Thursday, May 23Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Makeup Shaming is NOT Cute

Makeup Shaming is NOT cute.

Makeup Shaming is exactly what it says on the tin, and it is not okay.

More and more frequently, women (and men) are being criticised for the style of makeup they choose to wear, based on the assumption that to do so they must be insecure in their own skin or seeking attention from others. Even Simon Cowell is guilty of it. But why should we be judged for the products we chose to put on our own faces?

The Ancient Sumerians are thought to have been the first to invent makeup by crushing gemstones and applying them to their eyes and lips. Fast forward five thousand years and the cosmetics industry is bigger than ever. Products have been created for every part of the face, and even the body, in every colour imaginable. Makeup Artists are in high demand and YouTubers and beauty bloggers upload tutorials daily, teaching us how to master the perfect winged liner (among other vital skills) winning millions of views. It is a rarity that I can check Instagram without seeing #highlightonfleek, although that might have something to do with who I follow…

So if makeup is that popular why are people being shamed for wearing it? If you are someone who wears makeup regularly, particularly as a young woman, you’ll definitely have heard the phrases “but you look fine, why do you need all that stuff on your face?” and “men don’t like girls who wear lots of makeup”. The problem is, I never said that I NEED makeup, and I definitely never said I wear it to impress men.

Makeup Shaming is unnecessary, but it seems inescapable. In fact, one of the most powerful personalities in the media exhibited the ignorance found within most Makeup Shamers arsenal, but this time it was on national television. On a recent episode of the X Factor, Simon Cowell made seventeen year old contestant Samantha Lavery remove her makeup before auditioning, telling her to “peel away the mask”. Samantha was clearly shocked when Simon told her “I kind of wish we had met without what you think is your pop-star image… I’d almost like to see you without so much make up.”

Cowell perhaps realised his co-judges Mel B and Emma Bunton were less than happy with this, immediately asking them if his comments were “bad”. In response, Bunton told him Samantha was “allowed to experiment as a girl” and Mel B added “it is bad, that’s what girls do”. For me, their defence of Samantha’s choice to wear makeup was not strong enough. As for limiting make up to just girls, that’s an issue for another time. They still recognised the issue with Simon’s blatant Makeup Shaming, and that is what counts here.

It is difficult to criticise Samantha for adhering to Simon’s views on how she should look when he could be the key to her career in the music industry. The fact that she returned with less eye shadow and liner (yet still visibly wearing essentially a full face of Simon’s dreaded makeup) is probably what most of us would have done in her position.

The issue here is that a fifty-six year old man thought it was his right to impose his own idea of beauty on a seventeen year old young woman. I can’t see how Samantha wearing makeup would have been a hindrance to the quality of her voice. This illogical concept is worsened by the fact that most of Samantha’s fellow contestants were wearing equal amounts of makeup, if not more. Despite this, when Samantha returned Simon called her audition “powerful” before adding “it was like we were meeting you for the first time”. Samantha had fulfilled Simon’s ideals of how she should look, making her worthy enough to audition for him.

The anger towards Simon’s ignorant comments was immediately visible on social media. One Twitter user thought it “disgraceful how @SimonCowell is allowed to be so #sexist on @ITV – don’t judge talent on how much makeup they wear. So degrading #XFactor” (@jo_ormiston). Another tweet read “Simon Cowell forcing a girl to take off her makeup so that she looks more ‘pretty’ makes me want to vomit #xfactor #patriachy” (@Onyxsta).

So, there are a few things that I think Simon and Makeup Shamers in general really ought to know. If you think I wear too much makeup then that is your opinion, but here’s why it doesn’t matter to me:
– I don’t wear makeup because I’m insecure. I’m actually pretty comfortable barefaced. Make up is fun and I enjoy the process of putting it on.
– I don’t wear makeup for other people. I probably alter my makeup routine depending on what I’m doing that day. I might think twice about a full contour and highlight for a day of lectures, and maybe I won’t do a purple smoky eye for that job interview. But maybe I will, and that is my choice.
So, to all the guilty Makeup Shamers out there, think twice next time before you comment on another person’s appearance. Makeup is a personal choice and a form of self-expression. It is also considered by many to be an art form. Actually, while we’re at it, RHUL Makeup Society anyone?