The Power of Makeup

It would be fair to say that I have not always surrounded myself with the very best of humanity. I am in a very good place these days, where everyone in my close orbit is not only “not a twat” but also happens to be a genuinely good human. Flawed, and sometimes infuriating, but genuinely good.

Photo by Me!

This has not always been the case. Especially where matters of the heart have been concerned. Past me could be described as “easy pickings” for those with less than honourable intentions. There’s a whole debate here that we could have about those decision making moments. About the culpability or victim and culprit, and indeed the perspectives of who the victim is (I assure you my exes and I have some pretty different ideas on this). That’s for a different time (and possibly different place).

Control has been one of the featured characteristics of those poor choice romances. And part of that control has been about my appearance, with make up high up on the list of not acceptable items. For one make up was a sign of being “a whore” for another it was “chavvy”. Their words were different, but the sentiments have been the same: makeup is a tool used by women to capture men or to demonstrate sexual availability.

None could see the value in makeup as an artistic tool. To these specific men it was a disguise, a glamour to bewitch poor innocent males. For them it went hand in hand with short skirts or low cut tops, which could only possibly be for capturing a man.

They would not entertain any other view. It could not be because a woman thought the outfit or lipstick looked nice, it was always to “be a slut”. Any attempt at argument with this perspective was greeted with an explanation that I did not understand the world, or myself. That I did not know how things worked, that I could not possibly understand myself and my motivations as well as they did. And since I did not need to “capture” a man I did not need decorations. I should not “tart [myself] up”.

Consequently a good number of people have never known my lifelong love of make up. They’ve met me in other periods of my life, times when one unforeseen poor decision led to a period of no decisions. Or rather of none on my part. And I can’t deny my own annoyance at myself for not fighting for my own autonomy as much as I feel as though I should have. That’s not to ignore the fact that other people have chosen to live their lives by denying others autonomy in theirs – I am quite certain I am not the only person over whose life they’ve wanted charge.

So why am I blogging about this? To bore you? I hope not. To incite sympathy? No thanks. To get something off my chest? A little bit, yes. Mostly it’s because I think it’s worth a conversation.

Obviously people who are inclined to desire control over others are going to find ways to deny their freedoms, to whatever extent they feel they need to.

And the reasons for that are plenty complicated; it’s never going to be as simple as “person x is a bad person”. I cannot believe people are born innately good or bad, events make us all the way we are. They make us fearful, and that (generally) is what makes us behave at our least admirable. Fear is what makes us hate, and destroy.

Which poses the question for me; what is so fearsome about make up? Is it because of the power of change, that glamour, the sexual link, or is the real fear about what it represents as autonomy?

If this post resonates for more than theoretical reasons please consider seeking support if you haven’t already.

Women’s Aid and Equation (UK)


Canadian Department of Justice

ReachOut Australia

Shine (NZ)

POWA (South Africa)

SOS Femmes

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