In Defense of Makeup

Jane Shmidt in Open Letters Monthly:

Facepaint-243x300Earlier this year, a potentially fictitious, albeit tremendously entertaining, story was reported by Yahoo news about an Algerian man who sued his bride after seeing her without makeup for the first time on the morning after the wedding. The man claimed that he was deceived, unable to recognize her as the same woman he married. Beyond its evident humor, this story is a thinly veiled criticism of the application of makeup, suggesting that women treat their body as an object in a sale with marriage as the ultimate goal, and that they use makeup as a tool to mislead and capture a mate, to beguile the male gaze.

Bitter animosity toward women’s use of cosmetics is nothing new. In her book on makeup practices and production, Face Paint: The Story of Makeup, Lisa Eldridge – a renowned professional makeup artist – charts out the history of the debate on the value of applying color to the body. She finds that makeup has been considered a form of artifice, or even indecency, for a large portion of history from ancient Greece through the present, while, on the other side of the spectrum, some contemporary feminists have denounced makeup as an instrument of oppression that forces women to conform to an ideal.

More here.