In an article for Britain’s Independent, writer and radical feminist Julie Bindel takes a firm and unequivocal stand against… makeup. “Ditch the makeup bag,” she tells women, “it’s a far more radical statement than burning your bra.” Bindel explains that she herself wears no makeup and, therefore, you shouldn’t either. There it is, modern feminism in a nutshell: do what we tell you to do or you’re not a feminist.
Bindel spends much of her article touting her superiority over makeup-wearing women. “My morning beauty routine is very quick and simple,” she declares. “The only thing that goes on my face after my shower is unperfumed moisturiser; within 20 minutes from waking up, I am ready to leave the house.” She goes on to mock her “friend” who takes “a full 90 minutes” to get ready in the morning and wears makeup which “totally transforms her appearance.” Makeup, Bindel informs us, is “hideous gunk.” So we’re clear, it isn’t just that Bindel finds the idea of makeup problematic, it’s that she wants all women to stop wearing it immediately — or face eviction from club feminist.
Bindel points to all kinds of societal reasons why makeup is a tool of the patriarchy. It sends “the message that we are not good enough as we are.” It sets an expectation “to look younger, sexier, taller, thinner, darker, lighter, smoother and just better.” It promotes “sexist stereotypes.” And on and on. But really Bindel’s message is that makeup is a tool men use to put “pressure on women to distort our natural appearance while [they] are free from such pressure.” You think you’re making a choice about what to wear, but you’re really just a victim of the patriarchy. Only I am right. Take off the makeup.
This kind of thought policing isn’t new. It’s one of the signature strategies of modern feminism. Whereas feminism used to be about women being allowed to make choices, it is now about women needing to toe the party line. Women must work, women must be pro-choice, women must support female political candidates over males regardless of ability, women must ditch their makeup and burn their bras. Whatever it is, if it’s deemed by some mysterious consensus of the group at large to be “oppressive,” then all women must ditch it. Even if they kind of liked it and were choosing it of their own free will.
Do what I tell you to do or you’re not a feminist. This is the premise of modern feminism. But surely an ideology that calls itself “feminism” ought to have some relationship to the actual definition of feminism, which is easily located in the dictionary. “The theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” Women should have equal opportunities to men. That’s it. It doesn’t say everyone has to think the same, or act the same, or look the same. It just says that a woman should be allowed to do anything a man is allowed to do (within the constraints of physical ability). It doesn’t mean she has to do what men do. It just means that she can.
To their credit, some feminists did speak out against Bindel’s article, saying exactly that. Holly O’Neill of Image wrote, “Here’s my feminist agenda when it comes to make-up: you do you.” And Emma Harrison of Glamour said, “which of us is the better feminist – the one with, or without her face on? Neither. We’re both in control.” But the fact that actual feminists have to write articles explaining that it’s okay for women to wear and do what they want indicates an ideological issue deep within modern feminism.
We all know that feminism is supposed to be about choice — and lots, maybe even most, regular people who call themselves feminists probably still believe it is about choice — but the movement has eclipsed them. The movement has taken on a mind of its own, fueled by the militant and “radical” feminists like Bindel, pushing a “my way or the highway” agenda. Perhaps its time to break free of our oppressors — the women of radical feminism. It’s not the patriarchy keeping us down. It’s feminism. #Resist!