Makeup is More Than Pretty Colors: An Ongoing Debate

By Theresa Arocena

Posted on Thursday, April 26th, 2018 at 4:54 PM PDT

 Photo via Pixabay

Photo via Pixabay

Michele White highlights the conflicting position of makeup and beauty culture in the feminist movement in her article, “Beauty as an ‘act of political warfare’: Feminist Makeup Tutorials and Masquerades on YouTube” in the Women's Studies Quarterly. White  attempts to tackle the whys and why nots of makeup and its effects.

She quotes Mayura Iyer, a Dallas high school teacher who has written stories for Brown Girl Magazine, including Mic.com, the Huffington Post, and Literally, Darling, who explains the defining problem of makeup when she said that women “are often shamed for wearing makeup, and are equally often shamed for not wearing makeup.” It is a simple way of looking at the overarching and intersecting problems that surrounds cosmetics.

White examines the way “beauty gurus” are using Youtube as a platform to voice their opinions and explains how makeup is more than pretty colors and is actually a tool for change. She quotes Ariana Rodriguez, a Youtuber, who claims that makeup is an overt form of self-presentation and political combat. Rodriguez says that it is the “armor” she and “other Latinas and femmes of color, put on in the mornings to face the systems that work against” them.

In 2015, NikkieTutorials’s (a prominent Youtuber) created a video called “The Power of MAKEUP!” in response to the belief that makeup is used solely to attract men and signal insecurity. She wanted to showcase that cosmetics is more about self-satisfaction instead of self-improvement.

White also talks about the argument that makeup is a tool for subjecting women to societal standards. An example is Tracy Owens Patton’s (a Communications and Journalism professor at Colorado State University) examination of how African American women have had a negative relationship with beauty due to mainstream standards that tended to privilege light skinned women and shame African American women. She references Susan Bordo, a feminist philosopher who claimed that makeup was one of the ways that had women become docile and accustomed to external regulation, subjection, transformation and improvement.

Cosmetics and their place in the feminist movement will most likely not be settled soon, considering the complications within the various intersecting mediums it affects. However, articles such as these may help to lead to answer to the position that which cosmetics is meant to be in. White articulates the issue of cosmetics with details on both arguments and gives light to the complexity of the debate on full display without detracting from either side. By doing so, it can allow for opinions to form without too much of the writer’s influence.