Makeup as Dehumanization

Using Makeup to Go From Beautiful Inhuman

I found this image in an article, How Women Transform With Makeup. To me, this is horrific. The article contains a total of ten women who transform into dolls. I really don’t get it. The women are all attractive without makeup. And in the process of “improving” themselves, they lose their humanity.

It’s the imperfections that make us interesting. And the point here seems to be about massaging the imperfections away. It is also, of course, about losing “ten pounds instantly with contouring!” The whole thing makes me think that the reason only women wear makeup in our society is because we want to minimize women. Makeup not only turns them into objects of adoration, but it takes from them their individuality. I’m bad at recognizing faces, but it is still the intention of the process to make the young woman in slide six look nothing like the young woman in slide one. I find it deeply disturbing.

I also wonder who the makeup is meant for. Is it for men or what women think men want to see? Or is it for themselves? I hope it is the latter. And I can see that. It shows a great deal of skill and it really does transform the face. On the other hand, if it is for the former, I tend to think it is for nothing. Most guys aren’t that picky. That’s kind of redundant: most guys are, well, guys. And in my experience, they like most women who are just willing to talk to them. Major attraction occurs when they meet a woman who laughs at their stupid jokes. And though men generally take makeup on women for granted, I’m not sure there would be much complaint if they stopped.

The final image above reminds me of what Roland Barthes said about Greta Garbo:

Garbo offered to one’s gaze a sort of Platonic Idea of the human creature, which explains why her face is almost sexually undefined, without however leaving one in doubt. It is true that this film (in which Queen Christina is by turns a woman and a young cavalier) lends itself to this lack of differentiation; but Garbo does not perform in it any feat of transvestism; she is always herself, and carries without pretense, under her crown or her wide-brimmed hats the same snowy solitary face. The name given to her, the Divine, probably aimed to convey less a superlative state of beauty than the essence of her corporeal person, descended form a heaven where all things are formed and perfected in the clearest light. She herself knew this: how many actresses have consented to let the crowd see the ominous maturing of their beauty. Not she, however; the essence was not to be degraded, her face was not to have any reality except that of its perfection, which was intellectual even more that formal. The Essence became gradually obscured, progressively veiled with dark glasses, broad hats and exiles: but it never deteriorated.

To me, there is something anti-feminist about makeup. This is what Barthes is getting at about Garbo and the platonic ideal. Ideals are not real and to ask women to pursue such a thing is to dehumanize them. But at the same time, there is something anti-masculine about it. Heterosexual men should love women as they are. There should be no need to dress them up as though they were somehow wanting.

I would never claim that women should or should not use makeup. That is up to every individual to decide. But the fact that so many women feel the need to wear makeup and men expect it, does not speak well of our culture.

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