There’s some controversy about girls who love makeup, and this can come from stigmas about vanity and narcissism as much as the simple fact that feminism can be confusing.
The word “feminism” means the belief that women are people, and deserve equal opportunity to men. Nothing more, nothing less. That’s a pretty overwhelming definition, and people have taken it to mean a number of things. Some second- and third-wave feminists pointed to women happy to be stay-at-home mothers and homemakers as a detriment to feminism, even while promoting equal opportunity. Nowawdays, many feminists look at beauty bloggers and feel the same way, saying those women are trapped in the societal pressures to value their beauty above everything else, have dumbed down to become nothing more than an empty shell of femininity, and promote hyper-feminine behavior to young, impressionable girls. Whether we’re looking at beauty bloggers or housewives, the general idea is that these women are hurting feminism by embodying and promoting men’s idea of what women “should” be. I think the concern here is that if I’m blogging about beauty, I must not have thought about why I care about it; otherwise, I’d stop.
Victim-blaming aside, I see where these misconceptions may come from, but when you think critically about what feminism means, the only people who are a detriment to feminism are the people who explicitly advocate for keeping women “in their place” or ignore the fact that women are disadvantaged in our society.
The next two statements represent the process I went through trying to reconcile my strong identification with feminism and my love for makeup and fashion:
This is an important distinction. In the first statement, I am two separate identities, while in the second, I am a person made up of multiple identities; two are named explicitly. The more I’ve learned about feminism in modern American culture, the more I started to think along the lines of the first statement: I was stuck between two identities that just didn’t seem to go together. Caring about beauty products enough to buy way more than I’ll ever need and writing about it seemed like the epitome of the “dumb pretty girl” caricature we’re so used to seeing in mass media these days. I’ve always known that I’m not that caricature, not in the least, but it felt like my actions didn’t quite match up with my mind, and that by blogging about beauty, I was wasting my potential to be an active feminist.
This is why we need to move from the first statement to the second, to see these two identities as two very small parts of one very large whole. Each person is extremely complex, with different values and beliefs, experiences and hardships. This blog only presents one tiny part of me, one that happens to really like makeup and fashion. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m a mindless sheep who practically lives at the mall (although it could). I’m also a student, a sister, a girlfriend, a writer, a thinker, an animal lover, and a proud CMU Tartan — as well as any other identity that I connect with, like feminist.
I have a lot of reasons for identifying as a feminist. I believe that feminism promotes equal opportunity through allowing choice, for both sexes (note that I did not say “gender,” that’s a whole separate conversation). If a woman wants to be a CEO, or a grunt in the Marine Corps, she should be able to do so without barriers due to her sex. If she wants to quit that job and raise her children, we should value that work. The same goes for men: if he wants to be a homemaker or a stay-at-home father, that work should be valued and accepted, too. And above all, we should trust that these choices were made with a lot of self-exploration and thought, and can change at any time.
Blogging is about more than just the products I review, or the fact that I like makeup. I chose to start this blog because I wanted to write more, and to share my ideas and impressions with the hope that these posts might help or inspire someone else. In the past six months, I’ve met so many other women who share that hope. I wouldn’t call any of these women vain, or superficial, or a detriment to feminism, because they’re people who are just trying to express themselves, too.
And we’re not alone. Many bloggers women interested in fashion and beauty struggle with owning their feminist beliefs in the beauty world. Some examples:
I hope these thoughts help anyone else who may be struggling to grasp these connections like I’ve been, or thinking about these ideas for the first time. This topic could get me going for hours, but I’m going to leave it here and let the discussion continue for now.
Share your thoughts! I’d love to hear from you.