This is our truth, tell us yours
CN for very brief mention of suicide, and longer, but without details of childhood sexual abuse.
There seems to be a belief that a cis (ish) womans relationship with make up is a simple one. Hormones land, and the next few years are about girly experimentation with your girly gal pals, sharing girly tips and being told “you are not going out like that”. My teen discovery of enhancements, from heels to make up was, as every persons is, slightly more complex than a chapter in a Caitlin Moran book.
This could go into an incredibly naval gazey blog about my mother, the sort of person who told me my legs were too fat to wear heels, and complained when a suicide attempt ruined a shopping trip. It could, but I am determined it wont, since that is only of use to me, and I hope that I write things that spark comprehension and understanding in others.
So, the all gals together teen narrative never happened. I never really “got” make up. My mum (she does have a habit of pushing her way into things) had loads, and a tween I did used to play with it. However there was never any offer to buy me my own, or to show me how to use it. Which may sound like a privileged whine until you understand that everything becomes complicated by the fact that as a tween I felt desirable, and as a teen I did not. Your ideas about womanhood and desirability are a complex mess when you experience sexual abuse pre puberty, and the end of that relationship matches the start of puberty. For me the bodily markers of womanness, be they breasts or blusher, were laden with the baggage of being deserted by my abuser.
I did experiment, finding my own style, one of short skirts, Docs and tweed jackets. It was, unconventional, and rejected many traditional markers of femininity. I convinced myself that I was uninterested in make up, when in fact it scared and confused me in equal measure. The one thing I would have loved would have been able to say to another woman, hey how does this shit work?
So, when I hear that apparently trans women are “oppressing” cis women by asking for make up tips, my whole life history comes into play with a huge NOPE. Forget about empathy, or compassion. Forget about the fact that if someone asks for help, maybe the decent thing is to help them. Even forget about the fact that as far as I know there is no huge issue with cis women unable to move for trans women demanding make up tips. Hell even forget about the fact some of the most successful You tube bloggers are cis women who give make up tips. Put that all to one side for a moment and consider a simple fact, we do not all come to our womanness by the same route, and when you insist we do, many are left lonely on the road side, wondering where do I fit in.
Part of the problem, or so it seems to me, of white feminism ™ is that it wants to impose one narrative, and that narrative is the one that most closely fits their lives. So someone who has, perhaps once or twice, been asked for make up advice (benefit of the doubt it even happened here) is upset because within their personal story make up has a certain meaning. It’s the Betty Friedman school of feminism, look at what I have struggled with and ignore the struggles of all those lesser women. Yes, for some women it’s an issue that they decided not to wear make up. I respect that patriarchy demands a certain look, especially in middle class careers. But that is simply one narrative, like claiming women could not work. If someone is unaware of your personal narrative that is not a personal insult, thats life. It does not mean you did not face hard choices, but if you want those choices respected, you first need to recognise the other choices other people are making.
For me it would be an incredible moment if someone asked for make up tips. Its the relationship with my mother I never had. Its the lonely teens. Its deciding in my 30s to explore being femme. Its being a sex worker and make up being as much of the job as condoms. It’s every step on my way since I was born, and its a bunch of stuff people will never know unless they asked. And thats OK, I dont expect them to know. The thing is white feminism is demanding everyone know, and give them primacy, while never taking a moment to consider the life stories of others.