My online experiences of the last week or so have reminded me, again, of how scathing many people can be about the notion of even the mildest vanity. It’s something I struggle with – not because I feel at all conflicted about my interest in aesthetics, make-up, hair, skin and so on – but because it’s hard to accept that people get so readily behind what are such ignorant female stereotypes. If you judge me for wanting my skin to look healthy and clear, for enjoying the rituals and creativity of make-up, for taking pride in looking my best then I’m afraid I judge you. I don’t care if you don’t wear make-up – I often don’t myself. Choice is key. And I certainly don’t care if you’re a man who prefers “the natural look”. The personal preferences of men I don’t know, who lack even basic manners in their dealings with others, are of absolutely no consequence to me and my face. I actually think it a great arrogance to be so prescriptive about how any woman should look – bare faced or made up, thin or fat, black or white. The common assertion that “beautiful women don’t need make-up” suggests to me a belief that those born beautiful are somehow superior to those of us who enhance what we have artificially. One could easily argue that this belief suggests a more worrying superficiality of character than can ever be directed at a woman who simply loves make-up.
On a deeper and more concerning level, the aggression directed at women who love beauty, or who happily spend £30 of their own, hard-earned money on a luxury serum, or who simply read a beauty column as they flick through the paper, suggests widespread misogyny. Such disapproval has much less to do with lipstick than with a deep seated scorn for women generally. I doubt any man has ever been approached at a rugby match or wine tasting, by a stranger demanding to know why the cost of his ticket hasn’t been donated to Amnesty International instead of squandered on his own silly whims. But a woman indulging her passion for fashion or beauty is seen to be acting selfishly, foolishly, even immorally. Because classically female pursuits (and I say this in the absolute knowledge that women enthusiastically attend rugby matches, wine tastings, the races and a host of other events commonly considered to be ‘male’), are considered daft purely because women are unfairly defined by their hobbies in the way men never are. A woman who likes nice moisturiser can’t possibly have any awareness of important world issues, nor any capacity for charity, nor any real sense of perspective because our limited intellectual resources are all tied up with self-indulgence and mirror gazing. A passion for surface clearly demonstrates a lack of depth.
Of course, anyone with an IQ in the triple digits knows that people – in this case, women – aren’t wired this way. I am frankly embarrassed for anyone prepared to share publicly such a wholly stupid point of view. Reading Vogue doesn’t make me unaware of everything beyond its pages, ignorant to the fact that the NHS is in serious danger, that over 90% of Guantanamo prisoners are being detained despite having been proven innocent in a court of law, that every week, two British women are killed by their current or ex partner. I know all of this, as I expect you do too. I vote, I support charities (including regular donations of beauty products to kids who don’t even have soap to wash their faces for school), I comment on current affairs on national news, I read voraciously, I attend events where I can learn more, and try to bring up my children to be kind and upstanding people. So now perhaps you could tell me what exactly, while you’re not spending your weekends berating women for wearing posh mascara as they live their diverse, well rounded and decent lives, are you doing that is so, so much better?