By Rod Van Mechelen
"I smear goat entrails and petroleum distillates in my hair because I'm worth it!"
Ms. Brand X: The sizzle sells the steak!
1991 Bellevue, Wash. - Every year, women spend billions of dollars on lotions, potions, powders and goo in a futile attempt to cover up the wrinkled and drying skin that marks the hours they've spent tanning their hides, hormone imbalances caused by playing late into the night, the chemical damage caused by vice, and the stretching, sagging, and drooping caused by bingeing and dieting. Why do they do this? Why do they wear back-straining high heeled shoes? Because men find such attractive? Is makeup something men do to women?
Many think so, and blame it all on men. (Faith Healers Holy Oil, Naomi Wolf, Ms magazine, May/June 1991, p 66) But this is less than half a truth -- the rest of the story is that makeup is a form of competition. It's one of the means women use to gain advantage over other women: Ms. Brand X, looking for a competitive advantage over Ms. Regular Brand, added spice to her packaging and found out, as any marketing department can tell you, that it's the "sizzle sells the steak."
Ms. Regular Brand soon followed, adding more sizzle of her own, and so "feminine wiles" were born. Merchants, ever vigilant for the opportunity to make a buck, paneled their shops with mirrors and began turning a tidy profit selling scented lard in pretty jars with fancy labels.
Of course, feminists blame men!
Blaming all of this on men is a lot like blaming patrons of MacDonalds for forcing the restaurant chain to sell hamburgers. The fact is, both the burger-buyers and burger-fryers "conspire" together to get what they want from the other by providing what the other wants from them. Just as women and men do:
Since women seek mates with resources, men can be expected to exaggerate their wealth by driving expensive cars, buying gifts for women, or spending more on dates than they can really afford. Since men prefer young, fertile females, women tend to do everything possible to enhance their youthfulness and personal appearance. Clothing is an important aspect of courtship for both sexes; women dress to show off their bodies to best advantage, and men dress to display status and power. Sexual Strategies: How Females Choose Their Mates, by Mary Batten, p 99
Men respond to the sexual power of women who enhance their sensuality with makeup, and treat women who don't wear makeup more like equals. Since most women are accustomed to viewing their interactions with men through the lens of sexual power, equality seems demeaning. Therefore, as most women prefer the status of Sexual Aristocrat, most embellish their sexual power with makeup.
Even outside the context of competition for male attention, however, women still like makeup: "(S)ometimes I still tend to do myself up more like a straight woman than a typical gay woman." (Women and Love, St. Martin's Press mass market edition, 1989, Shere Hite, p 578 - 579) Why would a woman who has no use for men, who, in fact, has repudiated "male domination," use makeup? Could such a woman somehow still be in the grips of her former "oppressors"? Or, in her heart of hearts, does she hate women and herself?
Many "liberated" women hate themselves: "The climate of the times has given credence to feelings of self-doubt -- if not self-hatred -- among women ... Guilt, servant of self-hatred, is a powerful tool for self-flagellation. Many accept blame easily, making themselves fair game for misogyny." (Women Vs. Women,
Tara Roth Madden, p 116) Their makeup may reflect this: "Women constantly paint over the faces they hate to become the admired pacesetters they know they are not." (Women Vs. Women, Tara Roth Madden, p 117) Thus, it's not male dominance makeup symbolizes, but women's own misogyny and self-repudiation.
Liberated women seeking a return to their "bondage"
This is the real tragedy of the women's movement. Not for anything men have done, but that the most liberated women yearn for a different kind of liberation -- freedom from their "liberation": "Few working women will have a chance to marry a man who can afford a nonwage-earning wife." (Women Vs. Women, Tara Roth Madden, p 120) Wanting what their mothers had, and fearful of losing the coveted "walking wallet" to one of their warpaint-wearing co-workers, they "hate themselves for the failure of their dream," hate men for not making that dream come true, and hate their made-up comrades who "force" them to help perpetuate "the old world and its values." (Women Vs. Women, Tara Roth Madden, p 120)
Hatred of self is easily and often directed toward others. Thus, many women use makeup to make war against other women. Many also try to project their own hostility onto men by asserting men grow beards to hide feelings, while still others claim beards are affectations. (Next, they will call hairy armpits affectations, too!)
If men grow beards to mask feelings and facial expressions, then women must smile for the same reason. Is this not true? Don't many women hide angry thoughts and evil intentions behind cheery smiles? Perhaps the truth is less complex: men's beards reflect a decision to give up the ritual of shaving many find a painful nuisance, while women's slurs reveal their own unkind intentions. Intentions many mask with makeup.
Rod Van Mechelen
Rod Van Mechelen is the author of What Everyone Should Know about Feminist Issues: The Male-Positive Perspective (the page now includes several articles by other authors), and the publisher of The Backlash! @ Backlash.com. He is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and served for 9-1/2 years on the Cowlitz Indian Tribal Council.