“Men should be free to break down gender stereotypes. If a man wants to wear makeup he should.”
“Stop that womanface….it’s offensive”
On an almost daily basis I hear both of these statements and I must confess that initially I found this to be somewhat of a mixed message. Today I would like to explore my thoughts on the idea of “womanface”.
Any discussion on the issue of makeup has to start with an acceptance that whilst makeup should be about self expression and confidence, that has not been the case. The makeup industry has created a society where women who wear anything less than full makeup are seen at times as lesser women. It is still a cultural expectation, in some places more than others, that women must wear makeup. This is a stereotype that must change.
Any one who chooses to wear makeup must do so on the basis that they want to, not because they feel they have to.
When it comes to men wearing makeup one of the common arguments I hear is “blackface is offensive….womanface is too”.
Anyone who works behind the scenes in theatre will be familiar with the all black attire and the blackening of the face. This is quite obviously done so that any stagehand is not seen during set changes and other pivotal moments.
Similarly nighttime manoeuvres in the army would typically involve the darkening of the face to avoid detection.
Why are these not offensive? Simply they aren’t offensive because the intention is not to impersonate another person. Were that the intention, then absolutely I would concur that such an action is indeed offensive.
So too with men wearing makeup. We need only look back 20 or 30 years ago to the Glam Rock and New Romantic movements where men were comfortable in wearing makeup and no-one ever raised an issue. The likes of Adam Ant sported some absolutely fabulous looks. Boy George too was someone who in the 80’s, I must confess, was someone who sported amazing eye-shadow that I was very jealous of.
Both of these people clearly demonstrated a look that at the time was unique to themselves. Neither were seen in just foundation and a hint of lipstick! These were full on looks that characterised how they were and honestly, I think they were fantastic! Importantly these men in the 1970’s and 1980’s who were wearing makeup were not doing so to impersonate women.
Nowadays men wearing makeup is out of fashion. Sadly it seems that toxic masculinity says that a man who wears makeup is in some way worth less because makeup no longer falls within the gender stereotype of what it means to be a man.
Where we are seeing men wearing makeup now is a typically a very different situation. We are seeing men who consider makeup to be part of a woman costume. It becomes not about expression but about replication and mimicry and in that situation it is clearly inappropriate.
Some of you may remember “Bananaman”, a cartoon from the 1980’s and 1990’s. It featured Eric, an ordinary schoolboy, who turned into a superhero every time he ate a banana. I have often felt there are parallels with modern transgender ideology. The magical transformative power of the lipstick it seems, turns ordinary men instantly into women. One can only find that ridiculous. Makeup should never be used as a costume and for that outrage is justified.
This doesn’t mean though that there aren’t men that like makeup – myself included. My favourite colour of lipstick is blue and often when I put on eye-shadow my family have been known to say “the 80’s phoned – they want their ‘look’ back”. Honestly, it doesn’t bother me. I enjoy experimenting and I am able to express myself.
I remember a while ago nervously going on a shopping trip to buy cosmetics. Often when I go to buy makeup I am met with judgemental looks and even sniggers, but nevertheless off I went to this new shop. When I got to the shop the first person I met was an amazing man with immaculate makeup …. multiple colours of eyeshadow, perfect eyeliner, perfectly sculpted eyebrows and … a razor sharp trimmed beard. It was unexpected, it caused many a person to stare, but it looked fantastic. He wasn’t trying to copy anyone but simply was using makeup as a tool to allow him to express himself whilst still being a man.
And why not? Let’s try and make makeup into a gender neutral tool for self expression and start rewriting these stereotypes.