The first time I wore makeup was for my third grade play. Thick coats of mascara were applied to my eyelashes so “people could see my eyes on stage”. Why did they need to see my eyes? The unfamiliar feel of the mascara weighing down my eyelashes irritated me, so without hesitation I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand, leaving large smudges.
The first time I applied makeup on myself was in the eighth grade, after I had learned about lip liner for the first time. Smitten with the idea of lip liner, I went home and went through my mother’s makeup drawer, searching for something that resembled my idea of what lip liner looked like. I took out a dark pencil and immediately began applying it to my lip.
After making a large black circle which outlined the edges of my mouth, I realized that was not lip liner, but eyeliner. I immediately took it off, not out of concern that I had used the wrong product, but because I was ashamed of using makeup.
My relationship with makeup has always been a tumultuous one. For most of my life, I have thought that wearing makeup would simultaneously be admitting that I was uncomfortable with the way that I looked and succumbing to the unnatural beauty standards society sets for women. By not wearing makeup I thought I was showing the world that I would not conform to what they think women should look like.
By not wearing makeup, I believed that I was on a mission to fight the patriarchy. By not wearing makeup, I was personally going to take down the systemic social, political and economic inequalities women face.
And boy, was I wrong.
In high school, I soon came to realize that my peers who wore makeup were not doing so to conform, but rather to express themselves. By not wearing makeup out of fear, I was actually letting the forces I wanted to beat influence the way I looked. Being a feminist is about giving women the power to make decisions for themselves, and women who wear makeup had made that decision for themselves.
At the beginning of this school year ,I began to wear makeup every few weeks, which made me very happy. Putting on makeup felt cathartic, the experience allowed me to take time out of a hectic schedule and allow me to take care of myself.
Some days I wake up and apply glitter like it’s lotion, and some days I just don’t want to. But either way, I am making this decision for myself. And by being who I want to be, I am fighting the patriarchy.
Originally published in the February 2018 print issue