So I recently became interested in lipstick, prompted by my flatmates and my friends always looking glam with pretty shades on their lips. I bought some cheap lipsticks in Superdrug and Bodycare – pink to match my hair – and set about learning how the hell to apply it. Now, I’m no expert, but I’d like to think I’m alright at applying it. Why then, will my little brother not let me put some on him?
I’ll tell you why: toxic masculinity and heteronormativity. It’s as simple as that.
The other day I was putting lipstick on my mum because we were bored, and I asked my brother if I could try some on him, to practice (we all knew it wasn’t worth asking my sister). He agreed, as long as I helped convince my mum to take him to Sainsbury’s to buy an Xbox Live membership. He was so desperate to go that he actually promised he’d allow me to do his lipstick, as if it was some great hardship. Long story short, we went, I got his Xbox thing for him, and then he point-blank refused. It’s not the fact that he went back on our deal, it’s the fact that he has such a negative attitude towards makeup that gets me. And I know exactly who to blame.
My dad, who kept spraffing all this shite about how my brother will probably be allergic to it, and how he won’t allow it because he’s in charge blah blah, when really he means “I don’t want my son wearing makeup because it will hurt my fragile masculinity”. There is no reason why men can’t wear makeup. I know lots of men who do. It looks great.
We didn’t really have exclusively gendered toys growing up – a lot of my belongings are actually from the male section (Note: Skulls do not make something masculine! We all have one.) My brother’s always been drawn to more masculine coded toys, like cars and tools, than mine and my sister’s dolls and pretend shops. But as a boy he’s always been pushed towards them, rather than being given free reign to explore what he actually enjoys. My dad is a main proponent of gender roles – he’ll iron occasionally because he was in the military, he’s really good at clothes shopping, and he is capable of making his own food, but nearly everything else he does is suffocatingly masculine. Here I would like to point out that I was the one to “help” with the Land Rovers he fixed or built when I was little, at least until my brother was born. I had Land Rover and car toys before the Wee Man came along. I’ve always been interested in Minis. I feel sidelined by the fact that my second sibling is a boy. Yes, my favourite colour is pink, I loved dolls, and I constantly wore dresses, but none of that is mutually exclusive to liking cars or being interested in “boy things”.
It’s clear he subscribes to outdated and ridiculous ideas of gender. A few times my brother has been sat next to me, idly playing with my hair (he has no idea how to plait, it’s actually really funny), when my dad has looked over and gone “boys don’t do hair!”. Thereby prompting my brother to drop my hair and attempt to reassert his masculinity. Not only this, but he scoffs if my brother puts on a high voice, or “minces” around the living room (dad’s words, not mine). If he says or does something too feminine, my dad is there to go “Oh, god” and try to dissuade the poor boy from being too camp. Like much of the male population, my dad was brought up believing in “girl clothes” and “boy things”. My worry is how much of that he will pass on to my brother.
“Boys don’t wear dresses.” “Don’t be such a jessie!” “Stop being such a girl.” Why is femininity seen as such a terrible thing? It’s bad enough that women are constantly castigated for wearing makeup, or not wearing any (because of course we only ever wear makeup for men), but to brand something as negative simply because it is associated with women is ridiculous. It is the patriarchal society that has decided femininity equals weakness. Anyone can see that that is simply not the case. And the patriarchy is foolish, so why should you listen to its decrees? Lipstick is fun. It’s a nice way of highlighting a facial feature or coordinating an outfit. It’s not a symbol of depravity, so why treat it that way? Maybe men would reconsider if lipstick was marketed in bullet shells and given an obnoxiously masculine name, or perhaps plastered with “FOR MEN” so they don’t catch girl germs.
To conclude, what I really want to know is why men have to be such babies about wearing makeup. Fair enough if they genuinely have no interest in it, but maybe they should also consider examining why it’s such an abhorrent thought to them. It’s not just my dad who feels this way, it’s a large majority of men. And that is a problem.