Pretty/cute Shaming – Or Why I Hate Talking With People Today

I am proud of being girly, and people hate me for it.

An article was released this morning on Someecards (I know, I know, the epitome of important news!) but since it was on my Facebook newsfeed, I had to read it.  It talked about vlogger NikkieTutorials, a woman who recently wore a half face of makeup to bring attention to makeup shaming.  What is makeup shaming?  In short, when people make women feel bad for wearing makeup.

What got me, though, is the very end of this article, where the writer Miss Ariel Karlin wrote:

“For a video that’s supposed to be empowering, Nikkie spends a lot of time in “The Power of MAKEUP!” explaining what she doesn’t like about her body (eyebrows, eyes, double chin) and how she can hide her flaws. She even says at one point, “Contouring is my religion.” I think that religion would require getting up too early before work, so it’s probably not for me. But it’s definitely cool to see half of a face look one way and half another. “

Time out. Wasn’t this supposed to be an article talking about how she’s awesome for fighting against makeup shaming?   And yet here you are…. shaming her for being insecure and needing makeup to hide it.  Um… you’re part of the problem, Ariel.

Why does this bother me so much I’m writing about it?  Maybe it’s because over the last few years of my life, I’ve noticed a lot of things.  Firstly, that the guys I was dating were starting to tell me: “I don’t like you with makeup.”  “Girls shouldn’t wear makeup.”  “You’re much prettier without it.”  I started to wonder what was wrong with me when I was only wearing a little lipstick and blush – not the usual full-face makeup I sport – and a boyfriend was literally yelling at me at a train station to stop trying to support misogynists.  I kid you not.  Needless to say that relationship didn’t last long.

As a woman who has been sexually assaulted, I agree that there are things that need to change.  When girls punch out the guys that assault them, or get the whole school to rally against a rapist – that’s cool.  I like that, and fully support it.  But it’s brought with it a swirl of overreacting, too.  Stuff I’m not really comfortable with.  Stuff I’m going to call “pretty/cute” shaming.

I grew up in a home where my father was the primary breadwinner, and my mother the housewife.  We enjoyed spending time together going shopping, trying on makeup, and learning to bake.  My mother was also the one who could stand up to the teachers who stood up for my bullies, the woman people regularly call for advice, and was a nurse in her former days prior to being a housewife.  A smart and classy lady.  I am also a student who regularly got A’s (okay, B’s sometimes in college, so sue me,) and writes my own songs and performs them.  When a boyfriend tried to tell me I wasn’t allowed to hang out with other boys, I kicked him to the curb.  So I’m no pushover either.  The women in my family are what you would call strong, Polish women.

But I like to wear necklaces and earrings, still.  I wear big flouncy dresses, and makeup.  I do it because I like it, because it makes me feel pretty/cute.  But wait!  I also like to flirt, so automatically, I get it from my fringe friends.  “Oh, but why are you so dressed up?”  “There aren’t any boys to flirt with at this.”  Girls assume I do it for the guys.  I won’t lie, I like getting looked at.  But I do it because I find it’s like a mini work of art when I’m in front of my bathroom mirror- how can I contour this cheekbone, and what eyeshadow works well here to bring out that hazel fleck in my right eye?  Little things like that become fun.  I don’t have hours a day to put on my makeup, but I can do it if I need or want to.

And I should add that what makes me feel pretty and cute does not mean I think that should be everyone else’s definition of cute.   I think a girl with a pixie cut and no makeup is pretty, just as much as a girl like Nikkie is pretty.  I just mean I wear makeup because I make myself feel pretty.  I like how I look.  I think it’s cute.  Then, there are other things about me that bother today’s society.  I really do want to have kids someday.  As a writer, I’m okay with the idea of staying home with the children.  And I also would love my husband to be the one to bring home the bacon.   Saying that in the 21st century is like opening a floodgate of feminists.  “You need to empower yourself!”  “You have no self worth!”  “In this society, both parents have to work equally!”

That last is probably true, but that’s an economic thing, not a social thing.  Or at least, it shouldn’t be.  But in all this hurry to teach boys how to properly treat women (agreed.) we forget that our women need to be taught too. That it’s okay to embrace yourself.  But that other people don’t need to embrace your way of life, either.  So if a girl wants to wear pink and play with Barbies, you shouldn’t force her to wear dungarees and play with trucks.  She doesn’t have to.  Unless she wants to.

If I like having men treat me well and open my doors for me, if I like wearing bright red lipstick and looking like Marilyn Monroe- does that make me a bad person?  Does it mean I belittle myself and other girls around me? Or by telling me I can’t do it, are you repressing my freedom, too?

As an author, too, it is awful.  Do I have to make all my female characters fighters who shout at boys, or won’t wear makeup, or are all college educated and smart?  If my main character uses her feminine wiles to get by in a diplomatic situation, am I furthering misogynistic society?  But what if I like it?  What if I want my main character to wear pretty outfits and be more of a talker than a fighter?  Does that make her bad?  And no, she doesn’t rely on the man to save her.  She saves him, sometimes.  But if he does save her, it’s not because she’s weak, it’s because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time and he was in the right one to get her out of it.  Her best friend could have saved her, too.  And yes, her best friend is a girl, who happens to be a fighter.  But if she hung out in a group of girls who all sat around wearing makeup and talking about boys, I’d be okay with that too.

And in the real world, society needs to accept that there will be people like myself, and some of my friends.  We take kickboxing classes and like to wear makeup.  We bake cookies, and some of us also know how to spin fire.  I am obsessed with courtesans and playing the harp, and the idea of this super-delicate-femininity.  That’s just us.  I want a husband who can take care of me, and I’ll take care of him too.  I want to stay home with the kids, but that doesn’t make me a bad person.

Yes, there needs to be a new paradigm for what defines femininity.  Goth girls with a face full of piercings and women with no makeup on alike are feminine in their own way, and beautiful, and wonderful, and we should teach our children all these women are great.  And that ugly is just something people use as a word to hurt people when they don’t understand, or to define something that describes somebody’s personality and not their outside.  Or that the best way to be pretty is to be whatever makes you feel beautiful, and forget what the world thinks of you.  Instead, we are all scrutinized every second, and scrutinize one another for the slightest misstep.

Don’t make me change my own personal definitions of what is feminine and pretty to me to fit yours – I won’t ask you to do it.  I’m going to wear makeup and dresses and bake lots of delicious cake.  If you still want to be friends, come on over. You’ll still be gorgeous to me, in sweatpants or sundresses.  I promise I’ll save you the biggest piece.


Julia Mae Staley

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