I was about 5 years old when I discovered makeup for the first time. It was the usual story: sneak into your parents’ room, find the makeup on your mother’s dressing table and immediately smear it all on your face. Ten minutes later, my mother walked in and found me covered in lipstick and foundation.
Fast-forward to 13 years later, when the media seems conflicted about whether women should wear makeup or not. Most of the advertisements for any product under the sun seem to feature heavily made-up women batting their eyelashes at the camera, while every other day, there’s an article about how different a female celebrity looks without makeup, or how the natural look is so in right now.
In the last few months, pictures of girls with and without makeup have been circling the internet, with the caption “Take a girl swimming on a first date” The underlying implication being that girls aren’t lying by wearing makeup, that it’s not how they actually look. But there are also pieces about how tired a female celebrity looks because she isn’t made up while shopping for groceries.
It’s easy to see where the problem arises. Back in the day when women were just supposed to run the house and pop out babies, they weren’t meant to have jobs at all. But women today can work and vote. They don’t have to rely on someone else for financial stability. Women shouldn’t have to look pretty for men anymore.
So when a woman puts on makeup, she’s not doing it for men. When I’ve had a hard day, I find it super relaxing to mess around in front of a mirror and give myself a smoky eye. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I began to feel more confident when I had liquid liner on, but I love the way having a perfect winged eyeliner and a good shade of lip gloss makes me feel like I can conquer the world.
Since women don’t need to wear makeup anymore, it all boils down to this perfect little dichotomy of beauty or brains that the world wants women to fit into. Wear makeup and be labeled a slut; don’t wear makeup and you’re only concerned with your schoolwork or your job. But the truth is that it’s not a dichotomy. Wearing mascara isn’t going to glue my eyes shut so I can’t read Shakespeare. Not wearing lip gloss isn’t going to make me uninterested in my appearance, or a lazy slob. Women are more than the makeup they choose to wear or choose not to wear.
So no thank you, media. I think I’ll stick with what I’m most comfortable doing. Beauty or brains? I think I’ll take both.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.
A version of this article appeared in the November 16 print edition. Email Shreya Kaushik at [email protected]