In recent months, I feel like I have experienced and witnessed sexism in a new and surprising way. As a twenty-four year old white woman, this has stirred up a bit of a shock for me, though. That isn't to say that I don't respect or understand a feminist's fight, however, in the past, it appeared as though the fight for equality in the year 2017 was a relatively minor one reserved for femi-nazis and men-hating bigots.
I have recently been enlightened to the fact that feminism is a fight that every woman must take on, just in a variety of different capacities and experiences. This is a new revelation for me though, you see, in the past, I was a bit of a "closeted feminist", you might say. Fortunately/unfortunately, that didn't last for too long. My life experiences and oftentimes (unusual) life choices have abrasively reminded me that the patriarchy is still very much alive and well.
It seems like at every new interval in life, women are reminded of how "different" or inferior they are, and how they must play the game of life by a different and more rigid set of rules than men do. Honestly, society never fails to amuse me with the ever-changing, crude and severe standards for what a woman should be.
Now before you get hype and start calling me a femi-nazi, bare with me for just a moment. When I say sexism, I am not talking about fighting for the right to vote (shoutout to Susan B. Anthony for already fighting and WINNING that battle for us) or some other archaic idea of feminism that you might have in mind. When I refer to sexism and the discrimination we face as women in 2017, I am talking about things like rape culture, the pay gap, differential treatment in the workplace, unrealistic beauty standards and much, much more. While I will admit that we have come a remarkably long way since the first days (or decades) of this country, we still have light-years of progress ahead of us. And while middle-eastern countries (or various other out-dated societies that conservatives like to reference) are encouraging a world where women cannot leave their homes without a headdress, that does not somehow disqualify the discrimination women experience in western cultures. Feminism and equality are worth fighting for and SHOULD be fought for in each hemisphere regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation. One woman's struggle does not diminish another's. We might be able to wear (or not wear) whatever we want around our skulls in the U.S., but we are nowhere near truly "equal" treatment among the sexes.
To paint you guys a nice background story, I want to be upfront and say that I have recently faced a world of health problems regarding some very intimate parts of my body (ie. uterus, bladder, etc.). Before (and after) my wedding, I was constantly fighting these problems and battling pain and discomfort with absolutely no end in sight. I stopped going to church. I never did anything with anyone EVER. I was forced to stop exercising and cease all physical activity due to my pain level. I stopped dressing "nice", and I only wore makeup on very rare and special occasions. I slept more than I ever had in my life, and if I am honest, I spent the majority of my free time curled up with my heated blanket watching Netflix, and praying that my pain would subside.
I didn't share or even attempt to explain my health issues with many people (mostly because I went undiagnosed for about 6 months, so what would I tell them, anyway?) But for the individuals around me (either friends, family, coworkers or strangers), I probably just looked like a girl who didn't really give a shit about her appearance. But in actuality, that was merely the tip of the iceberg. I did care, but I cared about getting those extra 20 minutes of sleep more than I did about having a "beat" face. That does not mean that I am careless, it simply meant that I was sick, and I needed to cut corners in certain areas, because yes, those extra 20 minutes of rest made a real difference for me.
Sickness aside, as early as the first day of being "makeup-free", I started getting weird stares and concerned comments from the people around me. My ultimate favorite is the "wow, you look so tired, are you okay?" approach.
Yes, I am tired, but so is the girl sitting next to me, but you didn't ask her that question, did you?
I mean, I get it. Paler white women tend to look noticeably different without makeup as opposed to our beautifully bronze and brown counterparts. Our lack of pigmentation and melanin gives us just enough translucency to show off all those sexy fine lines, wrinkles and crow's feet, and for me this was all at the ripe age of twenty-four. (Although I am sure some white women out there have better genetics than I do.)
But let's just say, not everyone can pull off that flawless Alicia Keys "fresh face" exterior so effortlessly.
The point is, I know I look tired. I know that my face is puffy and red. I know that I have ugly blemishes and scarring from the acne-prone years of my youth. I know that my premature wrinkles are visible from approximately 10.5 miles away. But guess what? When a woman is sick, she will probably choose those extra 20 minutes of sleep every single time and make the choice to let those fierce fine lines be free.
But that's the thing, I shouldn't have to be sick or pregnant or tired or depressed or whatever else for it to be deemed "appropriate" to live, work, breathe and exist in society without makeup. I should be allowed to make that choice without consequence everyday as a competent adult, and nobody has a right to say otherwise. Unfortunately though, there is a consequence when women make that choice in a misogynistic society (or workplace).
The sad reality is that when you are a woman who has chosen to live a life without makeup, you somehow lose your credibility and your worth in this shallow and deranged world that we live in. To a lot of people (particularly men), you become invisible.
Is it because I am no longer qualified to be apart of your intimate sexual fantasies?
Has my physical appearance ceased to appease your sexual appetite, causing a decrease in my overall value?
Because I am no longer "a fine piece of ass" to look at, oggle over and/or verbally assault, does that mean that my presence is no longer needed?
Because that's certainly the way that it feels.
The funny thing is, when I wear makeup I am treated like a freaking goddess. Strangers hold doors open for me. They inquire about my day, my emotional state, my hobbies, my future and so much more. I am taken seriously at work, and my words legitimately mean something.
And when I decide to stop wearing it, it's as if my value somehow drops a few notches on the scale of "importance" or "respect". When women are "too pretty" we cannot be taken seriously, because how could a pretty girl be smart, right? And apparently when we aren't "pretty enough", we still aren't worthy of your intellectual attention or respect. Why is this?
Why is physical appearance SO important for a woman, yet a man can roll out of bed with dried up drool on his cheek or unbrushed hair, and still be deemed important and worthy of the world's respect?
And I want you guys to know, I love makeup! I think it's incredible! Makeup is an art form that allows women (and men) to test their creative abilities, push boundaries and truly discover themselves and create unique and eclectic art. However, wearing makeup is still a choice. And a true feminist will be equally proud of the woman who openly embraces her fine lines and wrinkles, all the while supporting the woman with a contour from the gods and eyebrows at the absolute peak level of "fleekness". Because true feminism is about freedom and a woman's right to choose what she does with her body, her mind and her soul. Feminism empowers all women from all walks of life, and supports women for exactly who they are and exactly where they are.
Feminism is so very different than what you (might) see on Fox News.
Feminism equals freedom, and nothing less.
To give you guys a current glimpse of my life, I am now four weeks post-surgery, and still living a (mostly) makeup free life. Some days I wear it and some days I don't, it all depends on how I am feeling and what my priorities are that day.
However, it is (and probably always will be) disheartening to me that on the days where I neglect to "beat" my face, I am undoubtedly treated differently than my makeup-wearing female colleagues. It's upsetting, but it's been a refreshing journey finding out who the true feminists are in my life. I am sad to report that there aren't many of them in a predominantly male workplace in a small, quaint suburb of Houston, TX. Big surprise, right?
My "fresh face" adventure has been bumpy, and I'm honestly not sure if I will ever go back to being the girl covered in makeup 5+ days a week. But the unrealistic beauty standards that women fight against are only a teeny, tiny glimpse into the hundreds of stark examples of inequality in the year 2017. The decision to wear makeup or not wear makeup might seem like a small one, but when fighting the historically long-established patriarchy, every teeny, tiny step and decision can make a difference.
The sooner a woman is seen is more than a "fine piece of ass" or a "pretty face", the sooner she will be viewed as a valuable human being worthy of respect. And the sooner she is seen as a worthy human being, the sooner we can abolish rape culture altogether. Every step counts and every fight matters. So wear makeup, or don't wear makeup. Wear skimpy bathing suits, or wear your modest one-piece. Choose celibacy, or choose a life of (safe) sexual freedom. But no matter what you do, always always always support your sisters standing next to you. We are all in this together, and the sooner we stop tearing each other down, the sooner we can truly come together and fight this inequality once and for all.