On Fleek // Lipstick Revolution
Guest article by Taylor Wear. Taylor is a writer, a bruncher, and a young lover of old things. She will order whiskey and you're allowed to think she's doing it to impress you. Her favorite book and favorite shade of lipstick are both Lolita, a fabulous little coincidence.
Throughout my twenty-five years on this earth, I have managed to acquire three vices: tequila, chainsmoking (strictly while drinking tequila), and lipstick.
Considering the sometimes fearless, mildly self-absorbed mentality of many of my peers, a mere three vices probably isn’t that bad. And you would think the fact that two of them are alcohol and its associated nicotine use would because for the most concern. But let me tell you, that last one – lipstick – is a doozy. There are currently eleven lipsticks of various colors and finishes sitting at the bottom of my purse (and that’s only in the purse that I happen to have used the most this week). More than once (waaaaayyy more than once), I have spent roughly an hour, probably more, perusing the cosmetics aisles at Target, picking up tube after tube of lipstick and wracking my brain trying to decide on the perfect nude, summer coral, femme fatale red. I walk out of high-end cosmetics boutiques with both hands covered in a veritable rainbow of swatches. I imagine most women my age buy a new outfit or get a new haircut for those special occasions that call for something “new” – I buy a new shade. I buy lipstick on payday, I buy lipstick when I’m bored, I buy lipstick when I’m actually intending to buy toilet paper or dog food, I buy lipstick to forget that I’m sad. I am absolutely, completely, unapologetically a lipstick addict. Matte, satin, or cream sheen – I want it all, and all will never be enough.
In my pathetic defense, I wasn’t always like this. My adoration for lipstick, and really, makeup as an art form, didn’t come into full effect until my early college years. If I’m being honest, I have no idea what inspired it. But what I do know is that the moment I started, I couldn’t stop.
Maybe it was the fact that I spent my formative adolescent years completely barefaced, yet surrounded by girls my age who were experimenting with makeup all the time, painting their faces with blue eyeshadow and glittery lip gloss so thick you could frost a cake with it.
Maybe it was how I entered this fabulous realm so late in the game that I missed out on “bad” makeup entirely. By the time I came around, Urban Decay was queen and even drugstores were cranking out products free of talc and parabens and other gross stuff. If you were a makeup junkie in the year 2010 or so, life was pretty damn good.
Maybe it was my inner Queer Girl, still at this time a faint, timid voice that only reared her head around hot lesbian soccer players – and drag queens. To this day, few things fascinate and inspire me more than watching average white-collar Joe-types in hairnets sit in front of a vanity mirror for a few hours and gradually transform themselves into intimidatingly beautiful goddesses.
There are seriously so many factors here and it could be any number of things. But again, if I’m being honest, there is an ominous, dark thought in the back of my mind that it is something much deeper, something that reveals me to be my most pathetic and vulnerable and self-conscious.
Maybe it’s the fact that, with makeup, I am finally pretty.
The Militant Feminist Killjoy in me is livid at hearing this, wants to grab me by the shoulders and shake the patriarchal bullshit out of me, even though I am certainly not the only woman who feels this way. We live in a world that insists women who wear makeup are somehow lying to the rest of us, a world where the idea of taking her “swimming on the first date” is funny, a world where some fuckboy (yeah I said it) has been conditioned to think he is inherently deserving of a woman with naturally full lips and high cheekbones despite the fact that he brings nothing to the table ... I digress (chalk that tangent up to the Militant Feminist Killjoy). This is a hard world to live in, especially if that same world also jumps through Twilight Zone, Bizarro-logic hoops to insist women need to wear makeup to be halfway presentable.
The scary thing, at least for me, is that every magazine cover and shitty Facebook meme that reinforces this heinous societal norm/double standard, is also a steady reminder of the days before makeup came into my life, when I was the most self-conscious and self-hating I’ve ever been. In my view, I was hideous. There was a point during my freshman year where I purposefully avoided mirrors or reflective surfaces. There was little reason for any of this. I mean of course there was the girl who called me a dyke all four years of high school, the boy in my fifth period science class who told me I was pretty only to laugh in my face and shout “FALSE!” when I said thank you, but these are (sadly) things that everyone, even future Vogue models, have to experience before they become a Mature Adult and learn that these things Say Far More About Them than They Do About You. When I look at pictures of myself from high school, I really wish I wasn’t wearing checkered Vans, but I also wish I could crawl into the photograph and somehow permanently convince my 14-year-old self that I am beautiful.
Unfortunately, in this world, not even a wiser version of yourself teleporting into your past would allow that to happen. Our society has always been profoundly gifted at two things: 1) convincing women that they are ugly/not worthy, and 2) building booming industries funded entirely on the idea that women need their products to help make them less ugly/more worthy. It’s a horrifyingly genius business model. Sell things to make women think they are transforming themselves into something beautiful, but make that beauty completely and utterly unobtainable.
Yeah uh, you know what? Fuck that.
For women like me, eschewing makeup and saying fuck all to societal norms is a nice idea, but not foreseeable in the slightest. We love it too much – and not because it makes us prettier. I called makeup an art form earlier, and I’m not exaggerating. That’s what makeup is – art. It is innovative and inspirational. It encourages people of all kinds to be brave and exploratory, to actively and unapologetically express themselves, whether it’s through a soft romantic daytime look or full-on pancake Lady D*Lite drag. For many of us, it is both ritualistic and comforting. There is daily reassurance in defining an inner corner, sheering out blush, fleeking a brow. It unites women (and men) from completely different walks of life with a common interest; it brings people together.
For a blissful 18 months, I worked at a large cosmetics retailer and got to share my love for this art form with other people. My favorite “story” was when a woman in her mid-forties sat in my chair, told me she had just finished her last round of chemotherapy, and announced that she “just wanted to feel pretty” again. Makeup was her way of saying “fuck you” to the cancer that had left her feeling something other than herself, and I thought that was completely, unrepentantly beautiful.
The idea that women who wear makeup are being dishonest is, like so many societal norms, deeply rooted in the patriarchy, coming from the less-marketable idea that women are to be viewed as products on display. But taking society’s method of making women feel small and ashamed and unworthy, and twisting and warping it into something that transforms us into the picture of strength and beauty and female solidarity – what on earth could be more revolutionary than that?
I am a lipstick addict. There are arguably plenty of things more worthy of my hard-earned money than lipstick. But I am a lipstick addict and, if you’ll excuse me, I’m starting a revolution here.