For my final activist project I decided to look into a hobby of mine. Being a visual arts major i’ve always tried expressing myself in different ways, one of those ways being makeup artistry. It wasn’t until recently that i’ve noticed the concern as to why women should or shouldn’t wear makeup. There are many women who complain about how long it takes to get ready for the day because they need to put on their makeup. Why should we feel the need to wear makeup in the first place? I decided to look into the history of why women wear makeup to understand how it all started. The first sign in history wear cosmetics were used went as far back as 10,000 BCE. Cosmetics were used mainly as an integral part of Egyptian hygiene and health to protect them from the harsh sun and winds. As the timeline progresses, people started using it as a cultural habit. The Chinese and Japanese would use rice powder to make their faces white. What started as a cultural way of expressing oneself, turned into a manipulation of one’s appearance after figuring out different ways to shape their personal features. In the 1960’s and 1970’s western world women went without any cosmetics creating an anti-cosmetics movement. Women were seen as sex objects because of the makeup they wore. Some even consider it to be a human mating ritual.
When I first started my project I wanted to focus mainly on mens views on women who wear makeup. This being mainly because a majority of women wear it and a majority of men don’t, although there is an increasing number of men who are starting to wear some makeup. I also wanted to know a little more about why some women choose to wear makeup. I started an online survey where 71 random people participated in answering 10 questions. Out of those 71 people, only 8 of them were men. I found it difficult during this project to get more men involvement on the topic. The first question I asked was how often do you wear makeup? Most of the people who answered said they wear makeup almost everyday. Out of the 71 respondents, only 2 females said they never wear makeup.
I was surprised by the amount of people who responded that they would stop wearing makeup themselves if most women stopped wearing it. This just shows you how much of a social standard wearing makeup is.
The last question in my survey was a text box where they could write any thoughts they had on this topic. Out of the surveys I received, 12 people answered this optional part. One of the responses that struck me the most was this one…
“I have often felt throughout my life that my lack of makeup puts me into a “weirdo” category, and is even perceived as unprofessional. I think it’s pretty ridiculous that my face is socially unacceptable unless I spend hundreds of dollars a year and a lot of time on this ritual. It’s just another example of the way women have to put in so much more effort just to reach a “baseline” of acceptability that men are just born with.”
Another part of my project was to take photos of a handful of women wearing no makeup, a more “natural” look, and a full face of makeup. My plan was to have all of the pictures on the same page and ask random men which image they liked better for each girl. My project has changed since then and I chose to only use one woman as my model. After laying out all of the photos I took of my friends who volunteered, I realized it was a bit overwhelming to look at. I decided on only using one model because I didn’t want any personal preference from the men to trigger the results if I were to have more than one model. After exposing 10 randomly selected men to the banner above, 7 preferred the middle image of the model wearing a “natural” look, 2 preferred the last image of the full face of makeup, and only 1 preferred the first image of her wearing no makeup at all.
As part of my personal subjection into this project, I decided to go one full week without wearing makeup and vlog about any day-to-day changes I experienced in the process. I didn’t end up vlogging during this week because I noticed no changes at all. After going to work with no makeup as a server, running errands, going out with friends, i’ve noticed no difference in the way I interacted with others or the way they interacted with me. I forgot I wasn’t even wearing makeup at all. In fact, after this project I haven’t worn makeup much since.
What I’ve learned as an activist is that it can be extremely hard trying to control the project you’re doing. As far as collecting data and getting participants, I found that to be the most challenging for my project. My project didn’t go exactly as planned because of the changes i’ve made. My vlogging video never happened because I expected to have something to vlog about, when there were no changes that occurred. I hope other women who wear makeup often try this experiment. Women should not have to feel like they need to wear makeup, but to wear it because they actually enjoy it. It really helped myself realize that I don’t need to wear makeup all the time to make any difference in my life and I want it to make a difference in others too.