Made Up

I kind of love this post on Rookie. The writer’s philosophy on makeup seems to be pretty much the opposite to mine, but I think it comes from the same place.

I don’t wear makeup. I stopped about ten years ago, partly because I realized one day that I actually preferred how my eyes looked without any eyeliner and partly because I didn’t want to take the time to put it on (that’s valuable procrastination time that I’m wasting!). I completely reject the idea that people (women) should have to wear makeup to be considered presentable, but I don’t think that really factored into my decision to stop. I think I was able to reject the idea in theory while still sometimes wearing makeup in practice.

Once, I think I was in grade 8 or something, I decided I wanted to do something dramatic on my face, so I swept green eyeshadow across my eyelids in a style not unlike Mr. Spock’s. Several classmates told me that I was wearing too much makeup. I don’t know if they thought I had meant to create a more natural look and just screwed up, or if they just didn’t like how it looked and felt I needed to know that. Anyway, it bugged me. Thankfully, no one has ever made a comment about me having too much hair dye on when I made my hair green or blue or purple. Maybe things are different for hair and face. I’m not sure.

A few years after I stopped wearing makeup, I considered buying something really bold and bright, like a bright eyeliner or something, just to maybe wear on occasion when I felt like looking different. I walked back and forth in the makeup aisle of the drugstore several times, trying to decide if I should buy something or if it would just be a waste of money because I would hardly ever (never?) use it. In the end I decided not to buy any makeup, not so much because it would waste money, but because I didn’t want to support that industry. If makeup really existed to make people’s faces look exactly how they want them to look, like that Rookie post says it should, and if it were marketed that way, I might have bought something. But that’s not how makeup is advertised. Makeup companies make money by telling people (women) that they don’t look good enough on their own. And I hate that and I don’t want to support it, so I won’t, except when I did last month because I needed to dress the way I did in high school so I bought a black eyeliner for my goth look. I had fun wearing it but I didn’t like buying it.

I used to sometimes feel smug about my lack of makeup. I don’t really anymore because that’s obnoxious and I don’t judge people for doing what they need to do to survive and have fun in a patriarchal society. I have sometimes felt a bit betrayed when someone would tell me how amazingly attractive it was that I didn’t ever wear makeup, and then start dating someone totally glam who wore it all the time. But I think I’m over that too, because I’ve realized that we are all more than the stuff we put on our faces.

I know I have a lot of privilege in being able to not wear makeup. Like when I said earlier that I first stopped wearing makeup because I preferred how I looked without it? That isn’t a thing that is true about everyone. And I have a job where I’m taken seriously without having any makeup on. And my looks fall under the conventional definition of attractiveness enough that without makeup I think people still see me as conventionally attractive, and there are a lot of benefits that come with that. Also my eyelids are naturally darker than the rest of my face, so I kind of look like I have eyeshadow on all the time.

But when I’m tired, I look tired. When I have a zit, I look like I have a zit. When I’m pale, I’m pale. I don’t feel like I’m making a statement by not putting anything on my face to change how it looks. I might not feel this way if I had spent a larger part of my adult life wearing makeup regularly, but I guess I’ll never know. As it is, it just feels like being me when I drag myself out of bed, brush my teeth, get dressed, and maybe moisturize if my face is itchy. And that’s where I totally agree with Meredith who wrote that Rookie post:

It’s a question of agency and visibility. Exactly what makeup you wear and how and when is unimportant—the point is, it’s your choice. Now get out there and face the world.

Okay. But first it’s bed time.


Racism still exists.

Little tiny Hunger Games spoilers in some of the pieces I’ve linked to.

Several months ago, I wrote a piece complaining about the whiteness of the cast of the Hunger Games movie. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’ve been paying attention to the response it’s gotten online, and this one thing has pissed me right off. Apparently some people really don’t like the fact that some sympathetic characters are black.

I don’t have much to say that hasn’t already been stated. A part of me is actually really surprised. I guess I sort of thought that that kind of overt racism was generally understood to be Not Okay, and that even if people had thoughts like that, they would at least refrain from posting them on the public internet. Maybe it’s better that they’ve stated them outright, because at least that way people can respond to them. Tim Wise spoke on the Melissa Harris-Perry show last Sunday about overt and covert racism in the context of the Trayvon Martin’s case (starting at around the 10:40 mark). I guess it’s good to get a reminder that racism still exists and we need to keep working to get rid of it.

But it’s still gross.

Also, one little thing I do want to add: Many people have responded to these racist comments by pointing out that Suzanne Collins describes Rue and Thresh as having dark skin in the book. This is obviously true, and maybe a good way to trip up people who claim to be huge fans of the books but don’t want those characters to be black. But that really isn’t the point, and it actually helps to show just how insidious whitewashing is in Hollywood. If Collins hadn’t specified the colour of their skin, would those racist comments be more justified? Obviously not. But white people have grown accustomed to seeing the characters that they identify with onscreen also look like them, so, unless otherwise specified, they assume by default that the characters they identify with onscreen should look like them. And, even when it is otherwise specified, it seems like some of them still make that assumption.


I’m not sure what made me do it, but I bought a fashion magazine a couple weeks ago. I used to buy other magazines (lifestyle ones, I guess?), but that ended a few years ago and I really never missed them. But something compelled me to pick up this magazine. I saw it on the racks at Shopper’s a few times, and kept thinking I kind of wanted it but also knowing I didn’t want to spend any money on it. Then one day I just thought, fuck it, I want to waste money. I’m buying it.

I took it home and opened it for some easy bathroom reading. It sucked. It had nothing but ads. Ads for expensive clothes, ads for less expensive clothes that you could pretend were more expensive, ads for make-up, ads for skin-care products, ads for hair-care products, ads for accessories, ads for a bunch of things I never buy. I cursed my parents for introducing me to the evils of advertising when I was a young child.

But the problem wasn’t that the magazine had ads. The problem was that it only had ads. I wanted something I could read through after an exhausting day when my eyes were too tired to stare at a computer screen. I found one, maybe two articles that I could read. The rest of the pages were pictures of products with a tiny bit of text telling me where I could buy those products. I was amazed by how much I didn’t care.

I know that some people look at fashion as a form of art, appreciating it for its beauty, and others have an interest in where they might buy the products that a fashion magazine advertises. For those people, a fashion magazine might be a good thing to spend money on. I do neither of those things. For me, a fashion magazine is a waste of money. Lesson learned, I hope.

Navel gazing body hair

I’ve had a weird relationship with my body hair for a long time. I don’t know when it started but I know it’s been around for a while. I remember putting on sunscreen when I was a kid, probably eight or nine years old, but possibly younger, and hating how visible the lotion made the hairs on my legs when it pressed them against my skin. But I also remember seeing women, women I thought were really cool or absolutely gorgeous or something else that made me want to be like them, who had hairy legs and hairy armpits, and that just added to the coolness that I saw in them. When I was thirteen or fourteen, I stopped shaving, but then I also stopped wearing anything that showed my legs or armpits if I went anywhere where I thought I might see people I wanted to impress.

Some of my friends teased me (or just acted kind of baffled) about my hairiness, but I’ve always been stubborn so in some ways that just made me more determined to stay hairy, even if it meant hiding the parts of my body where that hair grew. Then one day when I was fifteen I used shaving as leverage to get my boyfriend to do something. It’s definitely not something I would do now, and I think he probably got the better end of the deal, but it might have been my way of getting out of having hairy legs without admitting that maybe I wanted to be hairless. That got me in the habit of shaving my body hair regularly, and I kept it up for several years.

Until one day/week/month in my final year of university when I sort of stopped caring and didn’t shave for a while. Once my leg hair got past the sharp, stubbly phase, I didn’t mind it too much, but I still thought it looked kind of messy. My armpit hair, on the other hand, looked amazing. I took out my razor one day when I was feeling kind of sick and needed something to pick me up, and I shaved my legs supersmooth, but I decided to leave the little tufts growing in my pits. I decided, pretty definitively, I thought, that I liked hair that grew together. Leg hair wasn’t thick enough; I could see too much skin through it. But the hair in my armpits was more like the hair on my head. It was all one clump of hair, not tiny hairs spread all over the place.

So I stayed like that for a while, shaving my legs but leaving my armpits, and while I noticed I was less likely to throw my arms up in the air than I had been when I shaved my pits, I eventually got comfortable wearing tank tops to dance classes where everyone would see that I didn’t shave. One friend congratulated me on getting through a summer without giving in and shaving (and also without always wearing sleeves). Another friend told me it looked gross and could I please stop this silliness? Most people didn’t say anything unless I brought it up.

I kept that up for a couple years, enjoying my smooth legs and rough pits, until last summer when I went on a family vacation and left my razor in my suitcase for three weeks. My plan had always been to eventually shave my legs, but it just never seemed like the right time. Plus, there were a couple really cool and really hairy women on that trip with me, and maybe I felt like I could never be as cool as them if I shaved. That’s a load of crap, but those weird feelings operate on a level that logic can’t get to.

So since then I haven’t shaved. I’ve thought about it, about being able to run my hands along my legs and feel all skin, but then I think I’ll somehow be selling out, and plus if I decide to grow my leg hair out again, I’ll have to go through that annoying stubbly phase, which I hate. I don’t know if I like my legs hairy, or if I’m just keeping them that way out of stubbornness or some attempt to be cool. I would be in a similar situation if I shaved my legs. But I have noticed one unexpected side effect to not shaving: I am way more comfortable wearing frilly skirts and girly tops if I’ve got some body hair showing. I also have a weird relationship with my gender identity (this post is long enough so I won’t go into that here), but dressing like a stereotypical girl is much easier for me now that my legs look a little bit manly.

The future looks pretty white.

I probably shouldn’t be surprised, since I sometimes watch movies and tv shows, and since I frequently read things on the internet that talk about how frustrating and annoying it is that movies and tv shows star mostly white people, but for some reason, I expected something different from Hunger Games.

I came across a link to a search for the main cast of the Hunger Games movie. Most of the cast are people I haven’t heard of (either because they aren’t very famous or I haven’t been paying attention; probably a combination of the two) and I have no opinion on how well any of the cast will play the characters. But I’m annoyed that I clicked through twelve of the eighteen main actors before coming across someone who isn’t white.

Apparently Suzanne Collins is on board with at least the actor playing Katniss, so I guess she fits the idea that Collins has in her head of what that character should look like, but that actually doesn’t matter much to me. It bugs me a bit that Katniss describes herself as being sort of dark and is being played by a pretty fair blonde woman, but I think I could deal with that if there was a little more diversity in the cast. The main problem that I have is that this movie takes place in North America at some unspecified point in the future (probably not too far away but not too close either), and does not at all represent the diversity that is already very present in North America today. It might make some sense if most of the people in the Capitol were white, since the society is already oppressive and it isn’t much of a stretch to think they might discriminate along racial lines. But that’s not even the case. Cinna, Katniss’s stylist, is played by Lenny Kravitz.

Like I said, I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but seeing the Hunger Games cast be a group of mostly white people bugged me more than seeing other mostly white casts. I think there are two main reasons for this. The first is that depicting a futuristic North America as a mostly white country implies that white North Americans are the only North Americans that really belong here. Sure, we may live on an ethnically diverse continent right now, but in this dystopian future, it’s plausible that the Hunger Game tributes from all but one of the districts will be white. I’m not sure where all the people of colour will go, but I guess they’ll leave before the Capitol starts holding the Hunger Games, since they’ll have a pretty tough time leaving after.

The second reason it bugs me more than other mostly white casts has to do with the oppression that is such an important part of the story. It’s not that I can’t fathom white people ever being oppressed. I know that white women and white gay people and white trans people and white poor people and white people with disabilities and many other white people are oppressed all over the continent, often by other white people, for being women or gay or trans or poor or having a disability. However, making a story about oppression into a story about mostly white people who are oppressed seems to erase the many many many nonwhite people who are oppressed regularly for not being white. There’s something that doesn’t sit well with me about an oppression narrative being appropriated by a group that often benefits from the oppression of so many other people.

So, once again, this shouldn’t be surprise me, and it actually doesn’t, really. But, as I read through the Hunger Games series, I was hoping that, when the movies of these books were inevitably made, they would show a little more diversity than most Hollywood movies. And it’s always a little disappointing when your hopes don’t come true.

Covered in Makeup, Kids are Still Kids

According to the Daily Mail, there is a new beauty industry in the UK that caters to prepubescent children. Companies like Candy Girls, Party Princesses, Pretty Girl Parties, and others, provide facials, manicures, pedicures, makeup tips, temporary tattoos, and a variety of other cosmetic products and services traditionally associated with grown women, to girls sometimes as young as three years old.

Young girls are also being targeted by firms offering ‘Lipstick and Limo’ parties and U.S.-influenced ‘mini-model’ fashion parades, complete with pageant-style tiaras and scaled-down catwalks.

I agree with those quoted in the Daily Mail article that this is disturbing. It’s jarring to see young girls’ faces covered in professionally applied makeup. But I think the main reason that it’s jarring for me is that it’s something I’m not used to, not that there is something inherently wrong with young girls wearing makeup.

I should probably qualify that. I don’t think young girls need to wear makeup. I also don’t think grown women or teenage girls or anyone else in the world needs to wear makeup. I don’t think there is anything wrong with wearing makeup as a form of creative expression at any age, but I think the idea that women need to wear makeup all the time is both ridiculous and oppressive. Women and girls strive to reach an impossible beauty standard because anything lower is unacceptable. I think it’s a huge problem, and I don’t see much of a difference between that being the norm for women and these pamper parties for young girls.

I’ve heard people say that young girls shouldn’t wear makeup or dye their hair or basically do anything to change their appearance. Many of the people who say this around me are women who wear makeup, dye their hair, shave their legs, and probably do a bunch of other things to change the way they look. The reason they don’t think kids should do this, some have told me, is that kids already look great, so they don’t need to. I guess people stop looking great once they hit puberty. Women wear makeup to cover up zits, to hide wrinkles, to make their cheeks look hollow (and thus appear skinnier), to make their eyes look bigger. How is being unsatisfied with how you look at age 14, 40, or 84 any better than being unsatisfied with how you look at age 4? More importantly, how is it okay to teach kids that the way most women look isn’t good enough to show the public, but not okay to let them try looking like an adult?

Doctors and parents quoted in the Daily Mail article are complaining about two main things. One is that girls are getting the message that their most important quality is their appearance. The other is the sexualization of young girls. These are both serious problems that need to be fixed, but I would guess that parties like this are more a result of these problems than a cause of them. I also wonder how much these parties really contribute to young girls learning that it’s important to be sexually attractive. Adults tell children how beautiful they look all the time. Getting professionally made up and pretending to be a model at a party can’t be any worse than hearing people imply on a regular basis that your value comes from how cute you are. I also wouldn’t be surprised if some of the younger kids thought of these parties as a game more than anything else. I’m not saying that kids should go to these parties. They reinforce gender stereotypes (Pretty Girl Parties has a whole list of stereotypical girly girl party activities, and then a Medieval Knight Party for boys) and they probably don’t give kids the space they need to play in a creative, unstructured way. But I don’t think that going to these parties is much worse than learning that a woman’s face only looks good when it’s covered in makeup.

Kids pretend to be grownups all the time. They play house, they play doctor, they play teacher, they build things, they destroy things, they act out stories they’ve heard or seen or read, they imitate adults in their lives. That’s all a part of growing up and figuring out who they want to be. I don’t think we should be worrying about children acting like adults. We should be more worried about what image of adults we’re giving them.