When I wrote my first post on make-up and YA almost a year ago, I was struck by how unfair and naïve the whole “inner beauty thumps all” argument is. With its unnecessary emphasis on the desperation of the girls wearing mascara and foundation, it seemed like the whole industry was trying to overcompensate for a materialistic culture that undermines women’s self-esteem. In fact, I was so focused on the economic unfairness, I completely overlooked what happens when you swing too far into the other way.
Picture this – a girl with blue hair, sparkly tights, and a vintage bicycle. Or a girl who changes her looks every day, going from one drastic end to the other. Or how about one that wears only ironic T-shirts and red lipstick.
Yeah. I’m talking about MPDGs. Again.
Did you know that less than 13 years ago, excessive make-up use was considered a sign of a mental illness? Liz Frost has a very interesting essay on “Doing Looks” in “Women’s Bodies”, a 1999 collection which focuses on different ways in which women can experience their corporeality. (Because the body is more than just a meaty carcass we’re lugging around, as we already know.) Frost focuses on the ways in which women can use make-up and fashion to help their mental health, through role-playing and fun, and points out a sad, sad fallacy:
A woman who didn’t do enough for herself was scolded for letting herself go. But a woman who experimented too much with make-up was considered to be “crying for attention” and “crazy.”