It started with a simple question from my 8-year-old son. He was watching me get ready for work. As I was dutifully applying my third coat of lash-lengthening mascara, he looked up and asked, “Mommy, why do girls wear makeup but boys don’t?” I was about to automatically answer what I’ve been brainwashed to believe “because it makes me feel pretty” when I paused mid mascara stroke and took a moment to think. Really think. I looked at my son and gave him my honest answer “I don’t know”.
My son’s question has been sitting in my brain for months. And what I’ve concluded is that it’s bigger than makeup. Makeup is the tip of the double-standard iceberg. We’re all aware of the double standards between men and women. Things like, a man gets paid more for doing the exact same job as a woman. A man is bossy and he’s a leader, a woman is outspoken and she’s a bitch. We see every inch of a naked woman splayed across the movie screen, but only a 1 second glimpse of a penis. A man goes gray and he’s distinguished, and woman goes gray and she’s “given up” on her looks. The list goes on…
But I also believe the list goes deeper. It goes beyond the double standards and into the realm of “damned-if-we-do-damned-if-we-don’t”. It’s this no-win situation that women navigate daily. It involves heightened insecurities, second guessing ourselves, and a whole heap of extra effort. I’ll explain.
Women shave their legs (men don’t = double standard). But take this one step further…women shave their legs, which leads to longer showers, which leads to taking longer to get ready, which leads to men joking, complaining, belittling women to “hurry up in there already”. Men, listen to me closely, you cannot have it both ways. Smooth legs take time. So shut the fuck up and wait for us to be ready as society expects. Or, women, join me in the “Stop Shaving” revolution. Let our bodies be free and gain equality on this issue one hairy leg, hairy armpit, and hairy god given hoo-ha at a time.
Women wear makeup (men don’t = double standard). But take this one step further…women wear makeup, so they buy makeup, which costs money, which leads men to tease and/or scold women for spending too much money on “useless stuff”. So which is it men? Is makeup useless or worth every penny? Personally, I’m over it. I’m over the latest trend in lip gloss, the latest craze in eyeliner, the latest “must-have” bronzer. The entire cosmetic industry profits from women’s insecurities. I’d like to propose a National No-Makeup Day/Week/Month/Year. And I mean NO makeup on anybody…bare faces on movie stars, clean-skinned talk show hosts, all natural VP’s leading meetings at work, fresh-faced teenagers walking the school halls, every woman, everywhere with no makeup on. How cool would it be to actually SEE the real faces of women in our lives? You know, like we see men every day.
Women get plastic surgery (more than men = double standard). But take this one step further. Women get publicly and privately mocked for having “work done”. So they spend all that money, all that recovery time, all that emotion (nevermind the life-threatening surgical risks) thinking they’re doing what society expects them to do to stay younger looking. All for what? For shit-talkers to mock their audacity at altering their looks cosmetically. Yet if a woman doesn’t get Botox, and heaven forbid shows a wrinkle, she’s “washed up” and society kinda understands (forgives??) when their man leaves them for a younger woman.
Women wear shapewear, Spanx, stomach flattening undies (men don’t = double standard). But take this one step further…women wear these torture devices to flatten their tummies, to look thinner, to look “better” in clothes, to hide their “muffin tops”. But, they must never admit to wearing such articles of clothing. Heaven forbid a man discovers her “granny panties” or tries to get into her panties and can’t (Lycra is like cement ya’ll). Remember the scene in Bridget Jones’s Diary when Hugh Grant and Rene Zellweger are making out and he discovers her girdle? He is appalled and she is embarrassed. Again I ask, which way do you want it, because you can’t have both. Do you want to see our “imperfect” figures, or do you want our bits tucked and stuffed into “miracle wear”?
I realize none of these issues are new. In fact, I’m pretty sure it goes back to Adam and Eve. But where does it end? When does it end? When can I look my son in the eye and give him an answer that I’m proud of?