Argan oil. Primer. BB Cream. Foundation. Maybe a little concealer. Pressed powder. Bronzer. Blush. Eyeshadow. Another color eye shadow. Eyeliner. Eyebrow pencil. Mascara. Lip gloss.
That’s 14 products. I use 14 products to achieve my usual daily makeup look, which most would describe as “natural.” Fourteen products go into making me look like I’m not wearing 14 products. Strangely enough, I probably use a few less products when I’m going for something bolder or less “natural.” The point being, it actually takes as many if not more makeup to achieve the “natural” look.
I am pretty sure many men don’t realize this, however. Take, for example, Tom Matlack, founder of the Good Men Project, who contributes his thoughts to The New York Times‘ “Room For Debate” discussion about women and makeup today.
The Times posed the question “Does makeup help or hinder a woman’s self-esteem?” to seven people, including two makeup artists, two authors, and one straight man (Matlack). As Amanda Marcotte pointed out in her piece on Slate about the topic, “the ‘debate’ positions range from ‘wear makeup if you like it’ to ‘wear makeup or don’t, depending on what you prefer,’” so, really, there wasn’t a debate at all. But Matlack’s response stuck out because of his obvious effort to emphasize that while women should do whatever they want makeup wise, he loves his wife “most when she has nothing on.”
Really, the level of love you feel for your wife changes depending on how much makeup she’s wearing? Oof. I actually suspect Matlack thinks he’s being wildly progressive for both preferring his wife au natural and claiming we shouldn’t judge women for their makeup choices. And yet he’s quick to point out that when his wife does wear makeup it’s always “tasteful.” While Matlack never tells us what he means by tasteful, he does say that he sees makeup as being in the same category as fake breasts, so I assume his wife’s approach to application is like getting a pair of small C-cups as opposed to Double-Ds. Tasteful is subtle and, ahem, natural-appearing, but as the list of products that goes into my “tasteful” makeup routine indicates, it’s not actually natural. In fact, might even be less natural than a more “tasteless” — i.e. obvious — beauty look. How people, including men like Matlack, judge makeup really has less to do with how much is used and more to do with what message that look is supposedly sending to the outside world. Tasteful! Natural! Taseless! Garish! French whore-y! You get the picture.
The reason why I’m so riled up about Matlack’s “sticky-sweet, seemingly un-controversial, sneakily shallow, yet still totally tone deaf piece of buffoonery” (to quote a friend who also read the article) is because it echoes an all too common refrain I’ve heard from many men. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard some dude go on and on about how he prefers women to not wear makeup. Guess what dudes who say stuff like this, including you, Tom Matlack? What you think is “no makeup” actually is makeup. When men say they like the natural look, what they’re really saying is “I’m glad you’re conventionally pretty enough to look like you don’t need to wear makeup even though you’re totally wearing makeup right now.” I mean, why did Matlack throw in that reference to his wife’s hot body if not to make it abundantly clear that not only is she beautiful to him but also beautiful in a conventional way that everyone, particularly other men, can understand? While I’m sure Matlack thinks his wife is lovely first thing in the morning, before she’s put on her makeup, I would be shocked if he sincerely prefers it over the perfectly polished, “tasteful” and natural-looking makeup she regularly wears when they’re in public. I have yet to meet any man who actually preferred no makeup over the no makeup look.
The thing is, I don’t actually care if I ever do. I actually believe women should do whatever the fuck they want to with makeup — wear it, don’t wear it, regardless of what men think or think they think or pretend to think about it. So can we stop asking them now?