“REALLY? Please tell me you are kidding,” he said, squinting as if I had suddenly blurred before his eyes into somebody he couldn’t recognize. I blinked, cocking my head to the left and furrowing my brows in that cute confused look he’d loved on earlier occasions. I couldn’t understand what the whole fuss was about. What had changed in the two minutes that divided our world into everything before my seemingly innocuous request and everything after that didn’t make it seem that innocuous, after all.
In case you are wondering, he was running down to the drugstore and I had asked him to pick me a Bobbi Brown sheer finish powder. Not too much to ask for, is it? <Oh, I might have mentioned the name twice, just so he got it right>
Image source: Pinterest
But it wasn’t the errand that troubled him so much as, what I realized a moment later, the contradiction in his mind about how I could reconcile using a cosmetic product with being a feminist!
Duh uh. I hadn’t expected it from him, but nonetheless, the question painted on his face wasn’t a new one. I had seen it flash across countless faces before, and failed to get them a satisfying explanation even thought I totally got where that confusion arose.
Suggested read: Things I want to tell men who indulge in makeup shaming
I mean, if one were to resort to plain logic on surface level, picking up a thirty dollar tube of an alluring plum at Sephora sure didn’t fall in line with professed anti-capitalism, even if they belonged to brands like Anarchy or Rebel nor did applying those very products on oneself seem a rebellion against patriarchy that deployed these very tools to make women conform to narrow and unrealistic beauty standards. But here’s the problem in viewing the use of makeup through this seemingly ‘liberal’ lens that, in reality, is uni-dimensional in use.
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Feminism and makeup aren’t exclusive categories on the twin ends of a superficial-to-liberated spectrum. So, for those who have a problem reconciling our wings with our love for the winged liner and our decidedly liberal opinions with a set of lavender coated lips uttering them, here’s the explanation you have sought all along:
- Feminism upholds bodily autonomy
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The one thing that more people need to realize is that whether it be a decision to wear a tank top, itsy-bitsy shorts, a burqa or tattoos or lipstick, the decision to express one’s self with whatever one chooses rests with one’s own self. Neither patriarchy nor feminism can impose a one-size-fits-all dictum on any of us. The idea that one has the autonomy to decide whatever one gets to do with one’s body has to be one of the core ideas in our liberation.
As soon as we allow a fixed notion to dictate what we are to choose as our mode of self-expression (no matter whether it be conforming to unrealistic beauty standards proposed by patriarchy or simply an extremist pseudo-feminist view like that of my seemingly ‘liberal’ boyfriend and others who probably believe feminists should wear signboards that say ‘feminist, ergo, denounce all patriarchal sham), we are doing nothing but reimposing another dogma on ourselves. And THAT is WRONG. We just need to accept that true liberation is about refraining from doling out any dictates on what a person can be seen in or as. It is about allowing that person to make the decisions about his/her body, by himself/herself.
- Feminism equips us with the ability to critically evaluate our choices
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The problem of viewing several contrasting aspects of what is deemed ‘feminist’ and what is actually feminist has raised many a laughable debates. I shall explain with an example. If a feminist likes Taylor Swift but recognizes the inherent girl-hate or racist streak in some of her numbers, is she not feminist? Hell no. Just by being a tiny part of her fandom or cleaning her house, grooving to “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” is she, in any way, playing a role in subjugating the very ideology she upholds. Hell no.
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The problem with this, as with several other things like makeup that seem to go against ‘distorted’ notions about feminism, is that when you are a feminist, you cannot say or do anything without some conditions attached. Because no action or speech is operative in a vacuum. However, placing every single thing done by a feminist to close scrutiny, in the context of everything available at one’s disposal to make an argument against her, is to resort to straw man’s arguments, simply to make a point. In that way, not one thing in the world shall be excused from being problematic.
What one has to realize is that liking a particular song for the artistry does not imply that one necessarily agrees with what’s depicted in the video. No woman shall ever put up with the kind of dating violence that mass culture glorifies. Similarly, one has to understand that by being empowered, by myself, to know that I can choose to wear makeup or go sans makeup, I am equally placed in a disempowering position by a culture that tells me that makeup is the ‘right’ decision to make.
The ability to critically differentiate and make informed choices is liberation. It allows us to engage with those choices and constantly evaluate what it means to make them.
- Feminism does not stand for demonizing femininity, and the definition of the latter can be our own
Image source: Giphy
Whoever propagated this BS notion that in order to be considered truly feminist, we need to stick to a hegemonic model of femininity- which means no more bras, razors, hair curlers, eyelash curlers or even nail paint- was an idiot. Don’t take me wrong, I am all for women who make these choices. But I am also all for those who don’t. One does not necessarily have to divorce oneself from frilly, cute, blingy things just to be considered feminist. By pushing women to act androgynous, which, in itself, is quite a masculine social concept, you are simply reinforcing the idea that masculinity is more valuable than femininity. And THAT is not feminist, at all.
Nothing traditionally deemed ‘feminine’ by your own patriarchal structures is excluded from the ambit of choices available to women. Whether they choose to move out and away from the modes made available to them since birth or simply, engage with the modes, by being fully aware that their participation does NOT imply conformity but an act of free will, is their decision. A free one.
So, for all those who find it difficult to gulp down our choices and reconcile them with our ideology, you just need to dig deeper.
Featured image source: healthyrraukatzcouture