This summer I experienced some high-class misogynistic f*ckery. While I was minding my own business, touching-up my lipstick at a party, a young man decided to comment on it (verbal manspreading), suggesting that wearing makeup made me an insecure woman. But, before I begin to explain why his actions proved to be a prime example of misogyny, let me take this story from the top…
It was a Friday night. I kindly posed as +1 to a birthday party with my cousin. The party took place on a rooftop terrace at a high-rise in Washington, D.C. The birthday girl, who did track and field with my cousin at their alma mater UVA, wore a glamorous mesh dress, bedazzled with gold beads. The rooftop was decorated with gold accents, finger foods and adult beverages scattered the kitchen island, the latest hip-hop hits blared through the air, and the room just screamed “Black Excellence” with about 20 twenty-somethin’ young men and women mingling throughout the space.
After singing happy birthday and mingling on the outdoor terrace, the party eventually moved inside where the spacious, modern kitchen and gaming area were located. My cousin and I, along with a couple others relocated to the island. As my cousin (bartender-in-the-making at the time) poured shots for a few of us, I decided to touch-up my lipstick. As I began reapplying my lip liner with guidance from the selfie camera of my iPhone, I heard the voice of the boy sitting next to me in my ear. For the sake of this story, we’ll call him “Elliott.”
“I’m just saying you don’t need all that makeup… You should embrace your natural beauty.”
Pause: Elliott introduced himself to my cousin and I 15 minutes prior. His attempts to be witty and funny were unimpressive, so our small talk lasted all of 30 seconds. Even after me and my cousin had continued our conversation by ourselves, he’d still try to butt-in with a comment or two now and again. If you’re a woman reading this, Elliott is one of those guys who you can tell wants to “talk” to you but is ill-mannered/inexperienced in the art of conversing with women, so he just sort of becomes a creepy, hovering shadow that you and girlfriends try to ignore. Play.
Elliott leans into my ear, “You don’t need that makeup. You’re beautiful without it.” Now, if you know me, this is an immediate trigger for me. But, I keep calm, turn around and tell him, “I know what I need and don’t need and I’m aware of my beauty. But, thanks.” I then proceed to turn back around and continue my touch-up. Elliott can’t take a hint! He continues in my right ear, “I’m just saying you don’t need all that makeup. You’re a beautiful woman. You should embrace your natural beauty.” TRIGGERED.
I swear I could hear the music come to a screeching halt. I put down my liquid lipstick and turned all the way around in my stool. I looked him dead in his face asked him, “What makes you think that I don’t embrace my natural beauty?” Elliott responds with something along the lines of, “Well most women who wear makeup are insecure. There’s really no need to wear makeup. More women should just embrace what they’re born with.” I respond to the tune of, “Well, I’m gonna start by saying your comment is very misogynistic. You don’t know me, so I don’t know why you feel the need to share your opinion about my looks. I’m the furthest thing from insecure. For you to assume that makeup is equivalent to insecurity is very ignorant of you. Makeup is art. It’s a form of self-expression.” Elliott immediately becomes defensive (as expected) saying that he said his comment with good intentions and his comments were not misogynistic in any way (they were). People around us could here our conversation slowly escalating. And then guess what happens? His older brother jumps into the conversation…
We’ll call him “Luke.” Luke starts going on a rant about the demise of the Black woman, eurocentricity, Black women destroying their features, the need for them to accept and love themselves for who they are, etc. I continuously tell him that that’s not the topic of the conversation, and that his brother’s misogyny stems from a misinformed belief about women, their freedoms, and their choices. His rant about the aforementioned topics continued. Seeing that this conversation is getting pretty serious, a few others to join the conversation. So, now we have about five or six people talking about how Black people should dress in the work place, the silent societal expectations for people of color to adapt to “White culture,” etc. All the while, I’m silent because I’m trying to figure out how my lipstick inspired this conversation. I’m not mad at the dialogue; in fact, I agreed with some of the group’s talking points. But honestly, this was not the time or place. The last thing I want to do while turning up is produce a dissertation about the societal oppression that people of color face in the 21st century.
“Just because my face is beat and I’m wearing 24-inches of Brazilian Wavy doesn’t mean I’m insecure or uncomfortable with being natural.”
I’m getting irritated and want to leave the conversation so, I interjected and said, “The conversation went completely left and you all are talking about something different. So, before you continue that conversation, can you please explain to me how my lipstick relates to eurocentricity?” Luke responds, “I never said that.” I responded, “I’m aware. But, this whole conversation derived from your brother, who told me I don’t need to wear makeup, and then you jumped in the conversation talking about how black women are trying to be European. So, how does me touching up my makeup mean I’m trying to be European? Just because my face is beat and I’m wearing 24-inches of Brazilian Wavy doesn’t mean I’m insecure or uncomfortable with being natural.” I then quickly scroll through my phone and show the brothers a photo of me with my Afro and a bare face. Their faces drop. I continue, “This is how I look daily to work. Does that look like I’m insecure about myself to you? I could beat my face daily if I wanted to, but I don’t have time. So, you want to chastise me because I like to dress up in wigs and makeup on the weekends? This is the way I express myself. I change my clothes, hair, and makeup to reflect the way I feel. It has absolutely nothing to do with insecurities and I certainly don’t do it to please any man.”
Luke had no answer for me, and decided to continue on his rants with the group. I told the group (all men but me and one other girl) that I’m exiting the conversation and then turned to Elliott and let him know that his comment was full of misogyny, even if he didn’t intend for it to be that way, and that if that was the way he thinks he can flatter a girl, he’s sadly mistaken. I also let him know that if he had said what he said to a woman more opinionated than me, her response would have been much stronger than mine. I suggested he not tell women what to wear in the future because it will continue to backfire in his face.
Elliott begins to respond with his face twisted as if he tasted a sour lemon. But, Luke butts-in again. He comes to his brother’s defense with a calmer tone saying that his brother didn’t mean any ill-doing and they didn’t mean to offend me. I say, “I understand that and I appreciate the fact that we were able to discuss this as adults. But, you both have this distorted idea that women who wear makeup are insecure and that’s something you need to fix because it’s not the case for all women. Makeup is an art form. Just as painters paint on a canvas, I use my face as a canvas. And I’m free to do that without judgement of men who don’t know me, the experiences of women, or the history of makeup.” Of course, Luke begins ranting again and I’m not going to lie, I occasionally tuned him out. I’m two shots in, and not in the state of mind to have this conversation.
We ended the conversation on a good note, surprisingly. They both apologized and we all shook hands. As much as I wanted to storm away from the convo, I didn’t. I think it’s important to correct people when they’re wrong, especially when it comes to breaking down the stereotypes or ideals that men have about women. Women are free to do whatever they want and say whatever they want. These are beliefs that I hold close to my heart. So, any chance I have to enlighten others, I will do so. Despite how they feel about makeup, women, or women who wear makeup, they’re decent guys. I think their views would change, however, if they listened to women instead of inflicting their misinformed beliefs upon them. And the funny thing about this whole story is, when everybody at the party left to head to the club, Luke pulled me aside, asked for my Instagram, and asked if he could photograph me sometime. I guess my makeup wasn’t so bad after all!
Moral of this long saga? Not all women who wear makeup are insecure. Hinting that a woman is insecure is NOT a good pickup line. And if a woman chooses to wear something, it’s her choice. We don’t need your criticism or permission to do so. Over all…MIND YA BUSINESS.