We have to stop calling women who don’t wear makeup “brave.” Because it’s an insult.
To be seen out in public as we are is not courageous, and really screw anyone who says it is. A child fighting cancer is brave. A woman pushing an eight-pound cannonball out of her vagina and committing the next 18 to 47 years of her life to raising a human is brave. A firefighter busting through a window and charging into a blaze to save a stranger’s cat is brave. Forgoing mascara barely registers as a decision, much less a heroic one.
This idea that celebrities are trailblazers if they are photographed without makeup is dumb. Seeing Mila Kunis’ beautiful, bare, and–let’s face it–likely heavily airbrushed mug on a magazine cover does not inspire me to embrace my own flawed countenance with radical acceptance. It’s my face. It’s suitable for public consumption as is. Yours is too, I promise.
I saw an article today about a bride who went without makeup on her wedding day. Bully for her. If that’s the right decision for her, then great. If another bride wants to sit in front of a professional cosmetologist for three hours to get the look she wants, okay. When you’re getting married or when you’re watching Netflix alone on your couch, the exact right amount of makeup is whatever you freaking feel like.
In the summer, I rarely wear makeup. I don’t go barefaced to make a point or assert my feminist beliefs. The South Carolina summers are brutally hot, and makeup melts. That’s it. I think I look better with the face God gave me than made up and molten like a Jack-O-Lantern left out until January. Other reasons why I sometimes don’t wear makeup: I’m lazy; makeup is expensive, and the less you use, the longer it lasts; I don’t care what I look like at the grocery store; I still have smudged makeup from the day before, and I’m all about recycling; I’m wearing sunglasses; my hair is a mess, so why bother? Most importantly, I’m allowed to look however I look without having to explain myself.
The idea that going makeup-free is a statement is absurd. The idea that it’s brave in any capacity is preposterous. I don’t care if you’re a celebrity who has never been photographed or filmed without first undergoing hours of contouring, showing your unretouched face isn’t a middle finger at the patriarchy. The assertion that it is pisses me off. Women have real, honest to God battles to fight for equality, and saying not wearing makeup is brave is akin to agreeing we should hide our real faces and not dare to leave our houses without making certain we are pretty enough to be seen by . . . I don’t even know who. Men? Other women? Gainfully employed horses? We don’t owe it to the world to be pretty.
When we see a picture of a woman without makeup, and she looks good, why is our first instinct to describe her as a “free spirit?” Why do we need to label this at all?
I feel prettier when I wear makeup, so when I want to feel prettier, I put on makeup. On days when I don’t wear makeup, I don’t feel like I should pull a ball cap low on my forehead or make my errands brief. Congratulating women, famous or not, for deciding not to shellac the Mary Kay for whatever reason only emphasizes the unspoken conception that women’s faces are inherently unacceptable when unenhanced. They’re not. We’re not.
I love seeing online makeup tutorials, girls finding creative ways to decorate themselves that feel empowering and special. They’re fucking artists, I can barely apply eyeliner. Some women see makeup as their armor, another necessary layer of protection, and that’s fine, too. Some women don’t like putting on makeup, some would rather sleep the extra five minutes, and it’s all gravy.
Please, can we just stop treating any woman, celebrity or not, who decides to go out in public au naturel as something to be celebrated? Or even worse, something to be ridiculed? It’s not. Because if it is, it means not wearing makeup is unacceptable. We don’t need to be better than who we are. We need to be free to do what makes us comfortable without being judged one way or another. Chubby girls wearing halter tops, tall girls wearing heels, black girls letting their hair down, pale girls skipping the tanning bed, and all of us wearing makeup or not, we are all trying to do what makes us happy, what makes our lives more manageable, what makes us feel like real people.
The next time you see an article about a woman going without makeup and describing the act as somehow gutsy, ask yourself why. Why is that something to be celebrated? Frankly, I would rather live in a world where what a woman looks like isn’t news at all.