Some Thoughts: Feminism, Fashion, and Makeup

Some Thoughts: Feminism, Fashion, and Makeup

The ideas that get me most excited these days are those that represent a softening of a previously binary set of options (either, or) into a spectrum that allows for a much richer discussion and, hopefully, helps us land in a spot that feels more philosophically and practically relevant to our lives. For example, you can love fashion and care about matters of social and environmental justice. You can consume things and be conscious and judicious about that consumption. You can embrace polarity; in fact, you might be better off if you do. I'm inspired by people who are questioning our previous handling of these kinds of topics and giving us a little space and agency to rethink our relationships with some of the most important facets of our lives. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of those people for me. 

I came across this article about how Adichie, one of the world's leading feminist voices, as well as one of the most influential Africans, has just become the face of a cosmetics brand- Boots No7. And it really got me thinking- what is the relationship between feminism and our appearance? What is the responsibility of a thinking woman who decides to also make clear her interest in her appearance? 

In a post she wrote about raising a daughter, Adichie writes this: 

"If she likes makeup let her wear it. If she likes fashion let her dress up. But if she doesn’t like either let her be. Don’t think that raising her feminist means forcing her to reject femininity. Feminism and femininity are not mutually exclusive. It is misogynistic to suggest that they are. Sadly, women have learned to be ashamed and apologetic about pursuits that are seen as traditionally female, such as fashion and makeup. But our society does not expect men to feel ashamed of pursuits considered generally male – sports cars, certain professional sports. In the same way, men’s grooming is never suspect in the way women’s grooming is – a well-dressed man does not worry that, because he is dressed well, certain assumptions might be made about his intelligence, his ability or his seriousness." 

- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie via her Facebook page

Where earlier waves of feminism rejected those pursuits more firmly in the female realm, including very explicitly those linked to our appearance, here is a modern day feminist telling us to wear what we love, to proudly dress up and make up. If I understand her correctly, it sounds as if she's saying that reclaiming our femininity, and expressing it boldly in whatever way we choose, is actually a feminist act. How refreshing. And perhaps more importantly, how powerful.

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