There is a rather strange assumption out there that the only reason women, and indeed men, wear makeup, is to impress or attract other people. Its associated with a sense of vanity, a purposeful effort that makes people think you’re trying too hard, trying to be seen or thought of. Which is rather an all-round terrible assumption. Human beings are subjective, individual creatures, which means our reasons for altering our appearances are subjective. We’re not peacocks, hoping our bright colours will catch a mate’s eye, make up is a confidence boost, war paint, an expression of identity and creativity.
Makeup at Home
When I first started wearing makeup as a teen, it was something of a shield. I’d wear it everywhere but home, to be honest, feeling self-conscious and unconfident without it. But nowadays, I spend a lot of time at home. I write from home and study from home, and there are days where I’m happy in joggers and a bare face and there are other days where I put on a dress and red lipstick. I suppose my focus here is on the red lipstick. I was scared of it for some time, worried that people would think I was trying too hard or that it decorated me as someone I’m not. Ridiculous. Red lipstick makes me feel confident, it makes me feel professional and put together, which when you’re at home most days can help to make you feel like more of a working woman. It’s taking time in the morning to myself, to express myself, and it makes me feel empowered.
The Red Lip History
Red lipstick is by no means the tool of the modern woman. Red lip tints can be traced back through Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. It was worn by Suffragettes in the 1912, a symbol of female rebellion after centuries of male restrictions and the 1990 third wave of feminism, we got lipstick feminism, a reclaiming of our sexuality and femininity.
During World War Two, red lipstick was weaponised as signs of morale, shades called ‘Victory Red’ being promoted by makeup companies for women at home. Academic Adrienne Niederriter wrote: ‘Lipstick was one of the ways these women defined themselves; to them it signalled femininity and strength.’ Originally a tool used by the military to take advantage of women’s sexuality, it backfired, giving women the confidence and assertiveness to boost their morale, as well as men’s.
Red Lipstick Today
Red lipstick has connotations with femininity and beauty, but also empowerment, strength, independence, even aggression. So, I wear it with pride, thinking of every woman who had gone before me with striking rouged lips.
And why not wear it at home? We don’t empower ourselves for the benefit of others. We don’t give ourselves confidence and pride for anybody’s business but our own. If the only person who sees you is you, why not boost your morale with a wicked winged eye, glittery eyeshadow, contour, lipstick, highlighter whichever and whatever makeup, as much or as little as you want.
One of the worst things we can do to each other as women is perpetuate feelings of guilt or shame over makeup. Whether you love it, hate it, dabble in it, there is no reason you can’t be a feminist and be feminine. There is no reason that you feel ashamed of owning your appearance and making the outside match the in. It’s not anti-feminist to wear makeup, its anti-feminist to not cheer each other on, made up or not.
I see my red lipstick, which is all that matters, because I wear it for me. Hunched over my computer, tea fogging my glasses in my biggest turtleneck jumper that I’m scared to wash in case it shrinks, clean faced but my lips red; I feel unstoppable. Deadline, assignments, who cares? My home, my lipstick, my opinion.
wear makeup for others
the same way
my house for others.
this is my
everything i do
― Amanda Lovelace, The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One
Do you ever wear makeup at home?