Do you know what a clown face is?
You know… the faces of the circus clowns you went to see with your family when you were younger? You would surely remember them being painted vividly in whites, reds, yellows, and nearly every other ridiculous colour in between, ever so exciting to see! Juggling balls and bowling pins, handing out cotton candy and balloons, the stuff of your dreams! Their hair, you earlier thought, was always in the most imaginative colours; which later, you came to realize, was purposefully died neither to complement nor enhance the silly painting of their face. As you got older, you stopped going to the circus year-after-year, yet you never stopped seeing the clowns. They were there at every mall where you and your friends hung out in middle school, under the pretense of making balloon animals for the young, unsuspecting children. They were there again when you went on your first high school date at the town fairgrounds one summer. You noticed this time that they weren’t any longer the happy, multi-coloured, amicable characters you saw in your childhood. You saw their facial expressions ranging from sadness to smirking, and even to scary. They became the face of your worst nightmares. Clown faces.
Now, imagine seeing that horror every single day of your life, everywhere you went…
But I’m not talking about those kinds of clown faces. What I’m talking about, though, is guaranteed to be just as silly and burn-into-your-brain unforgettable. I’m talking about girls with makeup that supersedes their complexion, and then their personality in its entirety. I’m talking about the new trend of clown-face makeup contouring, shading, and sculpting… and how absolutely ridiculous I think it is.
Why and how, I ask myself every day, do we live in a society where an 11-year-old girl, who should ideally be focused on her school and her friends, is using her allowance to buy waterproof mascara? Why and how, does a 14-year-old girl feel the necessity of wearing lipstick, eyeliner, things I didn’t even grow up knowing about, before she walks to school at 7 in the morning? Because she’s not pretty? Because she’s not pretty enough? Why do 18-year-old young women feel the need to contour the livelihood out of their faces to appear thinner, sleeker, sexier, more beautiful? Why is turning your face into a ‘clown’ with makeup the prerequisite for beauty nowadays? Who made this idiotic definition of beauty?!
When I was in high school, most of my friends would put on makeup every day before coming to school – concealers, eyeliners, the works! They’d dye, straighten, or curl their hair. They’d do their nails, and be all prim and proper, head to toe. All for what?
If ever for once I thought these girls were doing it for themselves, because they felt good inside by appearing presentable (although my definition of presentable varies significantly from that of most of my female peers), then I wouldn’t be half as frustrated as I am now. If it made them more confident, that’d be great. If it made them truly happier, that’d be great. But the sad truth of the matter is, most often, it’s not done for some sort of internal pleasure or self-satisfaction.
It’s often done to fit in.
It’s often done to cater to society’s expectations of what “beautiful” looks like.
It’s often done to reassure acceptance, even that of strangers whose opinions don’t matter.
It’s often done to attract attention or invoke positive responses to their physical appearances.
It’s often done to cover up who they are and how insecure they feel about themselves.
In middle school, a girl left her makeup at home and couldn’t reapply her makeup after a gym class we had together. She was frustrated in the change room after gym period was over, and explained to me her situation when I asked what was wrong. I thought it was far too little to be worried about, and I told her that it’d be fine, that she looked great regardless. She got angry, and told me I understood nothing, because I just played sports, tied up my hair in a bun like I didn’t care, and never put on any makeup for the boys.
That day, I questioned, for the first time, whether or not I should’ve been wearing makeup to school. Playing sports was already not girly, I knew, and on top of that I didn’t own a single bottle of mascara? Was I crazy? I asked my mom that night.
“You don’t need makeup to be beautiful. Makeup cannot make you a good person or beautiful human. Anushree, you’re honest, you’re polite and kind to the people you meet, you offer help and generosity to our neighbours… these are the things that make you beautiful.”
Luckily, my mom kept the absurdities of that morning out of my head long enough to build up my confidence and self-esteem, even without any makeup.
Thinking about it now, I realize that it is a great loss to society that women don’t realize that they don’t need makeup to look beautiful. The worst part is that our society capitalizes on these insecurities. We show young, impressionable girls the so-called benefits of wearing makeup, dressing up, pleasing other people; usually, the prettiest girls get to be with the best boys. Perhaps this is a long-coming non-development from our historically patriarchal world, something from which we have not completely reached any equilibrium, contrary to new emerging trends about gender equality. Young girls and women are taught to buy into this “sexy” structural model, to fit this ideal role of being commercially savvy to be known as beautiful.
They shouldn’t need a particular shade of lipstick to tell them their self-worth. It’s wrong. It’s just plain wrong.
A version of this was originally submitted in July 2015 as an assignment for a writing class I am taking at York University, Toronto.