Misogyny and MakeUp, a.k.a. If You Want to be an Ally, Stop Talking and Listen

Oh Facebook. The land where radical feminists live next to redneck farmers, miles apart from each other in every way, but still neighbors on my status feed.

I love the diverse opinions it brings. I love the dialogue and chances for learning we all get from this electronic town square.

But sometimes, those learning opportunities just turn into fights where both sides end up hitting their heads against bricks, unable to progress forward.

Today, it wasn’t my diverse feed that was all uppity, it was Simone’s.

And it started with this post.

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Here’s the tumblr quote she references. (Go there and give it some Tumblr love).

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Of course, as is usual with conversations about race, misogyny, ableism, heteronormativity, cis-privilege, etc., a straight white male chimed in, stating he does indeed like women without makeup and how dare they claim men who say that are misogynistic.

Then all hell broke loose.

Then it kept breaking lose because he kept insisting they were wrong. He fought so damn hard to prove he wasn’t a misogynist and didn’t seem to get the irony in it all.

But the women did. And they didn’t back down. Some made snarky comments, some threw feminist confetti (where can I get this stuff?!), but most made highly intelligent arguments.

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I’m not including his name or his comments because I don’t bring this up to attack him. I bring this up to point out a valuable lesson that so many people don’t learn, and that is if you want to be an ally, you have to listen to the people that are actually affected by the injustices you’re claiming to fight.

It all reminded me of the whole Guy Kawasaki speaking at BlogHer incident. Instead of taking a moment to be a better ally, both these men spent their time and energy insisting the women were wrong, they really are great guys.

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I wasn’t in the trenches of this fight, but was asked to comment when it was close to over. Here’s my response:

 

I think it’s amazing that S—— wants to be a feminist, but the first rule to learn when you’re a privileged ally is to listen to the oppressed class. I wouldn’t go and tell a person of color that their point is invalid when they talk about racism because valid and invalid are not things I get to decide in that realm. Instead, I need to listen to their stories and concerns and work within their experiences, because they’re the ones experiencing the oppression. When someone says I did something racist, I don’t prove anything by yelling at them for calling me that. I can only help the situation by asking them what I did to come across as racist and what I could do better next time to not be racist. Then, if I really want to call myself an ally, I have to listen to them and absorb what they say. Same goes for men who want to call themselves feminists. You have to sit back and listen to women and trust that we know more than you do about misogyny because we live it and you do not.

Reading it all as a bystander, here’s what happened: You commented on a post Simone put up about the self-righteousness of men who say that they prefer women without makeup by saying the exact thing she was complaining about. Then when they pointed that out, you got pissed off. Your point was very valid, you’re not a misogynist for preferring women without makeup, but you were so busy trying to point out your case that you weren’t paying attention to the overall message this conversation is trying to convey. You were calling yourself a feminist without listening to the women with whom you’re attempting to be an ally.

The conversation is not about makeup and whether or not you like to see women in it, the conversation is about two things: 1. the social phenomenon of men who want to see themselves as feminists in theory but don’t want to do the work that it takes to be a feminist in practice (in this case they say they like women without makeup but they wouldn’t ever really date a woman who wasn’t actively keeping with a beauty regimen). 2. the comments made that come across as in support of women but are really still about the male perspective/gaze/opinion (“I like you better without makeup” is still about the male’s preference, not whether or not the woman wants to wear makeup or not, it’s still a statement that says that her looks have to be validated by a man to be ok).

When you took this conversation that is trying to have more depth back to a shallow level and expect a pat on the back for being a good guy who likes his women au natural, you are proving the exact point of the arguments made by the feminists here.

Also, cheers to the conversations about male bodied people being able to wear makeup.

 

I’m sharing it here because 1. I’m proud of it, 2. I like to share things with you all, and 3. I think there’s a lesson to be learned from this situation and the multitude of ones like it that happen daily. If you want to be an ally, stop talking and listen.

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Also, this was shared during that Facebook conversation and I love what it says about our perceptions of beauty as a society, loved how perfectly it fit into this idea of makeup and what people see as natural, so I’m adding it here at the end.tumblr_lsz5qp1mho1r3r0x4o1_r1_500

 

About Queerie Bradshaw

Lauren Marie Fleming is a writer, speaker and motivator known for her intimate, informative and often hilarious look at sex, relationships and body-image. Lauren runs the critically-acclaimed QueerieBradshaw.com blog, writes for major news sources including VICE, Nerve, Huffington Post and Curve, and is the author of her memoir Losing It: My Life as a Sex Blogger. In 2013, Lauren founded Frisky Feminist Press (FriskyFeminist.com) as a way to enhance conversations about sexuality through educational guides, online classes and entertaining publications. A law school graduate, Lauren has spoken all over the United States and is internationally recognized for her dynamic, engaging style. In everything she does, Lauren’s goal is to educate, remove stigmas and encourage people to achieve their desires.
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6 Responses to Misogyny and MakeUp, a.k.a. If You Want to be an Ally, Stop Talking and Listen

  1. Thanks for illuminating this Lauren! And for quoting us! This conversation needs a platform and you gave it! Bravo!

  2. Natasha says:

    I find comments along the lines of ‘without makeup, women look unwell’ troubling. I don’t think it’s helpful when women (or men) buy into this idea that makeup is the definition of beauty. It is one idea of beauty that is presented to us, but we don’t have to accept that!

  3. Johanna says:

    I love how well you explained it. I wish I was as good with words as you. Nearly gave me chills!! <3

  4. Hear, hear! I’m amazed by the ‘allies’ that don’t understand that they have to actually listen to the subgroup to attempt understanding.

  5. Morgan says:

    I really appreciate what this article is saying, I do, but there are a few things I find really alarming.

    1. There are some really serious trans-phobic undertones to this article. Re-posting that penis=man, and men’s genitals are what make them think they are superior to women is hella transphobic and you just silenced and ostracized trans*women and queer-gender folks (some women were assigned male at birth, get over it. This Freudian, 2nd wave cissexist notion that we are our genitalia is silencing and killing our queer community). Men aren’t misogynists because they have penises, they are misogynists because they are privileged and live in a society that validates and reinforces a hegemony (which masculine spectrum folks and women can also take part in). Stating “male-bodied people” can were make-up too is problematic and you need to check your language. How about “male-identified people” or “masculine-spectrum folks.” Better yet, ask queer-gender folks and trans*folks for language they want used.

    2. The use of “natural” woman should be questioned. What the hell is a “natural woman?” It sounds like another hegemonic construct that should be dismantled.

    3. I appreciate that you re-directed the conversation to be about more than male-gaze, but check your privilege. When you are not a cis, white women, beauty capital and “passing” takes on a whole new meaning in your life and may even be a means of survival, not just preferences or mere performativity. I feel like that needs to be stated.

    That said, thanks for posting. I’m learning and working through ignorance and privilege too.

    xoxox

    Morgan

    • Hi Morgan,

      Thanks for pointing out your concerns. Here’s my response to each:

      1. I’m assuming you’re meaning when Simone described “mansplaining” as “when someone with a penis …”, because I don’t see a reference to penis elsewhere in the article. Let me know if that’s not what you were referencing. I try to be as gender-neutral and inclusive as possible in my writing. Sometimes that doesn’t always happen with each article, especially when I am quoting others, and I am sorry if I “silenced and ostracized trans*women and queer-gender folks,” that was far from my intention. I fully recognize that not all woman have vaginas, not all men have penises and that gender is so much more complex than the binary boxes society puts on us.

      This is a great line you said and I agree with it fully: “Men aren’t misogynists because they have penises, they are misogynists because they are privileged and live in a society that validates and reinforces a hegemony (which masculine spectrum folks and women can also take part in).”

      Also, I use “male-bodied” because the trans* and genderqueer people in my life (lovers, friends, colleagues, myself even) have told me this is the phrase they prefer. If there is a term you feel is more inclusive, please share. I’m always open to learning new ways to express myself, both as a writer and an activist.

      2. The exact point of this conversation was to question what we see as “natural” when it comes to women. I agree with all of your points and would say that the pressure to conform to society’s skewed version of what makes someone feminine or masculine, male or female, is especially hard for trans* and genderqueer folk. I’d also include people who don’t conform to sizeist and ableist ideas of beauty as well.

      3. I am a genderqueer, fat, femme who may constantly, purposely fuck with societal ideas of gender norms but can easily pass in the world outside of the queer community if I so choose. I try to never take that privilege for granted and constantly work to be a better ally for the people in my life, and strangers I will never meet for that matter, that do not have the same security that I do.

      I am glad that you stated that sometimes makeup and so-called “beauty rituals” can be more than aesthetic, sometimes it can be a safety issue.

      I’m always open to learning how to be a better member of my all-empcompassing queer community, so I’m glad you felt you were able to reach out and have this conversation with me.

      Lauren, aka Queerie Bradshaw

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