Pretty and Dumb

7:30. Wake up. Make coffee. Wash face, brush teeth and finally, sit down in front of the mirror. You look at your reflection and start putting the primer on your face. It's the first day of classes and you want to look amazing. Thirty minutes later, your face is covered by foundation, mascara, eyeliner, blush, highlighter and lipstick. You love it. Not that you didn't before, but this is different: you put in the effort and you like the result. Two years ago, if I had seen you outside, in a classroom or in the dining hall, I confess I would judge. "I'd rather sleep," "confidence has to come from within," and occasionally, I would think, "she's probably not too bright..." Well, now I've become one of you. I love the enhanced self-confidence, and I feel better in my own skin. For the most part, it's fair to say I love it. The part I don't like? Well -- I feel as if I'm judged to be not enough just because I'm wearing makeup.

Such as I thought that you probably weren't too bright, now I feel as if people think I'm not. While this may simply be because I myself thought that way for many years, I'm going to risk saying that this type of judgment is many times ingrained in our minds during our childhood, becoming the 'normal' lens through which we think of women. Movies portray our sex as less: less-intelligent, less-strong and less-opinionated. When occasionally a woman is admitted to the all-guys club, she has to be as physically similar to them as possible. Makeup seems to be a sign of weakness. If the women is a bleach blonde, even worse: she's quickly classified as superficial, dumb, and incapable of legitimately caring for others. Unless she's a love interest for one of the men, that is.

That's probably why, when I walk into my 9am, I feel as if I'm naked. People stare and I blush. Thank God for my Neutrogena foundation. It's perfectly plausible that my shirt has a tear, but I'm positive that's not the case. I feel judged because I don't look au naturel, and that is a synonym for "what the f*** is she doing in this classroom." Even if this is not true, and I myself have an impostor complex, it's still not right. It's not right that I've been brainwashed into feeling guilty for wearing makeup. Pretty and dumb don't walk hand in hand, but my brain quickly struggles to dissolve that link. It's not a stretch to say that whomever feels this way knows that it can very well impact the way we behave and the things we say in class -- or better, the things we refrain from expressing because we feel like our ideas are not enough. Five minutes after we think of it and force ourselves to keep our mouths shut, a guy on the other side of the classroom raises his hand and tells the class your idea with almost the exact same words. He gets an "exactly right" from the Professor and you wish you had said what was on your mind. Well -- why didn't you?

Still, in the event that you decide to go ahead and raise your arm -- maybe you're feeling adventurous -- the same scene can nonetheless be revisited. You express your perspective on the issue, the Professor follows it with a "hmmm..." Five minutes later, Jake raises his hand and says the same exact thing getting an "Exactly right!" If you've never been through a similar experience, I envy you. I've had this happen to me countless times, to the point where I decided that going makeup-less to class would make me smarter in the eyes of the instructor. Did it? I honestly don't know. It did make me feel more deserving of his attention as if somehow less makeup meant more intelligence. Do people really think that those fifteen minutes you spend putting things on your face takes away from your time studying and becoming smarter? I'm sorry to say that if you weren't doing your makeup, you would probably be checking your phone.

Granted, even if makeup did not alter the way people see our inner-worth, many may still say that the whole process of buying makeup and stuffing your face with cosmetic products every morning is intrinsically wrong. My best friend from back home, upon seeing me with a bright orange lipstick in a bar in a very tropical city, turned to me and said I had sold out. Sold out to what? According to her, the patterns of beauty established by the patriarchy. "You don't need makeup to be beautiful," she told me. Well - yeah, I know this. The same way I know I sometimes feel under the weather (more specifically, during almost fifteen days of the month) and makeup helps me feel happier with myself and the world around me. As long as I'm not in a classroom, of course. In no way or form am I defending that women ought to wear makeup in order to feel happier, but if this is the ultimate intent of your morning routine, who am I, or for that matter, who is Julia, to judge either me or you?

Makeup is a social construct. I agree. I'm all for teaching little girls that makeup is not necessary for you to love yourself, but I don't agree with those that say makeup cannot help us when our self-esteem is low. If you choose not to wear makeup, good for you -- but associating makeup with stupidity is stupid in itself. In Introduction to Statistics, I learned correlation does not imply causation, and even more so when this correlation is only present in the make-believe scenarios constructed by the communications and entertainment industries since the last century. Such as almost everything else in a Rite Aid, makeup products do fuel a $18 billion industry. But if a rolex makes him happy, why can't a good and simple Revlon mascara make you happy as well? In short, I don't want to get into the origins and the pros and cons of having makeup products exist in our society. This would entail going into the specifics of the advertising industry and the mechanisms through which it enhanced the (for the most part) capitalist world we live in. For that, I recommend you watch "The Century of the Self." My goal is to make you critically examine what you think when you look at a 21-year-old wearing makeup to class. What she's done is not wrong, but what you may think about it is.

 

About The Author

Mariam Topeshashvili is a junior at Harvard College majoring in Government, with a special interest in Comparative Politics. When she’s not reading, you can find her pinning the latest fashion trends on Pinterest, her guilty pleasure. Mariam was born in Georgia (the country!) but grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Naturally, she is addicted to good weather, wine, beer, cheese and the beach, especially when accompanied by an Agatha Christie book.

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