By Joanna Colasanto '17
By Montana Young '17
By Crista Marie DeVito '17
By Elyssa Silverman '17
By Karen Chavez '17
By Molly Clark '16
by Lauren Silverman '17
Humans have been wearing makeup for thousands of years. Archaeologists have found evidence of cosmetic use across the globe in places such as Egypt, China, Japan, and the Middle East. It’s even been mentioned in the Bible. People used prototypes of eyeliner, lipstick, and even skincare products to enhance their appearances.
Today, many people find that wearing makeup increases their self-confidence and makes them feel more attractive. This is a positive thing, but the problem lies in dependence on cosmetics. Women often feel unappealing after taking off their makeup and will not leave the house without it. Barbara Greenberg of the Huffington Post notes, “The results of a recently-released survey found that approximately 20% of girls between 8 and 18 who wear makeup describe feeling unappealing, undesirable and simply not confident when they are not wearing makeup.” The environments in which girls are introduced to makeup is very important and will have a great effect on their self-esteem as they mature into adults. If girls learn from various sources that they can only appear desirable with makeup on, their confidence will deteriorate and their dependence on cosmetics will increase.
The main problem involves the power of the media and beauty advertisement. When the beauty industry was still relatively young, many ads appealed to women who struggled with parts of their body they considered problematic- this includes gray hair, unwanted body hair, and skin tone. Ads through the early to mid-20th century catered to these women’s weaknesses, promising solutions to their woes:
From the very beginning, it is evident that the beauty industry preyed on the things women hated most about themselves to appeal to them and gain profit. The general idea of advertisement is to draw in consumers to buy a product and help a business earn money. Clearly, it was a decent idea to try and relate to potential customers by appearing sympathetic to their problems; in other words, “We feel terrible that you have this beauty problem. Let us help you with this amazing invention!” Naturally, the response to these advertisements would be great, with many women rushing to buy solutions to issues that were never really problems to begin with.
One of the big issues that arise in beauty advertisement is the creation of previously nonexistent bodily flaws. This is even a problem in the 21st century, when long eyelashes and thick lips increased in popularity. Once brands get a hold of a trend, they target the audience that does not possess that look- for example, people with short eyelashes or thin lips- and attack.
One brand that is guilty of this is Benefit Cosmetics. “Turn your lashes from ‘yuck’ to ‘wow’ with they’re real! mascara,” the brand advertises. “With lashes beyond belief, no need for falsies!” Aside from the fact that I find Benefit’s mascara to be clumpy and time-consuming to apply, their form of advertisement is not necessary. I was actually shocked to see their ads in Sephora- I had figured supposed flaw-exposing images only existed in ads from the 1950s and Star magazine.
Some time ago, women began calling out beauty brands on their unfair treatment of potential customers. Just two years ago, blogger Beth Berry published a fiery blog post calling out the negative impact of the cosmetics industry on all people:
“You lie to little girls.
You confuse young boys.
You perpetuate self-loathing in adolescents.
You manipulate images of already-beautiful bodies into unachievable, inhuman shapes in order to present ‘beauty’ as just beyond our reach.”
Many people started calling out makeup brands that targeted women’s flaws and presented apparent solutions. Many internet users, both famous and unknown, went makeup-free to show how the beauty industry did not define them and that they were beautiful without makeup. They didn’t need it.
In short, we don’t need makeup. If you really think about it, nobody really needs to draw on their face with powders and pencils advertised as cosmetics to appear more beautiful. But this viewpoint can be problematic as well. I believe a lot of people turn their attention from the harmful beauty brands and place blame on the makeup itself. So instead of calling out the industry for treating women as walking defects (“Hey, beauty industry, stop making me feel less beautiful!”), we personify cosmetics themselves and battle with them (“NYX High Definition Finishing Powder, you are the bane of my existence.”). With so much attempted manipulation from money-hungry companies, it’s difficult not to have an issue with the products they are selling. However, I think it’s important to remember the positives of makeup, and how many brands have started supporting cosmetic use as an art form rather than a blemish corrector.
I have observed firsthand that social media has contributed greatly to the promotion of makeup to enhance the beauty of the human body. Many makeup artists display their work on platforms such as Instagram. Often, their looks are avant-garde and are not considered wearable in everyday terms. This is extremely beneficial to users who may stumble upon the posts during a casual browsing session. The use of bright, unconventional colors and patterns promotes cosmetics as a tool for enhancement rather than correction. Another thing I love about these artists is that they accept men into the makeup community without question. I have always wondered why, even during a time of gender acceptance and equality, people still consider males wearing makeup taboo. If makeup is an art form a man chooses to immerse himself in, who are we to challenge it?
There are several things cosmetics users need to do in order to prevent industry-induced self hatred. First, you need to recognize why you are wearing makeup in the first place. Is it to highlight your features or express your personal style? Or is it to cover up parts of your face you consider unattractive? Makeup is a powerful tool that requires great responsibility to handle. Perhaps you should rethink using it if your only motive is to conceal what you think is ugly. It’s a good idea to reflect on self-consciousness and self-love before getting involved in cosmetics.
You should also be prepared to be accepting of other people’s personal styles. Not every makeup user is self-conscious; many people simply use it to give themselves a confidence boost. Their ideas of beauty may be different than yours. For example, you may think red lipstick looks awful on you, but it may make someone else feel beautiful. It’s all about what personally makes you feel great- not anyone else.
Lastly, you should support cosmetic companies that promote positivity and artistic expression rather than guilt. Indie brands seem to be the best at positive marketing. Many of them provide a myriad of products and colors, and they are often very personal due to their small size. (For your convenience, I have attached a list of popular indie brands at the bottom of this article.) However, there are lots of large companies that push for self-love as well. It truly is important to purchase products from brands that support positivity and have consumers who do the same.
Makeup is wonderful if you use it with a positive attitude. You can emphasize parts of your face with brilliant colors and enhance your natural beauty. Approaching the process with the knowledge that you are beautiful both with and without makeup is the key. You can wear bright yellow eyeshadow or simply cover acne as long as you know that you’re the same lovely person regardless of what you wear.
Some reliable indie brands:
-Glitter Elixirs Cosmetics
-Makeup Geek Cosmetics
by Lauren Silverman '17
What is feminism?
Many people will answer this question with a dictionary-definition answer: it is the movement for the equality of women to men. Others, however, argue that feminism an umbrella term covering advocacy for the equal rights of all minorities (e.g. in regards to race or disability) to their privileged counterparts, which would include women in the mix. Some even believe that feminism is the promotion of female superiority.
As a feminist, I support the idea that women should be politically, socially, and economically equal to male counterparts. When I first discovered the movement, I was surprised that some people didn’t want to fight for equality under the “feminist” label. As I opened my eyes to the strengths and weaknesses of feminism, I made several deductions as to why so many individuals are hesitant to become involved.
Says Celia Buckman of The Huffington Post: “To be a feminist doesn't mean that you have a quota of protests to attend or spend a minimum amount of time ranting about the patriarchy. It means you believe in equality.”
This may be true, but with all of the definitions of the movement floating around in both real life and cyberspace, it is a challenge to decipher its true meaning. Someone may not want to call themselves a feminist because they overheard it is a radical movement for women to overpower men. Others may not want to join the movement because they believe it is too broad and has no clear goal. Whatever their reasoning may be, this hesitation to label oneself as a feminist leads to one question: Did we do something wrong?
One of the main goals of primitive feminism was to achieve women’s suffrage. It soon branched out and focused on other issues, such as reproductive rights and workforce safety. Feminists in the 20th century made many achievements for women’s rights. Even today, women achieve equality in different types of victories. Women may now apply for any combat job in the military. Someone on the fence about their position as a feminist may see these great accomplishments and decide that they too want to push for gender equality. But why are they on that fence in the first place?
The internet is an incredible thing. Everyday people have the ability to create blogs and share all types of information with the world around them. However, if you’ve ever taken a computer class (or gotten the “internet safety” lecture from your parents), it is obvious that there are both positive and negative aspects of world wide web usage. The promotion of increasingly radical feminism on the internet is definitely something that has tarnished the social movement’s original message.
This may seem like a brash statement, especially coming from a feminist. I have observed first-hand, however, that a large portion of the online social justice community is hostile and quite absurd. Bloggers take the basic entry-level, or introductory level, of feminism and run off with it. What I mean is this: many people on social websites, notably Tumblr, find the idea of the entry level useless. To them, the basic principles of women’s equality in social, political, and economic areas is not enough. Some believe that if one is not radical, they are not a feminist at all.
There are several different levels of intensity for all popular ideas. Because the Internet allows anyone to voice whatever they like wherever they like, bloggers begin to isolate themselves in metaphorical opinion bubbles. Many even take offense to outside ideas that differ from their own. Deliberate ignorance is a widespread issue that is prevalent in both the real world and online; however, in terms of social justice and feminism, most of the damaging content can be found on the internet.
While some statements made by Tumblr users (who are often dubbed “social justice warriors” by both themselves and others) are questionable or somewhat extreme for entry-level feminists to process, others are downright off-putting. For example, says one Tumblr user: “If you are a dude and it is 3:00 in the morning/ DO NOT walk behind a woman/ ESPECIALLY if she is walking alone/ … Jesus men, be aware of how you are perceived for once in your life.” This user’s message may simply be that men should be aware of how they act around a vulnerable person (i.e. the woman walking alone at 3:00 am). This is an inappropriate way to make this point. I do feel unsafe walking around by myself sometimes. It is true that, as a woman, there are many threats I am susceptible to. Yet it is not acceptable to take my fear out on men. Some people are harmful. Others are not. I cannot force all men to avoid me at night because I fear the few dangerous ones. If I were someone undecided about the women’s equality movement and read this online post, I would immediately be mislead into thinking that was the opinion of all feminists. This is why posts such as these are detrimental to the true meaning of feminism. They discourage different types of people from becoming involved and warp what the movement is really about.
Many social media users who claim to be feminists use hate and accusatory actions to promote their idea of social justice as well. This often includes blaming the people they consider more privileged for the problems they face in today’s society. I have found an unsettling amount of derogatory content directed at men on platforms such as Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. For example, one Tumblr user writes, “Hating on men has seriously become my new favourite pastime.” Another says, “Why would u write anything about men men are the most boring creatures on the planet.” I was absolutely appalled to find these posts online. Not only are they blatantly sexist- the authors of these messages use feminism to justify their hatred for men. Therefore, if an unbiased person views these while scrolling around on a blog, they may get the wrong idea about feminism.
The exposure of potential feminists to misleading, sexist, and harmfully radical internet content is one of the main reasons they are so hesitant to use the label for themselves. Who can blame them? Who would want to be a part of that?
This is where the importance of entry-level feminism comes into play. Not surprisingly, many radicals are uncomfortable with introducing others to the basic principle that men and women are equal. To many, it is not enough. However, I beg to differ. It’s more than enough. It is natural that people will be deterred from feminism if they are either a) reading hate-filled material claiming to be feminist or b) introduced to its most radical, eyebrow-raising forms.
Think of it this way: at age five, would you rather start taking math classes that deal with basic counting or BC Calculus? We are introduced to the math fundamentals first for a reason. At a young age we learn the four basic operations in mathematics: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Similarly, with entry-level feminism I learned that the movement was about the social, political, and economic equality of women to men. In math, we learn how to fix our mistakes and advance further into more involved topics. When I became more involved in feminism, I learned that there were many people who blackened the good intentions of the movement by misleading others with unjust opinions. Finally, the level of complexity that people leave off with in math is similar to that of feminism. After high school, some students may never take math again and stay on the same level. This is completely fine; after all, if they have no intentions to delve deeper into mathematics, why would they want to advance? Some people may stay comfortably at the entry level of feminism because it suits them the most. This does not make them more ignorant or less intelligent than more radical feminists. Not everyone wants to be as outspoken or active in the movement as others; it really comes down to personal preference at the end. This is something that is often forgotten.
I do not agree with every aspect of feminism. I would not consider myself a radical (though I’m not at the entry level, either). One of my goals as a feminist is to help others realize it is an inherently good-hearted push for social justice. As much as I would like to convince everyone who has been mislead by hate posts online, I cannot. As feminists, we must realize that equality of the sexes has always been what the movement has been about and that is what it should continue to imply. It’s impossible to stop every blemish on the internet, but we can prevent further damage by welcoming others and supporting the idea of an entry level. Only then can we repeal the taboo status of feminism.
By Lauren Silverman '17