Recently, I keep hearing the idea that I cannot possibly be a feminist because I am interested in ‘frivolities’ such as makeup and jewellery. Obviously this means that because I highlight and contour that I cannot possibly be interested in equality for women. Or want myself, my daughters and in fact every woman in the world to not experience discrimination – simply because of their gender. In fact, is it not discrimination when I’m told that because I wear red lipstick I am not a feminist? Those people have judged me on appearances alone, and whilst it is almost impossible to not judge on appearances, they shouldn’t pretend to understand my thoughts and feelings just because of the colours on my face.
Of course I am a feminist, I personally believe all women are, regardless of whether they choose to label themselves in such a way. We all want equality and the freedoms that our ancestors, even our mothers, did not have. Choice is important. I want the same choice over my lipstick, as over my reproductive organs and my career. I want to have that choice and will never stop fighting for the right to make my own choices.
I’m not the first woman ever to wear red lipstick or to understand the power of the statement it makes because it undeniably does make a statement. Red lips are a statement. To me, red lips signify strength and confidence. Red lip draw attention to the face. Red lips make you stand out. Cleopatra used crushed beetles to give her lips a rouged appearance whilst Queen Elizabeth I made red lips fashionable again in the 16th century. Whilst I’m not about to start making my face as pale as possible and bathing in milk, I’m happy to align myself with these incredibly strong women.
At the last count, I owned over 50 lipsticks. It’s probably a little more than that now, I just can’t stop buying makeup. I would guess that over half of them are various shades of red. But, on my non-working days it’s currently nearly always Mac Russian Red that I turn to. It makes me feel ready for the day regardless of how I feel inside. Ordinarily I wear dark clothes, black and grey usually, so the contrast of red lips stands out. It’s my way of standing out. It’s my way of saying ‘don’t mess with me because, I’m ready for whatever life throws my way.’ It’s a statement of confidence that I choose to make.
I’m told that I’m fortunate that red lips suits me. Personally I’d argue that there is a suitable colour for everybody. The colour makes make me look alive and brightens my face. It draws attention to my face and I have to smile at people as they look at me. I’m naturally introverted and shy but red lipstick helps me to make connections with other people. It’s a conversation starter. There have been many occasions that I’ve been described as the ‘woman with red lips and big hair’. It’s what makes me memorable.
I won’t lie, red lips are high maintenance. They have to be looked after and checked. But this also helps me to take care of myself. As long-lasting as my trusty Russian Red is, I have to check my appearance regularly to ensure it hasn’t smudged and to make sure my layer of red protective armour is still in place. Looking after myself makes me feel good. I definitely subscribe to the ‘look good, feel good approach’ because if I feel that I look my best, my insecurities fade and I can focus on other things. That philosophy works both ways.
A while ago, I was told that my penchant for bright, red lipstick was intimidating to men and that I wouldn’t find a man if I continued to wear it as casually as I wore mascara and Converse which is literally everyday. My response? I laughed. Firstly, because it’s naive to assume that I dress for the attention of men? I don’t dress to please anyone. I dress to suit me and my tasks for the day, be that teaching a class of children, running around after my own or a night out with my friends.
Secondly, the notion that because I am single therefore means I must be looking for a man to ‘complete and make me whole’, makes me angry. It’s utter tripe. To me there is nothing more infuriating that reducing women to their relationships with men. Women are guilty of it too. I’m tired of seeing intelligent, educated and successful women bemoaning the lack of men in their life. It’s okay to be alone. It’s okay to want a partner. It’s not okay to make a woman’s whole existence about the man or lack of man in her life. I am a person in my own right and have no desire to defined by my relationships. Right now, I’m happy being single and spending my time with my friends, family and on my career. One day that may change. But when I do finally decide that I want to meet for a partner, am I really going to want one who is scared of red lipstick? They aren’t going to last very long with me if they scare that easily.
I love wearing red lipstick. It changes my mood, it makes me feel more like myself and for me, I could never give up wearing it. Nor would I want to. But the whole point that I am making today is that the makeup that we choose to wear is no way an indicator of anything other than a personal choice, whatever our reasons for wearing it. I am a feminist. I am a makeup addict but I am also a mother, daughter, teacher, friend and writer and nobody is entitled to tell me that the way I choose to describe myself is wrong. Feminism is about giving women the freedom to choose. Don’t try to take my choices from me.
Do you describe yourself as a feminist?
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