“65 percent of girls who wear makeup began wearing it between the ages of 8 and 13, and 20 percent said they feel unattractive and have negative feelings if they go without it. In addition, 27 percent of the girls surveyed said they never leave home without wearing makeup. Ever.” — Daryl Nelson, 8-year-olds Wearing Makeup? How Young Is Too Young?
Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but I personally think there’s something wrong with us as a society when we celebrate young girls (and boys) who wear a full face of makeup.
And when I say young, I don’t mean early teens. I mean roughly 7-12 year olds caking and baking their faces with layers of several beauty products.
We not only fawn over these undoubtedly talented kids, we encourage them and other children to do the same. I have several acquaintances and friends who regularly paint their children’s faces and proudly post photos of them online. Perhaps it’s their attempt to mimic the rising popularity and normalcy of what I call “instagram makeup for kids.”
What’s bothering me more is how several videos and photos of made-up girls have these girls gazing flirtatiously at and posing sultrily for the camera. Is it feminist to revel and participate in the sexualization of young girls?
No. Neither is it cute nor adorable. It’s a symptom of consumerism sinking its claws deeper and deeper into us.
While we should encourage kids to express themselves artistically, we should also think hard about what methods of expression we should introduce them to.
“Why haven’t other liberation movements faced the same kind of commodification? Why is there no market for a ‘This is what a socialist looks like’ shirt, or flowery ‘Black Power’ mugs?” — Sarah Fletcher, All I Want For Christmas Is Liberation From The Capitalist Patriarchy
Makeup itself is a questionable form of expression and empowerment, even for adults. Whether purchasing and using makeup is feminist or not remains debatable to this day.
But simply put, feminism stands for liberation of all women from capitalism, imperialism, and patriarchy. However, the methods of production and marketing that many popular makeup companies employ are inherently anti-feminist. A majority of these companies are incredibly capitalistic, opportunistic, and exploitative.
If a multi-million dollar company which preys on women’s insecurities postulates that buying their products is a feminist act, then we ought to question their intentions for claiming so. If a company builds its wealth at the cost of fabricating and enforcing self-hate in women, most especially women of color, then their products probably aren’t made for the betterment of women.
“The truth is that we don’t make choices in a vacuum. So while I authentically enjoy makeup, I also have to recognize that it’s impossible to know if I would still like it if I hadn’t been socialized to believe that I had to. It means understanding that the choices that I make are dependent on the choices that are offered to me.” — Melissa A. Fabello, My Makeup Isn’t Inherently Anti-Feminist
I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m a makeup girl. But at the same time, I’m aware this supposed “free will and choice” of mine to wear makeup isn’t really an untainted and uninfluenced choice. Society and media taught me that wearing makeup is normal, fun, and empowering – despite the fact my average face objectively doesn’t “need” makeup.
Some of us use makeup to cover learned “flaws” such as wrinkles or blemishes. Others do because we’ve been conditioned to enjoy it, and because we’ve been taught that if we’re pretty enough by Western standards, our lives will become significantly easier. This sounds harsh and stupid, but it’s true. People unfortunately regard beauty to a high degree, whether we admit it or not.
So when we expose children to full-face makeup at such a tender age, we directly learn them capitalistic and patriarchal values. We’re training them straight-up that they have to subscribe to impossible Eurocentric standards of beauty, regardless if they have facial insecurities they need to cover up or not. Heck, I’d venture to say that we’re actually teaching them their insecurities.
We aren’t being responsible and good role models if we pass on these twisted and stressful expectations to kids who’ve yet to find their footing in the world. No damn 9-year-old should need concealer to cover their non-existent under-eye circles, or foundation to hide their non-existent acne.
Besides, shouldn’t we be advising kids that it’s better to dismantle beauty standards altogether so that the concept of “physical insecurities” dies out? Shouldn’t we be telling them, “Hey, be better than me! I’m not fully firm and conscious enough to disassociate myself from patriarchal values drilled into me all my life, but I hope YOU will be!” ?
This discussion on children and makeup is alarming, because it seems we’re introducing beauty standards and consumerist behavior to younger and younger age groups as time progresses. Before, children were absolutely not allowed to wear or buy makeup. Eventually, with the gradual accessibility and cheapness of makeup, teenagers 15 and above could do it. Then, 12 year olds began to be allowed to use it. Today, we’ve got 7 and 10 year olds posting online tutorials on how to do full-coverage makeup.
Being happy, proud, or indifferent to this is problematic as fuck.
Not only are kids unconsciously picking up social norms on beauty and shopping habits from the media and their environment as is usual, we—as parents, older siblings, and adult friends—are now literally shoving these previously insidious concepts directly on to their contoured faces.
We should be horrified at how normal instagram child makeup has become, instead of continuing to glorify capitalist and patriarchal behaviors that will surely affect our kids as they grow older.