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Do You Think Makeup Is Empowering?

I've always found it odd that some people think you can't be a smart, with-it, independent woman and enjoy wearing makeup. Hello? The two aren't mutually exclusive! It's not as though there's a secret society of with-it ladies that bans lip gloss. (In fact, noted feminist Gloria Steinem has some of the longest, most neatly manicured nails I've ever seen.)

That's exactly the topic that this article examines. While the author acknowledges the fact that women, not men, are expected to wear makeup, she also argues that using cosmetics was historically a form of empowerment—and even rebellion. She points to the late 1930s as an example, arguing that although most men disapproved of noticeable makeup, women decided to buy cosmetics anyway. And wait until you hear what they were buying:

Volupte introduced two new lipstick shades to American women, labeled "Lady" and "Hussy." "Lady" was marketed toward women who prefer lighter shades and "quiet, smart clothes and tiny strands of pearls," while "Hussy" was developed for women who wear dark shades and "like to be just a little bit shocking," according to Mademoiselle magazine in 1936. "Hussy" outsold "Lady" five to one.

I so wish I could buy a lipstick called Hussy. Anyway, while I don't agree with everything the writer says—I think looking good can be empowering, but wearing lipstick alone isn't going to smash sexism—it's an interesting read. And so I pose the question to you: Do you feel empowered by wearing makeup? Or is it just something you happen to do?


Join The Conversation
Jen-Erate Jen-Erate 7 years
I am a science student surrounded by a lot of men, and the few women around me generally don't take much notice of their own beauty. I do enjoy makeup (and generally femininity in general) in these surroundings to help me distinguish myself from the group. I lvoe being a owman and all that it entails, and I don't feel like my social surroundings should influence that.
details2 details2 9 years
All I know is that if I don't wear makeup I don't recognize myself and i sure don't feel very feminine. My face is naturally ruddy, you can't see my blonde eyelashes, I have sparse eyebrows, I have dark circles under my eyes and hormomal acne issues. If I throw on concealer, mascara, brow powder, blush and a tinted lipgloss - I feel like a happier version of me. It's retarded to admit - because it seems shallow - but I look better with makeup. I just happen to love the hunt for products, websites like bellasugar, and putting it on in the morning is my "me time."
flesh_magick flesh_magick 9 years
Yes, it is totally empowering to me. I wear it at meetings and conferences, and any time I'll be speaking with people who I'd like to make a good impression on. I don't always wear it to work because I don't have time every morning, but I definitely feel more confident throughout the day with make up on.
pink-elephant pink-elephant 9 years
I don't know about empowering-but when I have on make-up I just feel more confident and just better about myself in general. I've had some people tell me I was going to hell for wearing make-up, but I think if I didn't wear make-up I might scare the hell out of some people! If that were me, I would definatly have bought the 'hussy' lipstick, and they could shove that 'lady' lipstick where the sun doesn't shine!
adrilenee adrilenee 9 years
Make-up is definitely fun but I really only wear it is in shows, you have a wear a ton of makeup.. I think that's why I don't where it on a day to day basis, theatre has me wearing it enough... On occasion though I will wear a bit of mascara since my lashes aren't very dark... One thing though that I can't live without is my Burt Bee's Lip Balm!
Blackwidowchick Blackwidowchick 9 years
I wouldn't say I feel more empowered exactly. I would probably choose the word confidant. I'm not exactly the pink lipgloss girl, I'm more of the shockingly blue turquoise eyeshadow girl. When I do wear color cosmetics I want to stand out and express my own individuality. So my glittery pink eyelashes may be a bit out there, but I feel comfortable knowing I am being me and not hiding behind the routine foundation, pink blush, neutral eye and lip color mask.
pequeña pequeña 9 years
Make up helps me feel more confident, but I don't know if I would say it's empowering. I try not to use too much make up in my everyday life and leave it for special occasions - basically because it's not good for my skin and I like the way I look with no make up on. But yeah, make up is fun and playful and in some occasions it makes you feel better.
robercin robercin 9 years
Nothing outside of myself enables me to feel empowered- I choose to be powerful regardless of what I'm wearing.
The-Italian-Jem The-Italian-Jem 9 years
colors, brushes, canvas. makeup is like painting and I really see it as a creative outlet. noticing makeup that i like and trying to recreate it is interesting and fun! I see it as an expression of myself and what I like, just like clothes.
Beauty Beauty 9 years
So interesting to read all of your thoughts. I definitely feel more confident when I have my undereye circles covered up, but I've never been like, "Aha! My lipstick will smash the patriarchy." Thanks for all of the insights!
JaimeLeah526 JaimeLeah526 9 years
In one of my classes we talked about feminism and everyone in the class felt that real feminists don't wear makeup or read cosmo. I don't agree at all. I know plenty of men who wish that they could wear makeup and see the confidence that can come from wearing it.
greentea14 greentea14 9 years
I agree with gigill, makeup is enjoyable and fun, oh how I love trying out new combinations..... *sigh* I love makeup.
sophia_HL sophia_HL 9 years
I only wear makeup when I feel that I want to be acknowledged in some way, whether it is professionally or romantically. People just seem to be more interested in what you are saying when you look well put together. Now, If I am going to Lowes or the mechanic to get my oil changed, I tone it down - dark rimmed glasses, sweatpants and no makeup.
SugarCat SugarCat 9 years
Not empoweing but it makes you feel more confident, at least I do. Plus it's a fun part of my day, putting it all on. :D
bingkaycoy bingkaycoy 9 years
It's not empowering. It's just enhancing who you really are--if you're a professional person, your make-up should be polished, sleek and clean ---therefore enhancing the image that you're "power-driven career woman" and contrary, if you work in a strip bar, then probably your make-up would enhance your "sultry, sexy, sleazy, vampy, " look that you want to project to the audience. On the other hand, if make-up is wrongly done , it can send wrong messages. Like one time, I though I looked hot and pretty, but the image that the opposite sex got was that I'm easy, provocative and slutty. But generally make-up is "confidence-booster" because as I've said it enhances the way you look. You feel confident when your eyes are made-up and people notice it and that wearing make-up makes you not only confident but also creating an image that you're taking care of yourself.
cocomademoiselle cocomademoiselle 9 years
When I wear make-up, I feel prettier, more feminine and more confident about how I look, so yes, I agree with it being empowering! It's something that I put on the outside but has an effect (psychological, of course) on my inside.
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
I know when I feel makeup I often feel better about myself, and that can only bring positive things my way right?
lythium99 lythium99 9 years
I love my makeup and can truly say I wear it for me, not for others. I'm perfectly capable of going out without any on and do so, quite often. But I prefer wearing it. The time I spend in the morning or getting ready for a night out is mine and only mine. I get to spend some quality time in the mirror, thinking about the day ahead, psyching myself up for a big, it's tactile. I'm touching my skin, looking at it, enjoying the color, textures, scents. It can be a sensual experience (in the true sense of the word.) And finally, lest I sound like a shill for the cosmetics industry, makeup lets me express who I am that day. Even better, I can wash it off as soon as I change my mind ;-) So yeah, it is empowering. To me. Your mileage may vary.
emalove emalove 9 years
I don't know if it's necessarily empowering but it surely helps creat a confident feeling about how you look! And if you look good, you feel good!
Choco-cat Choco-cat 9 years
I definitely agree with TidalWave. Wearing make-up is not empowering. I will never forget a guest speaker who came to my college years ago. She was Muslim and wore a head scarf. She told us that her strangest experience was when she was giving a lecture to a group of U.S. white women and they, their faces carefully done in make-up, asked how she could possibly allow herself to wear a head scarf; how could she consider herself an empowered woman with it on.
lily8206 lily8206 9 years
I agree with jkat. I feel like I am more put together and polished when I have make-up on, especially in the work place. I do think that something that improves confidence can be considered empowering; whether it is smoother skin and brighter eyes or flattering clothing, it all helps!
erratic-assassin erratic-assassin 9 years
I agree with longhorn...It gives me so much confidence to look good and take on whomever I come across, haha!
Bookish Bookish 9 years
I go through phases where I don't wear makeup, but I always come back to my lip gloss and mascara. I always feel a bit more pulled-together when I've got a little bit of makeup on, which is in turn a confidence booster. I don't know about empowering- that's a pretty strong word. But it is enjoyable and fun.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 9 years
I agree with gigill. I don't really impute any feminist properties to my make-up, but I do feel sorry for guys since they don't get to wear it. It's a lot of fun, and who doesn't want to feel a little prettier?
glam-sugar glam-sugar 9 years
It's empowering to look good and makeup helps that happen.
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