There are a lot of sexist memes on the internet, which makes sense, it being the internet and all. Sexist memes combine two of the internet’s favourite things: memes and sexism. Most are some variety of the same theme, usually meant to explain that girls who pretend to like cool things are just lying liars who are only pretending to like cool things, most likely to attract boys. See: Fake Geek/Gamer Girl, the Bernie v. Hilary campaign positions sign, and about a hundred others.
When the denizens of this too-large corner of the internet are not talking about how horrible it is when girls like “boy” stuff, they’re talking about how horrible “girl” stuff is. For example, makeup and the “take her swimming on a first date”/”this is why men have trust issues” meme, which I find to be one of the most infuriating. You can see an example below, but basically it’s two pictures of a girl, one with and one without makeup. In the “with makeup” photo, her skin is flawless, eyebrows groomed, face all-around made up in a conventionally attractive way. In the “without makeup” photo she has sparse eyebrows, undereye circles, blemishes, maybe some hyperpigmentation, If she was the kind of girl to wear makeup every day, this picture would be the one of the day where everyone asks her “Are you sick?”
Apparently, it’s some sort of huge betrayal to a certain section of men on the internet for women to wear makeup because it’s a “lie”—as many women have so correctly pointed out, if these men think that winged black eyeliner is a natural feature, they deserve to feel hoodwinked—but there’s something about these memes that I find even more discomforting.
You see, these women, in their non-made-up states, they’re not deformed or misshapen. They’re not even ugly. Supermodels, maybe not, but you wouldn’t think “Dear God, what is that?” if you passed them on the street. If you thought anything, you’d think “There’s a perfectly average or perhaps somewhat above average woman going about her day.”
And yet, this stupid, sexist meme tries to tell us there’s something horrifying about a woman’s bare face. That, as the same time as we’re told we’re “lying” if we enhance our features with makeup, we’re told that we’d better cover that shit up. That although we ought to be naturally beautiful, because that’s what men want to look at (it doesn’t matter if you’re not interested in being someone men want to look at—if you’re a lesbian, you better be a hot lesbian), if we’re not, we’d better fake it. But not so much that we’re tricking men, of course.
Nevermind that women generally aren’t putting on makeup because of men. I like to dress up and look nice for my boyfriend (who is lovely and would not agree with these awful memes), of course, but I’m not expecting someone who only recently learned that not all eye-related makeup is called mascara to understand the magic of Anastasia Dipbrow.
But, in a way, maybe we are. I hate it, but I’m much more likely to notice a blemish on a woman’s face than a man’s, because I’m so used to women covering them up. If I see a woman who usually wears makeup without it, I notice that she looks different. This extends to myself as well. I considered ending this post with a #nomakeupselfie, defiant, comfortable in my skin. I took five or six pictures and couldn’t see anything but the dark circles under my eyes. I considered putting on some concealer (like most of the celebrities who post under that hashtag, newsflash to you dudes who post those memes but think that Kim K is all-natural when she posts a pic au naturale), but that would be cheating.
To paraphrase Liz Lemon, enjoying traditionally feminine things is the worst, because of society, so what do we do? How do I enjoy playing with makeup without worrying that I’m using it as a crutch to fit traditional beauty ideals. How do I know that the styles I like are really what I like, and not what society tells me I should like? How do I find my face equally beautiful with or without makeup? I’m white and cisgender and fairly thin and therefore I already have an edge on conforming to conventional beauty standards, and yet I still struggle to love my bare face. How do I do this, and how do women of color, trans women, fat women, a combination—how do we lift up ourselves and each other to feel beautiful no matter what we’re told to believe, and use makeup as an art and not a weapon?
There’s so much culture to examine wrapped up in makeup, far more than I can even discuss here, let alone solve. But to those on the internet who think they can dictate women’s choices—cooling it with the stupid, sexist, memes would be a start. Makeup isn’t why you have trust issues; it’s your own unrealistic, double standard expectations.