January 13, 2014
Is Makeup the Western Version of the Burqa?
The question is a figurative one. Has makeup gone so far in that it has become the western version of the burqa (figuratively)? Western culture is perfection based. Every makeup ad appeals to the insecurities in all of us. The ads tell us to smooth out wrinkles, to banish pores, to make the eyes and lips bigger, to carve out cheekbones, to fake a summer tan, and to rid yourself of those dating wrinkles. Never should you look your age. You should be timeless. You should be perfect. Above all you should look like everyone else. You should never show your flaws. Flaws are important. Flaws are who you are at your most vulnerable. Your naked face is what you show to those who are closest, to those who mean the most, to those who don't judge. More and more women are more comfortable having sex with a new partner than showing him their bare face. It is a worrisome trend when a woman is so intent on covering up flaws and blemishes that she goes 4 weeks before being able to be fresh faced in front of a new boyfriend. All that makeup ads up to $13,000 (on average) over a woman's lifetime. Makeup has shifted from enhancing one's innate beauty to changing one's face completely. It means adding cheekbones and contours, a la Kim Kardashian, that obscure your own lovely bone structure. Above all it means changing. Changing to suit what Hollywood and fashion industry believes is the ideal woman. There is nothing wrong with the svelte, brown haired, high cheek-boned model on the runway. She is beautiful because she is a woman. It is the change that is the true problem. Are we so scared that one in three women wouldn't dare to leave the house without makeup? Western culture isn't overtly fond of individuality and it certainly isn't fond of losing the $36.5 billion in revenue from the cosmetics industry in the US alone. Women aren't encouraged to go out in public as they are. Women are told at all hours of the day that they need more accessories and better hair color and less wrinkles and winged eyeliner and floor sweeping eyelashes and chiseled cheeks and the perfect tan. How much different is this than a floor length burqa or the face hugging hijab? Both obscure, to varying degrees, a woman's beauty. They hide her individuality away from the world. Only to be removed in the presence of close family. At her death in 1603, Queen Elizabeth I wore a half of inch of makeup a day to cover up scars from a bout of smallpox and to convey to her subjects that she was in the peak of health even with rotted out teeth and sunken cheeks. So it is no modern thing, makeup. It's used because women can't grow old and feeble without talk that they are outdated or losing their edge or worthless. Women's worth, we are reminded, is in their bodies and their beauty. Without their makeup women are vulnerable and their sense of self worth is much less. Makeup becomes a mask. A mask of beauty and perfection that we model to other women and to the world. Makeup masks puberty's scars and an all-nighter and small lips and heavy eyelids and creates and molds bones. Makeup can lend a hand for self worth but it can also drag it down when the plain face in the mirror is the ugly one and the made up one is what we think is reality.