makeup hides things I prefer hidden, emphasis things I want front and center. Allows me to be a chameleon and show my difference aspects. I love it.

    Susan Mass