Having just got Pretty Normal Me onto Instagram I instantly handed my phone to my sister (who’s social media game is A*) and asked her to follow some inspiring, interesting and relevant accounts for me.
One of the ones that she followed was that of Boy Beauty Vlogger, MannyMUA who shares his makeup tutorials across various platforms. At the time, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t really think anything of it, we’re living in a world fighting tooth and nail for pro gay/trans/fat/black/white/male/muslim/christian/small rights and I am as liberal as they come. What difference did it make to me that it was a man teaching me how to contour as opposed to a woman? None at all.
I then got home and saw a leaflet for Jeffree Star Cosmetics, modelled by the man himself. A man who, Katya tells me, isn’t trans and that he still identifies as a man. He does however wear makeup, wigs and on occasion, women’s clothing.
Both of these men and countless like them have made huge successes of their lives, but that does not mean that they have had an easy ride to the top. Because despite the fact we are living in an incredible time of barrier-bashing, we are as a society of course not as open minded as we would like to think that we are.
And the reason why we struggle to be supportive and okay with men like Manny and Jeffree? Simple, it’s because we don’t understand them. Because to us, real men talk exclusively about meat, guns and women right? They don’t cry, care much for fashion and are quite handy with a tool kit…. aren’t they?
“Real men don’t wear makeup. If and only if he wants do this, he simply must identify as trans… that way we’ll be able to understand it.” – society circa 2016.
What we like and what we need is labels. They help us to deal with the new world. The idea of homosexuality, although still yet to be accepted by many, has been embraced by countless others who have been able to see it, label it and accept it as ‘okay’. But with the likes of Caitlin Jenner, who isn’t gay, smashing down barriers as far as transgender issues are perceived, we have seen the lines blur and the acceptance waiver. People are made uncomfortable by what they don’t understand, and here in lies the problem.
Jeffree Star’s boyfriend does not identify as gay, instead he says that he loves PEOPLE, it just so happens that the person that he has fallen in love with is a man. Which is something incredibly beautiful and something that, given the chance, support and courage, many of us would do too. In an ideal world, that’s what love would be.
And it’s perhaps not too bigger leap to suggest that both Jeffree and Manny’s relationship with makeup does not stray too far from this mindset. These men aren’t wearing it because they want to look like a woman, (MannyMUA still keeps his stubble), they do it because they like makeup, they appreciate beauty and I suspect the way it makes them feel. Much like why some people like apple juice, or fast cars. The only difference with this is that makeup is considered “girly”. It’s something that us girls do, like bleeding once a month or talking about boys…. oh no, wait..
But who said that makeup was exclusively for girls anyway? When did that become a thing? You know, I LIVE for my makeup bag. I’m in the middle of the worst breakout ever right now and if it wasn’t for my foundation and concealer, even with my abundance of self confidence, I would feel mortified leaving the house bare-faced. I love how I can use bronzer to define my face and mascara to make my eyes pop. I love how it makes me feel. But why is this a privilege bestowed only on girls?
I can’t tell you the amount of times I see young men and boys with acne or spots, evidently self conscious, who I wish were ‘allowed’ to wear makeup. Not because they should feel that they ought to be hiding themselves, but because they too deserve the opportunity to make themselves feel more confident.
My boyfriend used to be in a boyband and before he would go on stage, he would spend however long in hair and makeup which although I sniggered at, I never thought much of. Until one day I found a stick of concealer in his room and I teased him ruthlessly. You know I still kicky myself for that? Because it just didn’t occur to me at the time that the pressure he was under to look great the whole time too was massive. One bad day and you’re out… teenage girls can be ruthless like that.
With makeup, us girls have the power to be anything that we want to be, we can create new identities, hide behind our war paint, create the most beautiful and confident being. We can conceal what we don’t want to be shown and extenuate the things that we are proud of. We can be whoever we want to be.
Yet when men do exactly the same thing, they’re ridiculed, they’re seen as a novelty, they’re labeled and judged… which ironically defeats the whole point of makeup in the first place.
What we don’t realise is quite how lucky we are to have this option… sure society gives us a hard time in making us feel like we need to wear it in order for us to be beautiful, but at least we can deal with this bullshit by literally painting a brave face on it.
Men just don’t have that luxury, and until we find ourselves in a world where we can look at a photo of a man in makeup and not do a double take, question his sexuality or judge him for his choices, then they never will, and I can’t be the only one who thinks that they deserve that.