Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Let's begin...

This is going to be quite long and thinky, so if that's not your bag you can keep scrolling. I promise pictures of pretty things are next up. But first, some explaination as to what I am doing here, and what I hope to achieve.

So I have been conducting what I call my Experiments in Femme. Someone less pretentious and self absorbed would probably call it "messing around with makeup and nail polish and stuff", but I'm just not that person. I'm incapable of trying something new without analysing the shit out of it, especially when it intersects with feminism and my perception of myself as a feminist.

While in a perfect world, what goop I choose to put on my face would have nothing to do with feminism, the fact is that's not the world we live in. So much of the beauty industry is geared around making women feel there is a narrow, approved set of looks that are considered "beautiful", with no room for fat, pimples, wrinkles, or heaven forbid, visible pores. As the sort of feminist who has always been very into the idea that feminism=choice, this naturally pissed me off, and gave me a pretty poor opinion of all the trappings of mainstream beauty. Why should I spend an hour fucking with my hair? I'm an interesting, intelligent, capable person, why should it matter if you can see my pores? To hell with that, I'm going to go read a book.

At least, that was part of it. Another part was that I was hella poor for a long time, and girly stuff is expensive.

But here is the part I have only just unpacked that might piss some people off. To preface, I would never presume to speak for any woman but myself - my reasons are almost certainly not your reasons. But I want to share this all the same.

I felt like being pretty, being girly, being into "all that stuff" wasn't for me. I don't mean it wasn't for me in the sense that it wasn't something I was interested in - I saw it more as something I was not allowed. Like vinyl hotpants, and that super hot guy/girl at the bar, looking pretty wasn't for me. It was for those other girls. The pretty ones. The skinny ones. The normal ones. The ones who can put nail polish on without getting it all over their fingers.* The ones who can walk in heels without falling over. It wasn't for me.
I felt like you have to make a choice between being smart and interesting, and messing with all that makeup stuff, and the results I have drawn in the genetic lottery seemed to have made that decision for me. The most expensive concealer in the world wasn't going to make my teeth straight, and a perfect manicure wouldn't make me any less fat. There didn't seem to be any point trying to push my way in to something that wasn't for me. Better to stick to the things I knew I was good at - being opinionated, reading, talking too much.

By the time I got up the nerve to actually try makeup beyond the heavy eyeliner every Goth can do in her sleep, I was old enough that I felt stupid asking questions about how to use this stuff. I had also surrounded myself with people who weren't interested in being particularly femme, so I didn't even have anyone to ask - not to mention the amount of times I had ranted about stupid, self absorbed girly girls who were into "that stuff". In my efforts to push away this femme thing that made me feel so lacking, and so other, I had inadvertently backed myself into a corner.

So I told myself I didn’t care anyway, and gave up on "girly stuff" for a long time. I would occasionally try some nice purple nail polish, but it would always go everywhere and chip like crazy. I'd try a lipstick every now and then, and get sick of reapplying it within twenty minutes. Every time I tried it just reinforced the idea that it wasn't for me anyway.

Then I started doing reception in the sex industry. Suddenly girly stuff was everywhere. All the girls wore makeup, and I was expected to do the same. From this series of jobs, I learned two things. One, that what you have on your face and how nice your nails are have much less bearing on what's inside the skin than I thought. I met intelligent, well read, feminist women who also had amazing manicures and gorgeous underwear. I began to consider that perhaps naive, judgemental 18 year old me might have been wrong about femmes, or "girly girls" as I would always refer to them. Some of the women I met did "girly stuff" for themselves, to feel pretty. Most of them, considering where we were all working, used it as a tool, and I found that fascinating. Doing their eyeshadow well and having a killer lipstick made them so powerful, and I found that intoxicating. So I asked them to teach me, and that's the second thing I learned - how to do makeup that suits me well, quickly, and have it last all night. The sex workers I met had a very practical approach to make up that I hadn’t encountered before, and it rocked my perception of femme. I had thought wearing makeup naturally involved endless fussing with it, and changing all the colours to match the seasons, and honestly, it sounded like way too much fucking effort. (Of course, this kind of fussing makes some women really happy, and more power to them. I am just inherently too damn lazy) But there is no point wearing fluorescent eyeshadow that doesn't suit you in a brothel just because it's fashionable. The guys don't give a damn if it's on trend or not - if it suits you, if it works for you, then go with that. To hell with fashion. Now that was an approach to makeup I could get behind. They also taught me how to apply foundation etc so it lasts for hours, and when you are as lazy as me, that makes the whole thing way more attractive.
But still, on the whole, while I dabbled and enjoyed dressing up for work, once I left the industry I went back to feeling like it wasn't for me. I convinced myself I'd never really been interested, it was just something I did for work, just a tool to fit in. The women I had worked with could pull off being perfectly made up and intelligent, but I still felt like my imitation wasn't fooling anyone. I felt like a butch in a bad femme costume, and so I gave up again. I still had the nice high end foundation I'd bought, and one or two nail polishes, but I couldn't bring myself to investigate makeup further unless it was for work. I still felt like I wasn't allowed to be interested in makeup because I wanted to look pretty. I was still carrying with me the adolescent idea that putting on lipstick was betraying feminism somehow, and without my inspiring role models around anymore, the idea just got stuck in my brain and festered.
So what's changed?

Honestly, this is what I am still trying to figure out. I was so embarrassed about getting back into femme stuff that I didn’t even mention it to my boyfriend until I'd been researching for a couple of weeks. Then a couple of weeks after that, I tentatively mentioned it to my friends. So far the feedback has been largely accepting, which is nice. No one has pointed and screamed "Fraud!" at me yet, which certain unhelpful sections of my brain did actually think might happen.
But I think my biggest encouragement to embrace my femme side has been the internet. Through blogs and communities, I've realised makeup isn't just for pretty people. It's not just for shallow people. It's for whoever damn well wants it. I've seen a glorious parade of women taking things that I would have considered "not for" them. The fat activism community naturally has been a big part of this. I love seeing fat women wearing bikini's leggings, three quarter length cargo pants - I love seeing them taking back things I long ago dismissed as "not for me". But I was surprised to find a huge amount of inspiration in the nail community. The proportion of prominent bloggers and opinionistas with physical disabilities in the nail community is intriguingly high, and I love the idea of women who can't get out of bed on a regular basis being able to do their nails and feel pretty, all for themselves. If they can't leave the house regularly, you would think that makeup, and nail polish would be not for them - I mean, what's the point if the public in general doesn't see it?  But these bloggers have said to hell with that, and taken it anyway. And I think that's fantastic.

So that's my justification for starting a beauty blog, while still being a mouthy feminist. I don't think that makeup will change the world, and there is nothing ever that will hide your pores. But some things do make me feel like a look little but better, and that makes me a little bit happier, and I want to see if I can share that feeling around. I'm not going to encourage you to buy a million products, because as well as being a mouthy feminist I am also enormously lazy, and a total tightarse when it comes to money. No mascara could ever, EVER be worth fifty dollars, to my mind. Not ever. Not even if it magically added extra eyelashes and changed the colour of your eyes with a snap of your fingers...okay, MAYBE then. The point is that I want to give practical, honest advice. Some things are worth a couple of dollars extra, most are not.

This blog will be broken up into the following "streams", if you will.
IN MY HEAD - Posts which are largely my pseudo philosophical ramblings.Unlikely to contain any actual reviews, but plenty of opinions on intangible things like feminism, self esteem, fatshion, women in the media, etc etc. 
ON MY HANDS - Review time! I'm currently falling deeply in love with all sorts of glorious nail polishes, and would like to share the wonders I have discovered. I'll also be attempting to do as many Absolute Beginner Guides as possible, aimed at people who have never touched nail polish in their lives, rather than the usual tutorials that assume you at least know SOMETHING about it.
ON MY FACE - More reviews, of things which go on my face.As with On My Hands, I will also be trying to focus on real Absolute Beginner stuff - what kind of skin do you have and how do you find that out? How few products can I possibly use before going to a job interview and still look presentable? Stuff like that.
SHOW YOUR WORKING - Posts in which I investigate various aspects of the beauty industry - how are wrinkles formed, is DPB in your nail polish really a big deal, can a furiously expensive appliance REALLY make your skin younger...things like that. Basically my attempt to apply some common sense to an area that is frequently overrun with hysteria.

I want to encourage anyone who doesn't know who to ask, or what to ask about makeup, to ask me. I want to support the idea that anything you want can be for you - just because your favorite pants are cargo jeans two sizes too big doesn't mean you can't fall in love with a glittery polish and wear it proudly. In fact, I think that would look badass.
In other words, there is very little I will tell you that you MUST do when it comes to makeup, nail polish, all this stuff. But I am an obsessive researching nerd, and I have all this knowledge in my head, and if sharing it helps someone feel prettier, then I am happy to share. 

* Secret I have discovered by the way - NO ONE can put nail polish on without getting it everywhere. Just FYI. 

1 comment:

  1. I love this post. It's gorgeous and so you and yet, so different to the stuff you are writing now. I know what you mean when you said it was a little unorganised and unstructured but I love it anyway. :)



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