Hanukkah, or Defying a Government that Oppresses You
Women's March on Washington

Done with Make-up

About a month ago, I stopped wearing make-up. It wasn’t as if I threw away an array of bottles and tubes, and then rethought my look and retooled my morning routine. Nope, I threw out one tube of mascara, one blush compact, one eye shadow compact with eight shades of brown and beige, and one green eye shadow compact. It wasn’t even done as a protest against make-up (kind of obvious with the number of items I had; anyway, I had already made that protest in my teens) and how we women are made to think that we cannot be without adjustments and alterations. My act was to prevent even more chemicals seeping into my body. In the month since that act, I have become surprisingly relaxed and comfortable about my appearance—and this from a woman who had already been pretty relaxed. (What a joy to be middle-aged!)

I’ve stopped leaning into the mirror to critique myself. I’m not looking to find what needs to be hidden (except the “occasional” chin hair to be plucked), even with my minimal tools, or to declare the dullness of my looks, casting a pall upon my mood even before my day has started. Nope. I’m not looking for—and, of course, finding—signs of age, stress, lackluster features, a general discontent reflected back at me. Getting rid of make-up has helped me to stop worrying about interpreting my visual self and then to, seamlessly, infuriatingly, depressingly, impute that upon my internal, unseen self. And, if I’m not worrying about how I look, then I’m not worrying about what other people think about how I look, and so I can simply prepare myself for my day.

That ease has transferred to my clothing. As my make-up was utilitarian, so too are the clothes in my closet. Thinking back on this past month, I find that I have focused more on how I want to feel, and, logically, the weather, rather than on how I want to present myself. I’ve cut myself loose from external guidelines and expectations, and it’s been darn good. It’s as if I’m living my internal life externally.

Perhaps this has been my reaction to the election: my discomfort with the world and this pervasive sense of doom and uncertainty have led me to strip away the non-essentials. Perhaps a world that seems focused on the external, the barely thought, the quick assessment and denigration of others, is one in which I can protest simply by centering within and honoring myself, and use that as a deep base from which to face those perceptions. Perhaps this is a way to not allow the ugliness in; to protect myself from words and demeanors that degrade. Perhaps this non-compliance with a norm is a step in undermining its weight—I will not allow external entities to evaluate me.

This is the way forward.

This protective action that, for me, seems to be a proclamation against the misogynists and people who “simply” think men are more/better than women. I continue to stand against their misguided interpretation of strength, independence, interdependence, and what it means to be beautiful.

And I call out to women and men to join me. Each woman should take a step in/out that affirms that she will not be defined or sidelined. And each man should look in/out for echoes of thoughts and actions that belie a paternalistic interpretation.

It’s absurd that we’re still at a point where pernicious, belittling attitudes toward women hold sway. It’s absurd that men still let themselves be bridled by a confidence that is not theirs, but on which they ride.

It’s time to cast aside prohibitive stereotypes and embrace feminism, for it seems that our well-being and that of our world depends on it.

Yes, all that from not wearing make-up. 


Margaret Lesh

Laura, I just want to be comfortable. I want shoes that don't hurt my feet. I do still wear makeup, but not every day, and it's limited to what can fit in a small bag. I was at a women's breast cancer support group, and they had a raffle prize which was an eyebrow kit. I gave the leader a puzzled look and told her no, thank you. I wouldn't even have the slightest clue what to do with it.

So much of these things are distractions, and the older I get, the more simplicity I crave. It helps to free the mind. This must be why those who take religious vows rid themselves of worldly possessions. It makes much more sense to me now.

I met an older woman today (probably 80) whose husband told me that she wanted to be a chemist when she was young, but her parents said no, so she studied home economics instead. How sad. Let's not go back to that kind of thinking where woman are mere chattel.

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

Margaret, I truly believe that we have risen and we're not going back! (At least many many many of us.)

In one day this past week I watched a movie about a Bedouin woman who tried to break from the patriarchy of her society, but couldn't; and then read an article about Bedouin women who started their own small businesses to support themselves mentally and financially.

If women are putting make-up on to feel stronger and give themselves confidence, then good for them, but if they're doing it out of a sense of needing to do what is expected of them, then it's time to think about why they're doing it. It's about being comfortable, but it's also about letting the modern binds drop.

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