Ideally I like to have 2 hours to get ready in the morning.

A fair chunk of that 2 hours goes into make-up application and choosing what to wear. Sometimes at night, before I fall asleep I think of what piece of clothing I would like to wear the next day, and then envision the various things I have that would look good with it.

I own costume jewelry, miniskirts, high heels, and bright eyeshadows and lipsticks in a multitude of obscene hues.

I have chased the idea of buying and wearing cosmetics and conventionally feminine clothes around in my head until I feel exhausted, but I never come up with anything even resembling any kind of answer.

I know that me, literally buying into conventional femininity is harmful.

Even getting past physical harm (known carcinogens and other such toxins in cosmetics; restrictive clothes that can lead to internal organ or back problems; and on and on), there’s that emotional part of it, because, face it, the whole making-up process is us, trying to make-up for our lack of conformance to hegemonic beauty ideals. Plus, these “beauty” rituals are super-one-sided, which goes back to various feminist/conflict theories that say that those not in power (i.e. minorities) must attempt to make-up for their deviance through subordinating rituals in order to win favor from dominant groups (like, say, wearing clothes that display our bodies in ways that are pleasing to the groups in power).

And, believe me, I tell myself nearly every day that my participation in (i.e. support of) beauty rituals makes it harder for people who reject them in favor of, well, being themselves. By participating, I display the taken-for-granted-ness of conventional, binary gender roles that ultimately subordinate females to males, nonwhites to whites, disabled persons to nondisabled persons, nonheterosexuals to heterosexuals, the poor and working class to the middle and upper class, and so on and so forth.

By participating, I am feeding beauty and fashion industries that support ageist, racist, ableist, classist, misogynistic regimes that have more power than any dictatorship, and that limit our range of what we think can be possible.

Still, to strip myself of the adornments of conventional femininity also feels as if I wish I could become a man. This, too seems like a rejection of my self.

So, I think about these things, and I mull them over, but I never come to any conclusion. I put these thoughts down because I know they will be there to pick back up.


Lately, I have started making bracelets (which is a generous way to say I have been tying cords into knots and stringing them with beads). As I am looking over all the beads I have accumulated, thinking of what colors would look interesting together, I think about my discarded artistic dreams—cast aside after too many brushes with the ageist, racist, ableist, classist, misogynistic “Greats.” I think about, how, after a semester of work, I used to produce things. Things people would hang in the rooms of their houses. Everything then seemed to be a great piece of art just waiting to be worked.


Now it makes me smile when I read a great article about sexual, gendered violence—the cleverness of good (application of) theory always makes me smile. But, I think, inside my heart is brutality and hatred and ugliness that comes from so much knowing. It’s easy to appreciate good academic works about horrible things, but those horrible things don’t go away for me. They stay about and I feel sad.

I think that this is what I am actually trying to make-up when I attempt to replicate a peacock’s colors on my eyelid, when I paint my lips bright orange or fuchsia, when I mix beads together until they call to my mind pictures of a bright blue Italian sea.

Some beauty, some good, some control—my attempt to counterbalance all the rest. To me, this is what making-up means.


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e lewis

I'm a bibliophile with a love of social justice theory living in the Pacific North West trying to figure life out.

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