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Red lipstick - a feminist dilemma?

(39 Posts)
PrincessOfThemyscira Thu 30-Oct-14 19:49:45

I bought a red lipstick last week, have worn it a few times since, and I'm amazed by mens peoples reactions to me.

Doors have been opened for me, men have moved out of my way on the pavement, I've received warm smiles and a few turned heads, flirty conversations etc. Today I was at a networking event and businessmen were throwing freebies at me. My male colleague was most put out because he had to ask. It was empowering. Or was it?
I have done literally nothing more than put this lipstick on. The rest of my appearance is unchanged.

Initially part of me was pleased - I've had a lot of self esteem issues over the years and this attention is flattering.
Then I began to think how stupid these men are for getting flustered by a bit of make-up. How weak are they?!
And then it began to trouble me. I don't want to be seen as a pair of lips, I want to be valued for who I am and what I say. But if my appearance captures their attention long enough to hear what I have to say...?

Also, surely I have the right to wear what I want on my lips, whether it be red, orange or blue lipstick?!

I suppose basically I'm just a bit confused. I keep feeling manipulative for wearing red lips. But then then I think "Fuck it, I'll wear what I want!".

I suppose you could take this situation and substitute any number of things - short skirt, revealing top etc

PrincessOfThemyscira Thu 30-Oct-14 19:51:09

Just re-read. Totally not meant to be a stealth boast. I am not a looker. That's why it's surprised me so much what a bit of red make-up can do.

Jumblebee Thu 30-Oct-14 20:00:43

I've never noticed any change in people's behaviour to me when wearing red lipstick hmm maybe the odd look when I've got it on my teeth and not realised!

PrincessOfThemyscira Thu 30-Oct-14 20:02:08

Ha! I have been very conscious of the lippy-on-teeth thing!

chariotsofire Thu 30-Oct-14 20:03:47

If you were wearing it and not getting this reaction you wouldn't care so just enjoy wearing it if it makes you happy. Chances are it is just catching people's eyes - women included - as it is a strong colour. I would probably notice and look longer. If I was trying to sell something this might translate into giving you more attention over your male colleague. Nothing sinister intended.

Would you change the way you dress just because people seemed to find it attractive? If the attention made you self conscious maybe but not if what you were wearing gave you confidence. It should be about you and what you like.

You can't control what other people find attractive.

Lorelei353 Thu 30-Oct-14 20:06:26

Is there a chance that you're carrying yourself differently while wearing it? even subconsciously you might be walking more confidently etc which may be why you're attracting more attention - not just the lippy itself

Sicaq Thu 30-Oct-14 20:07:33

Interesting! Not sure about the feminist dilemma but I recently started wearing it too, and male friends have been saying it looks nice. I was surprised, because I had always been told that men dislike lipstick. I was wearing it because I liked how it looked, and thinking than the mens could like it or lump it.

Off the point, I know.

Jumblebee Thu 30-Oct-14 20:12:16

Oh it's a nightmare! I'm constantly running my tongue over my teeth, paranoid that it's gone everywhere and I'm not achieving the Marilyn Monroe-esque look I'm going for hmm and the day I decided to have a tuna baguette for lunch? Disaster!

PrincessOfThemyscira Thu 30-Oct-14 20:13:55

Yes, to be fair, I've had women come up and compliment the lipstick too, so it's not just men. And it's possible that subconsciously there is more confidence.

I love the lipstick, but I'm not sure I love how it makes me feel?
Sorry, I'm not really sure what I'm babbling about. It's only recently I've considered/realised that I am feminist, and am seeing lots of things in a new light after reading a few books and a few threads on here.

PrincessOfThemyscira Thu 30-Oct-14 20:14:53

Jumble, I foolishly went to Subway for lunch today...

Jumblebee Thu 30-Oct-14 20:35:28

Uh oh, how'd it end? I've found breaking food into bite size pieces prevents me from ending up looking like the Joker after lunch!

Going a bit off the feminism topic now!

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PrincessOfThemyscira Thu 30-Oct-14 20:55:55

"Um. Dunno." sums it up perfectly!

Smashingpumpkinofcourse Thu 30-Oct-14 20:55:56

In situations like this I like to think about the power balance. If I put the lipstick on, it gives me this power over men (their decision though isn't it?) But I also have the power to take it off whenever I like.

Seems okay to me wink

PrincessOfThemyscira Thu 30-Oct-14 21:07:41

I like that Smashingpumpkin!

Thinking more about this, and yes I know there are bigger Fem issues to deal with, I suppose it comes down to whether we should be using "feminine ways and wiles" to get ahead a foothold, or if it would be more respected and self-respectful to not exploit them?

Can one be a lipstick toting, high-heeled feminist? wink

PenelopeGarciasCrazyHair Thu 30-Oct-14 22:23:09

I cringed when that woman on The Apprentice advised her all female team to wear short skirts and a bit of lippy to make more sales. I hate the thought that people buy from women they find attractive and from men who are knowledgable.

I think it's all in the attitude. If you wear the lipstick purely to make men look at you and treat you differently then it seems wrong. If you wear it because you think it looks pretty, then I suppose it's still playing into the traditional ideas about women and appearance, but on your own terms.

There's no disputing that some of us look better, healthier, more striking etc with make up on (similarly I prefer my DP with a bit of a stubble and a nice haircut) so don't feel that wearing the lipstick in itself is anti-feminist.

You want to make the best of yourself in the same way that we all wash and brush our hair, wear clean smart clothes and present ourselves as best we can. I love red lipstick and used to wear it all the time, it was my 'thing', but since getting together with dp I don't wear it as I'm always kissing him!

When I do wear it now, I feel more confident and 'polished' and dp often comments that I seem happy or glowing, without necessarily realising why he thinks that. It has magical properties I'm sure smile

AsAMan Fri 31-Oct-14 19:59:25

I think it's all in the attitude. If you wear the lipstick purely to make men look at you and treat you differently then it seems wrong. If you wear it because you think it looks pretty, then I suppose it's still playing into the traditional ideas about women and appearance, but on your own terms.

Sounds about right to me.

UnwittingAccomplice Fri 31-Oct-14 22:10:01

We all live inside the society we're born into - I don't see it as problematic to manage a situation shaped by others' preconceptions if you do it knowingly. Personally I've always taken the view that any advantage I can take without compromising myself I will take.

YonicScrewdriver Fri 31-Oct-14 23:46:37

"Can one be a lipstick toting, high-heeled feminist"


LoafersOrLouboutins Sat 01-Nov-14 00:05:53

Hmmm, this is interesting. Its definitely possible to be a lipstick wearing feminist. And I only ever wear heels. I used to work in a very sexist and male dominated industry (hedgefunds) and there's no doubt glamorous women were treated better. Objectified and patronised? Yes. Were the men more receptive to them and so they could work more efficiently? Most definitely.

I even wore 4 inch heels when 8 months pregnant to work- I couldn't be seen to have 'let myself go'. I think red lipstick has long been linked to the seductress/'whore'/bad girl. If the virgin/whore dichotomy were make-up looks they would be red lipstick/natural look. I imagine it is the new sense of confidence that attracts people rather than the lipstick itself.

extremepie Sat 01-Nov-14 00:26:04

I read somewhere that wearing red lipstick in interviews means you are more likely to get the job - something to do with confidence I think as red is a strong colour so women wearing it appear stronger and more confident?

They do always say confidence is attractive, maybe that's it?

ErrolTheDragon Sat 01-Nov-14 00:47:39

Not sure. Blokes tend on average to have inbuilt advantages in some situations - simply more physical presence because of size, louder voices etc. So maybe heels or a bit of bold lippy is just redressing the balance a bit?

Trills Sat 01-Nov-14 12:22:57

I was thinking the same as Lorelei - you may be behaving differently (more confident, more outgoing, smiling at people more) when wearing the lipstick.

Treating people differently based on how they dress and how they choose to present themselves to the world is something that is done both by and to men and women.

When we choose what to wear in the mornings, a part of what makes the decision is the thought "how do I want people to perceive me and treat me?"

Men tend in most situations to have more of a "uniform" - there is a default that says "I am a neutral person doing neutral things, make no particular assumptions about me", whereas women don't have that.

There's a really interesting essay here on marked vs unmarked choices.

FeckTheMagicDragon Sat 01-Nov-14 12:29:16

Am I the only one who wants to know the brand and shade of this lipstick?

(Totally missing the point I know)

FloraFox Sat 01-Nov-14 13:22:36

My too Feck. Is this a new type of stealth product advertising? wink

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