How Men Perceive Makeup Shapes How I Perceive Men

Society tells men that makeup is used solely by women, and only to make them look prettier/disguise their ugliness.
Publish date:
June 28, 2016
makeup artists, men, Dating, Instagram, Tinder

I've had Tinder on my phone sporadically for the past couple of years. I've never actually met anyone in person from it — not because I don't want to, but because I have the occasional fear of humans. I'm an outgoing introvert: I'm the life of the party once you get to know me, but to get to know me is a struggle. And the struggle is real. I get massive anxiety over going to new places, being in tight quarters with strangers (i.e. the subway), and meeting new people. I am especially anxious while meeting new people in tight quarters surrounded by strangers. So blind dates and the like are out of the question.

Regardless, Tinder has provided an unexpected form of entertainment. My friends and I jokingly message screenshots back and forth of insulting opening lines and misogynistic bios, mostly as a coping mechanism to deal with dating these days. (The rest of the time we communally cry into our glasses of Trader Joe's wine while watching The Bachelorette.)

My favorite (and by "favorite" I mean absolute least favorite) messages I receive on Tinder reference my makeup. It's very clear from my profile that I'm a makeup artist. For good measure, four out of the five pictures on my profile involve intense makeup and hair extensions because, well, that's me. You'll only ever see me in full beat. It's part of my personality. However, the men that contact me do not know how to properly interact with that.

"You look much better without makeup," said one guy, referring to a photo on my profile in which I'm actually wearing 10 times more makeup than usual, just in natural tones. I kindly let him know how misinformed his opinion was.

"You're so gothic. Why do you look like that?" Well, firstly, if I were gothic I'd probably be even more awesome than I am right now. But in which picture did I appear gothic? Was it in this one?

Or in this one?

"Here comes trouble," said another. Why, because I'm wearing black eyeliner? I'll have you know I graduated top of my class from both high school and NYU. I didn't even drink or curse until I was in college. I never broke a law, got detention, or even stayed out past a curfew because I'm a stickler for rules. Really troubling, I'm sure.

And my personal favorite: "I'd like to see how that lipstick would look all over me." To which I responded, "Same, sir! I love a good drag queen!"

Many men have a problem with my makeup, telling me that I look better without it, because clearly, all the art I do is for the straight male gaze. To be honest, even on the days when I don't leave the house, I still do my makeup, simply because I enjoy doing it.

A few months ago, I was cyber-bullied for saying that makeup is a form of creative self-expression rather than a ploy to fool, trick, or trap men. I did my friend Emily's makeup for an impromptu photoshoot, which she promptly posted on her Instagram. Emily has over 60,000 followers that consists of mostly men. When one of those men insulted her for wearing makeup, I responded, as the artist of the creation, defending her right to wear whatever she so chooses without fear of the commentary of others.

Not only did he respond with misogynistic messages on her photo, he then proceeded to wander on to my page and leave hateful, makeup-shaming comments there. When we both blocked his account, he created a new account from which to harass us further, linking a "scientific" study on why women wear makeup solely to attract men in the bio. This went on for weeks before (I assume) his fury fizzled out.

All this happened because I put some red, glossy lipstick on my friend.

Yet I know this aggression toward makeup is not a genetic trait. It's not inextricably linked to the Y chromosome. It's most certainly carefully taught. It's a part of the script men are handed at birth by society: a society that tells men makeup is used solely by women and only to make them look prettier/disguise their ugliness. I know for a fact that these assumptions are not biological because I have dozens of male friends who compliment my makeup every time I see them; dozens of male friends who de-stigmatize makeup and frequently wear BB cream or concealer. And, perhaps most subversively, I have dozens of male friends who love and excel at makeup, both on themselves and others. I wish my male friends were the rule, not the exception.

One of my best friends, Richard (though you may know him from his recent viral-ity as @theofficialariel), inspires and instills confidence in me and my relationship with makeup constantly and consistently. He has always championed my neon, holographic, club-ready day looks, and has marveled at my transformations when I wore more natural creations. What I love more than anything is that he never prefers one look over another. He appreciates every look for what it is.

Not only does he support me in my makeup journey, he's killing his own as well! TeenVogue, Cosmopolitan, and even the National Enquirer have all written about his amazing Disney princess transformations as well. Even when he's not a Disney princess, his brows and complexion are always perfection. Richard's relationship with makeup is not aggressive, nor is it negative. It's healthy, supportive, inspiring, and subversive.

For @psychofishes only. 💋SURPRISE I'm at D23 today

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Like Richard, Randy, aka @theboyandhismakeup, as his Instagram name implies, is a boy whose relationship with makeup couldn't be further from toxic (unless we're referring to the Britney Spears song). Randy wears full beat pretty much every single moment of his existence. Randy's relationship with makeup has been subversive, but always positive. He began satisfying his makeup cravings early on in high school, as a way to express his artistic impulses when theatre and costumes weren't quite doing it. It began when he purchased the Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual at a Barnes & Noble, and he obsessively read cover to cover. He started wearing clear mascara and foundation on the DL, removing it before returning home. When his mom found his secret stash, she was "a little hard on [him]." She has since come around, however, partially due to Randy's successes on Instagram.

His page, which features big, bright, and bold looks, has garnered a lot of attention. As Randy's online persona grew, so did his personal passion for wearing makeup. He evolved from wearing foundation and mascara, growing closer to the person he was portraying on social media. If Randy is Beyoncé, then @theboyandmymakeup is Sasha Fierce.

"I know, obviously, if I'm a boy in black lipstick, people are going to stare... [but] obviously, if I'm on the train with black lipstick at 9 a.m., I really don't care what you say," he said.

Randy says makeup has given him the courage to "live the way I want to live." The same lipstick that made him afraid to take the subway home alone at midnight now helps him to feel brave. It has given him the courage to grow into the beautiful person he is today. Now, as a makeup artist, Randy shares that confidence with others on the daily.

But it doesn't take being a makeup artist for a man to appreciate makeup. I have countless friends and acquaintances who are an endless stream of support for my creations. They comment on my eyeshadow colors, my highlight, and my skill. They acknowledge the patience and technique required to perfect a cat eye. They post inspo on my Facebook wall that has "reminded them of me," and they like my "natural" posts just as much as my more "editorial" posts. These men set the standard for what a man's relationship with makeup should be.

If you don't like makeup, that's fine. Don't wear it. But don't belittle me for expressing the golden, glittery unicorn inside my heart.

As RuPaul says, "We're all born naked and the rest is drag." We all make choices about what to put on our bodies and how to portray ourselves to the world. My cat eye is the same as Nike shoes or suits or trucker hats. It allows me to express what's inside. And we're all entitled to our creative self-expression.