“Girl, you don’t need makeup!”

Lindsey Kelk on the backhanded compliment that makes her feel punchy

If you don’t already know who Amy Schumer is, please open another window, Google her and then we’ll start again. No really, I’ll wait. It’ll be worth it. If you do know who Amy Schumer is, good for you! Now, did you see that parody she did of a One Direction video? The ‘Girl, You Don’t Need Make Up’ one? You did? Congrats! If you didn’t, you know what I’m going to say. This is the internet, we’ve got literally all day. Please go and enjoy.

I love Amy Schumer for many reasons but this sketch truly made my heart sing. For as long as I’ve had ears and known men, I’ve heard men say they ‘don’t like girls who wear a lot of make up’. When I was sixteen and covered in silver eyeliner and Rimmel Black Cherries lipstick, one of my male friends told me I looked like a robot. When I was twenty-two and working in beauty PR, my boyfriend laughed at my bright teal eye with winged black liner and merrily declared that I looked like a drag queen. Last year, my boyfriend confidently assured me that men wouldn’t like my friend’s make up because she was wearing ‘so much’. I asked how he felt about mine and was told mine was fine because I was barely wearing any. Apparently twelve products counts as ‘barely any’. My friend was wearing maybe four things.

As Schumer so brilliantly sums up in her video, when a man says a woman doesn’t need make up, what he means is, he doesn’t want to know she does need make up. He wants you to look natural but idealised and always perfected. The red lippie and Kardashian contouring might scare him off but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want you to get busy with the foundation and mascara. Even though I was easily wearing three times as much make up as my friend, because it wasn’t obvious to the untrained eye (any one of you might have noted blush, bronzer and highlighter) it was immediately assumed that I hardly had a scrap of slap on my face whereas my friend had a litany of sins to cover up.

The most important thing to note of course is that how much make up I wear, you wear or Amy Schumer chooses to plaster on her beautiful mug, has absolutely fuck all to do with any man. It is a subject that has me in a state of perpetual bafflement. What is it about make up that offends some men so? Are they afraid of a woman in strong make up? Are they confused by it? Does it intimidate them that a woman should want to emphasise her features and draw attention to herself? I was once on a date with a man in New York who declared that he hated ‘all that fake shit’ and when I mentioned that I coloured my hair and was wearing eyelash extensions, fixed me with a narrow glare and asked ‘what else I was lying about’. No, really.

Sadly, make-up bashing isn’t exclusively a hobby for the boys. I’ve come up against more than one woman who considered me ‘less than’ because I’ve shown an outward interest in talking and writing about slap when they don’t feel it’s necessary. One friend recently divulged that a mutual acquaintance of ours had asked if she knew I was a beauty blogger in a tone you or I might reserve for someone who flashes at kids, runs away to join ISIS or openly likes Dapper Laughs.

If I had a pound for every time someone has reacted this way when I’ve told them I write a beauty blog, I’d have enough pounds to buy a coveted Christian Louboutin nail polish or seven. And wanting to spend said pounds on said Christian Louboutin nail polish does not make me stupid or a spendthrift or a bad feminist, in case you were wondering. I love make up because it makes me happy, it’s a way of expressing myself and quite frankly, I’m not interested in justifying it to anyone else, male or female, thank you very much.

Judging a woman because the make up she does or doesn’t wear is misogyny at its finest and it’s tragic. The very thought of a woman missing out on the joy of a bright red lipstick because she’s worried what someone else might think raises my heckles like little else. Maybe the boys in my sixth form laughed at me in 1997 but my silver eyeliner and Rimmel lipstick made me feel closer to the bands I loved when I was an awkward teenager and I learned more essential life lessons from Sleeper and Kenickie than I ever did from spotty 17-year-olds at North Border Comprehensive. Every time a man tells a woman he doesn’t like make up and she compromises her own opinions to satisfy his, a lipstick loses its wings and we all lose a battle in a much bigger war.

Girl, you don’t need make up but remember, the next time someone tells you they don’t like women who wear make up, they’re the one you don’t need.


Lindsey is a British novelist and lipstick obsessive, currently living in Los Angeles, in spite of her better judgement. She loves eyeliner, karaoke and professional wrestling and is happiest when all three of those things come together. Which isn’t often.

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