Ode to Lipstick

Every time I move to a new city, I look forward to incorporating a new change of behaviour or appearance in my life.  I have always felt self-conscious of changing and evolving noticeably.  When someone says “that’s different for you!” or “you changed _______ about yourself”, I almost feel guilty, like I have an obligation to always be the same.   But to new people I meet, my evolution is not a change – it’s just how I am.

A couple of years ago my partner and I moved to a new city.  I had been doing a lot of thought and research about being femme at that time (ie. finding all the blogs I could), and I had a strong urge to try wearing bright lipstick but had been very self conscious wearing it.  A few weeks into our new life, I made the first of what would become several trips to MAC, where I tried on so many lipsticks and walked away with Lady Danger.  I felt giddy and nervous.  It’s still my favourite lipstick.

Through extensive Googling I have tried to find other people who feel the same way I do about lipstick.  It took so much courage for me to wear bright lipstick.  Most blog posts and comments I read were something along the lines of “it’s just lipstick!  Have fun with it!  Nobody cares!”.  To me though, it’s not just lipstick.  It’s donning on a new identity.  It is making a deliberate choice to wear something so symbolically feminine and yet also brash and noticeable.  Nobody wears lipstick by accident, or for health reasons (like lip balm for dry lips).  Some natural looking makeup, like soft blush or mascara similar to your hair colour, can be ignored or we can pretend it’s not makeup.  But bold lipstick says yes, I am wearing makeup, you can see it right here on my face.

Lipstick is a way for me to lean femme in my appearance even with short hair, even if I am dressed more masculine.  It’s noticeable with minimal effort.  Nobody ever comments on my eyeliner but I do get comments on my lipstick from time to time.  Why is that?  I wear a black cat eye nearly every day.  It’s subtle but not natural looking, and takes more time and effort than wearing lipstick.  But nobody ever says anything about it (which I am much more comfortable with actually, I don’t really like comments on my appearance).

I’ve read comments and stories from people who say wearing a bold lip colour makes them feel confident, but I have to say for me, it’s almost the opposite.  I need to already feel confident in order to wear lipstick.  Last fall I traveled back to the city I moved from to attend a work related event at which I would be receiving an award.  I knew I would be seeing clients and colleagues that I hadn’t seen since my move, and getting a lot of attention, which is not very comfortable for me.  I wanted to wear a dark purple lipstick because I knew it would look great with my outfit, but I was so self conscious about wearing such a strong colour in front of people who had never seen me wear lipstick before.  [sidenote: I work in a creative field where anything goes, appearance-wise.]  On the trip over I spent way too much time thinking about it.  In the end I wore it, but blotted my lips so it was a more stained version than full coverage.  It still looked great but I knew I had made a compromise.

Lipstick is a fun part of my day.  I love picking what colour I’m going to wear, matching it to my outfit and then matching my blush to my lipstick.  I’m a lipstick snob – it needs to feel luxurious, high quality (read: expensive), and carefully chosen.  I’d rather go without than settle for less.  I like taking my time trying on all the lipsticks I can and getting just the right one.  It’s not a utility makeup product, like mascara, where I don’t care what brand or how the packaging looks as long as it gets the job done, the cheaper the better.  I consider many variables but mostly it has to make me feel womanly, femme, and awesome when I put it on, and it’s just not the same from a cheap plastic tube or a doe foot applicator (I’m looking at you, liquid lipstick trend).

I know I’m not the only one who has a complex relationship with lipstick.  Tell me about yours!

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Link from dapperQ – queer misogyny

Just a quick tidbit – I read this article/interview from dapperQ‘s series Dress Smart: DapperQ Academics Featuring Robin Dembroff.  A quote from the article –

Recently, I have had to think hard about queer misogyny. Even worse, I’ve had to confront it in myself. Like many of us, I grew up absorbing associations between femininity and meekness, physical weakness, ‘irrational’ emotion, and so on. With these associations came an aversion to embracing my internal femininity, externalizing femininity, or sexual attraction to femininity. Now, I’m not claiming that these features are completely due to our misogynistic culture – it’s possible that I would have them in a world with total gender equality. But I kind of doubt it. Or, at least, I doubt I would have these features to the degree that I do. And that’s a hard conclusion to face; I suspect I’m not the only one waking up one day to find these zits in the proverbial mirror.

The whole article is worth a read, and I especially liked that section and wanted to share it here.  Queer misogyny is certainly something I have needed to face and I’m glad that people might be becoming more aware of it.

 

Top ten things that make me feel femme

Autostraddle posted an article a little while ago that I loved, “Top Ten Kickass Nail Polish Colors That Aren’t Reds or Pinks“, and it got me thinking about beauty products/clothes/looks/etc that make me feel particularly femme and/or badass.   Obviously feeling like a powerful femme is about way more than appearance and consumerism, but the outer decoration can help and it’s a focus of this blog!  Here they are, in no particular order:

1. OPI – Nein! Nein! Nein!  Ok Fine!

My nails are painted most of the time, because otherwise I bite them.  I mostly paint them in greyish/dark purple/navy type colours.  I didn’t buy this nail polish for a while because I hated the name (and still do), but damn if the colour isn’t great.  It’s a dark grey that leans slightly green, and looks great on my short nails.  It’s sophisticated but also tough.

(image from http://www.scrangie.com)

neinneinneinokfine

2. Black cat eye liner

It’s not the most original eye makeup, but it’s the one I feel most at home in.  A cat eye became synonymous with femme to me when I read Effing Dykes All in the Femme-ily.  I now realize that people of all persuasions wear black liquid liner but I still think of it as a femme symbol.

My first “visible” makeup purchase was the Geisha Ink black liquid eyeliner.  I found it in a boutique beauty store in the last city I lived in before my current home, and it took so much practice to figure out a shape that looked good on me.  I switched to Kat Von D’s Tattoo Liner when I moved, because I couldn’t find Geisha Ink anymore.  Now I use e.l.f. cream liner with an angle brush and much prefer it to a liquid.  Also it’s super cheap and not tested on animals.

elf liner

3. Super crisp eyebrows

I have always had dark thick eyebrows and feel my best when they are meticulously shaped.  As a teenager, I hated their shape (quite arched) because I thought they made me look angry, and now I love that I have Strong Brows.  I get them threaded every 3 weeks – my next appointment is in 2 days so they’re at their messiest and it’s driving me crazy.  Crisp brows make me feel like my whole face is tidier, and they look great with an equally sharp cat eye.

4. Fluevog Pizazz

My favourite boots from my favourite shoe company.  They’re sexy, weird, intimidating, and comfortable.  I love snakeskin and though they’re quite obviously not real snakeskin, I appreciate the pattern.  I have the black ones, natch.

pizazz fluevog

 

5. Black clothes

Elegant, no-nonsense, chic, sexy, fierce, understated, hides stains well, goes with everything.  Black clothes can be whatever I want them to be and make me feel the most like myself.  Also cheap clothes look more expensive when they’re black.

6. MAC Lady Danger

Though this was not my first bold lipstick, it was the first one that I actually wore on a regular basis.  My first one was Ruby Woo (also MAC).  I acquired Ruby Woo after getting my makeup done at MAC prior to a Christmas party one year, shortly after I bought the aforementioned liquid liner and was just starting to explore makeup.  I had wanted to ask the makeup artist for a classic pinup type look, but didn’t know how and was too shy.  So she did some neutral pretty look, which was great but not for me.  In a desperate attempt to not leave the store completely disappointed, I asked at the last minute if she could recommend a red lipstick to buy, and she said “Ruby Woo”.  So, I bought it and for months was too scared to wear it.

Eventually I realized Ruby Woo might not be my gateway lipstick, so I went to MAC again and with the help of an amazing employee, I found Lady Danger.  I fucking love the name, the orange/red looks amazing on me and is so so bright.  It’s still my all time favourite lipstick and I always feel like a million bucks when I wear it.

lady danger

7. Short hair

I have thick dark curly hair, and not to toot my own horn, but it is pretty impressive when it’s long (like, shoulder length).  Problem is, I just don’t feel like me with long hair.  A short pixie-type cut feels way more femme to me – I love that it highlights my makeup and face more than long hair.  With long hair, people notice my hair first, and with short hair, they notice my face first.  I actually feel more feminine with short hair.

8. Butter London – Wallis

Shiny sparkly gold with a kick.  It’s greenish, acidic looking, and just a bit too obnoxious to be pretty.

(from Vanity Rouge)

butter london wallis

9. Chanel – Coco Noir

I am completely biased towards Chanel when it comes to perfumes, for no good reason.  The black bottle/name first attracted me when I saw this while killing time at an airport before a flight, so I tried it on.  I could smell it me for on my whole red eye flight and fell in love with it.  It’s a strong, complex, womanly perfume, almost unisex.  I bought a bottle in duty free on my flight back home.

coconoir

10. Moisturizer

Kind of boring, but important.  My skin is dry and prone to weird rashes and redness, and moisturizing every day helps keep it calm.  Also I feel super soft.  Right now I am using Queen Helene Cocoa Butter Lotion after Trista’s article on xoVain recommended it.

queen helene

 

 

What are your favourite products or style when you need a power boost?  Is there anything that instantly gives you that extra shot of femininity?

 

Women be hairy.

Today I want to talk about body hair.  I have a lot to say on this topic – this will be a long one.

I had a conversation with my mom today about threading vs. waxing (I am 100% team threading), and I consider myself well-versed in hair removal methods.  As a pale woman with dark thick hair – and a lot of it – hair removal has been part of my daily routine since puberty.

I have been uncomfortable with my hair my entire life, and I am also disturbed by the amount of discomfort and shame I have felt.  It is entirely conditioning and strongly enforced social norms that have influenced me.  Sure, I didn’t like my strongly arched brows when I was in high school, but that was more about trends at the time than shame.  I definitely love them now, and get them meticulously threaded every 3 weeks.  I’m not talking about brows, or eyelashes, or the hair on my head, all of which I consider to be strong points in my appearance.

I am talking about wanting to get my upper lip waxed at age ~14, and my mom wouldn’t let me.  So, because I was as rebellious as play doh, I didn’t wax it and just dealt with my discomfort.  At ~16, my dad told me I should do something about it.  The inappropriateness of this comment didn’t hit me at the time, I was just deeply ashamed and mumbled something about Mom not letting me.  He said he would talk to her.  I think I started using Nair or bleach or some such mostly ineffective product shortly thereafter.

I have so many more stories like that…embarrassment wearing the high cut bathing suits provided while on the high school swim team, rashes on my legs from shaving my sensitive skin and wearing pants all summer to hide the rash/stubble, hundreds spent on laser hair removal that was maybe 50% effective, etc.

In my early twenties, for a year I didn’t shave my legs.  I was self conscious the entire time.  Nobody except my parents said anything.  One night in the bath, I looked at my leg hair swirling around in the water and thought it looked ugly, so I shaved my legs.  I felt a deep sense of relief.

The expectation put on women to be hairless is ridiculous and makes no sense to me.  Women have hair.  Some have more than others.  It’s not unnatural and there should not be an expectation that it is removed.  Nobody (men included) should be shamed for their body hair.  It is such a strong force and so strictly policed.

Hair removal is also the removal of a secondary sex characteristic.  When men grow beards, it’s masculine and manly.  But for women, it’s more feminine to…not have hair, like we did before we hit puberty?  Seriously?  And to have body hair, particularly facial hair, is seen as transgressing gender norms when really it’s just an indicator that you are a grown adult.  This shit is fucked.

And yet it is so deeply conditioned (in me).  This past summer I had another flare up of leg rash, and thought long and hard about what to do.  Stop shaving?  Laser?  Waxing?  I did stop shaving for a few weeks, and wanted to hide my legs all the time.  I couldn’t bring myself to spent $500+ to make my legs socially acceptable.  I hate waxing and also hate spending $$ on it.  So, after some research, I started shaving with an old fashioned safety razor and local handmade shaving soap.  It has saved my legs from further rashes, thank god.  But I am fully aware that I am making this decision because I don’t have the strength and energy to take a stand on this issue.  This is not a feminist choice and I have a lot of cognitive dissonance around it.  I am a feminist, a lesbian, a femme, and I am sorry to say that on this battle I concede to the status quo.

To me, femme is deliberate femme-ininity.  It’s choosing how you want to be feminine and letting go of what you don’t want.  It’s detaching femininity from heterosexuality and making it powerful and legitimate in it’s own right.  I feel femmeinine with short hair, with strong brows, with my big nose, and wearing pants 98% of the time.  But I do not feel femmeinine with hairy legs or a moustache and I think that is 100% social conditioning.

I have not fooled myself into thinking I genuinely prefer to look hairless.  I certainly like having sharp defined brows because I think they are beautiful.  I have no doubt that if we lived in a world that glorified and encouraged hair on women, I would let my legs (and most of my face, and armpits, and nethers) be the way they so stubbornly want to be.  I’d probably have a lovely goatee.  I would wear short shorts in the summer and let people admire my white skin and black hair.  It would be amazing.

I love seeing hairy women.  It would be so refreshing to see women with fuzzy (or furry) legs, mustaches, beards, hairy armpits, pubic hair around their bathing suit, unibrows, etc.  I know how much strength it takes to go through the world like that, because it is strength I don’t have.  Maybe one day.

If you made it this far, congratulations, you can collect your gold star.  Do you go through elaborate hair removal routines?  Have you achieved nirvana and said “fuck it” to hair removal to please the patriarchy?  Any tips for getting there?

Makeup and the Devaluation of Femininity

Originally posted by Taylor on January 19 2016

 

In my journey towards identifying as femme, and in figuring out makeup, I had to confront my own internalized misogyny. Misogyny is not quite the right word for it, as that means the hatred or dislike of women. I was feeling a scorn, lack of respect, and devaluation for femininity, and I knew that wasn’t ok.

Every time I had to dress up for a professional event, I made sure not to look too feminine. When going out to queer events, I dressed in more of a boyish style – not because that felt more like me, but that’s what I thought “looked gay” and deserving of respect. Eventually I clued in to what I was doing, how I was passing over my beloved but rarely worn heels for a pair of oxfords, and knew this feeling – like I couldn’t be respected when I looked more feminine – was bullshit.

This led me to femme, and to playing around with makeup (and more femme-inine clothes). My first black liquid eyeliner felt groundbreaking, even though to most people it’s just eyeliner. To me, it was a symbol of visible makeup that was not trying to be natural, when all of my makeup before was subtle and minimal enough that I could pretend I wasn’t wearing anything. Lipstick plays that role now – I wear it nearly every day and in shades that are nowhere near subtle.

Still, sometimes I feel self conscious. The internalized devaluation of femininity is strong. I try not to let it affect the way I put myself together, and I know that wearing makeup does not make me any less good at my work, or any less deserving of respect (hell, I hope I get more respect for it). My partner is super encouraging, and I am very grateful for her. I would like to get to a place of truly not giving a fuck, and until then I will keep faking it till I make it.

Does anyone else feel this way? How do you get to a super secure place in your presentation? What helps you be you on those less confident days?

 

Welcome to Queering Makeup!

Queering Makeup began as a discussion on xoVain, and turned into a Disqus discussion group.  We realized that was probably not the best platform for it, so now we have a blog.  Past discussions will be copied here and linked back to the original, and though comments on Disqus are closed, please feel free to comment here!

The first post:

What topics are important to you?

Welcome to the first discussion! I was thinking of topics for this first one but realized I didn’t know what people want to talk about. So, this is the place to talk about what you are wanting to see in a queer makeup community. What discussions have you been missing from more mainstream beauty sites, or in real life? What is important to you with regards to makeup/beauty and queerness? How/does makeup affect your identity and/or gender presentation?