Can A Feminist Wear Lipstick?

Sometime around junior high, I simultaneously became interested in my mother’s Ms. magazines and began to experiment with makeup. Beginning in adolescence, I’ve always loved makeup and always considered myself a feminist.

I loved riding my bike to the local drug store to spend my babysitting money and allowance on makeup and candy. I bought typical 1970s eye shadows in glittery, bright colors – blue, green, lavender and turquoise. I also bought lipstick in bright orange and pink, and that pale 70s tan or beige. Of course I had to have mascara and concealer, and I swiped my mom’s nearly empty bottles of Cover Girl foundation because they were too expensive for my own pocketbook. I used the foundation to cover up my birthmark in an attempt to fit in, not quite realizing that wearing makeup certainly wouldn’t help.

I didn’t wear much makeup around the house but sometimes wore it to school or when I was babysitting or at a friend’s house. There was a slight element of shame in wearing makeup but I really don’t know where I got that idea. My parents didn’t think I needed makeup, but certainly never forbid me to, and my mom always puts on her makeup in the morning. I remember bringing my stash to camp with me because I thought my little sisters would mess with it the first chance they got, and a couple of my tent mates thought it was insane that I’d bring my makeup to camp. I’d expected to be one of the cool kids but alas…

The ironic thing is that once I became an adult, I really didn’t (and don’t) wear a lot of make up, much to the amazement of my sisters. Part of it is that I’m lazy and would rather sleep an extra few minutes than spend lots of time getting ready. Part of it is that I think the natural look is classier than the heavily made up look. And as I get older, I think makeup just accentuates the wrinkles.

I hadn’t thought much about wearing cosmetics and being a feminist until I started working as a waitress in Houston in my twenties. My first week on the job the general manager told me (in front of everyone) that I needed to wear more makeup. I was stunned, horrified, and angry. If I could do the job, why did it matter if I wore makeup? Did he want me to cover up my birthmark? Was it because it was Houston in the eighties, home of big hair and way too much color on one’s face? Whatever the reason, I was pissed. He seriously deserved a thump on the head. As it happened, this guy left soon after and a wonderful Scottish guy became the GM. He actually wanted brainy waitstaff and didn’t care whether we wore cosmetics. He did, however, require us all to iron our clothes.

I think wearing makeup is fun, just as wearing a sparkly piece of jewelry or a bright pair of shoes is fun. In the grey days of winter/spring in Portland, a bit of lipstick makes me feel brighter. I won’t, however, let someone dictate whether I will or will not wear makeup. And when the mood strikes, I still read Ms. magazine, along with Bitch and Bust.

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2 thoughts on “Can A Feminist Wear Lipstick?

  1. Pingback: One Hundred Posts – I Did It! « Tweed Librarian

  2. Pingback: Seeing Red | Tweed Librarian

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