how #feministmakeupping is changing the beauty conversation

Fashion and beauty blogger Arabelle Sicardi is the spokeswoman and ringleader of #feministmakeupping, the active Tumblr hashtag that launched an internet-wide conversation about beauty.

by Hannah Ghorashi
Nov 27 2014, 3:15pm

In today's beauty landscape, hashtags and social media trends are just as important as the latest lipstick (#iwokeuplikethis and #nomakeupselfie being two recent examples). Fashion and beauty blogger Arabelle Sicardi, editor of The Style Con, contributor to Rookie, and founder of the Fashion Pirate blog, is the spokeswoman and ringleader of #feminist-makeupping, the active Tumblr hashtag that launched an internet-wide conversation about beauty. 

Unofficially born in 2012, the hashtag was created by Tumblr user "rgr-pop" and then championed by Sicardi. Feminist makeupping takes a critically feminist, comprehensive approach to the beauty industry while also embracing it as a fun form of art and performance. There are no rules, of course. Photos tagged #feministmakeupping show individuals with glittery, rainbow-coloured eyelids and lipstick applied far beyond the confines of their lips, but also more conventional smoky eyes and French manicures. Sicardi notes, "Fitting in is so often survival. Being different can get you killed. It's a privilege to be able to celebrate your weirder side when the world is so violent." We asked Sicardi for her unique experience of feminist makeupping, and her response touched on everything from how to look as poreless as possible to the most evil babe in the Bible, Jezebel.

How would you describe #feministmakeupping?
Mostly I use it as a filing mechanism for the politics of beauty I most closely align myself with. It's a product of a feminism of difference — an exploration of how we use these tools to define ourselves in a culture where the space we take up is really tense with all these meanings. Why do we use this lipstick? What is lipstick in the context of our gender, class and race? Make-up is a text you put on your face because you want to be read in a certain way. Make-up is a performance and there's a politic to presentation.

What are some patriarchal beauty standards that come to mind?
Black girls who are taught they can't wear red lipstick or who can't find eyeshadows pigmented enough so that really show up. Foundation for people of colour is usually named after some pastry or chocolate like people of colour are candies to be consumed and fetishised. They're also hard to find in stores and are consistently located in the back of stores or only in specific communities of poverty, or only found online, for more money than white shades. Dudes claim they like girls with no make-up but what they mean is they like girls who do their make-up to be as invisible as possible because they're uncomfortable with the labour of beauty. [The saying] "You look so beautiful without make-up," but when you forgo it people might ask if something is wrong, or if you're sick. The whole whitening dilemma…. There's so much. Listing them extensively is exhausting. Then there's always the conversation about make-up being a lie or false front… like that's a bad thing.

Do you think the online community has given the people in these photos confidence to wear these looks in public?
I know people have changed their presentation because of it. I know people wear these looks in public, but I know a lot of them don't and just do it in their home as a coping mechanism. Both are valuable.

When do you feel you personally started feminist makeupping? And what caused you to start?
When I was around 18, I started identifying as a "girlmonster" and started using make-up to make myself less desirable or vulnerable to men. I would walk home at night alone from parties a lot which I hated but I couldn't really help since I lived so far from the events and I always felt like I was being hunted. So before I went out I would do weird shit to my face so the first things dudes would think when they say me was "What the fuck" rather than something….else.

Actually, I'm basically just channeling Jezebel. Jezebel was the most evil babe in the Bible, she was bad and stuff, but she is also credited for the invention of painting your lips dark, and she was one of the earliest examples of make-up as disguise. She painted her face in order to hide from her murderer, Jehu. He ended up killing her anyway, but when they found her remains, only the parts of her body that had been made up were left. The dogs who ate her corpse didn't like the taste of her artifice.

What are some of your favorite make-up looks for yourself, or ones that just make you feel the best or the most powerful?
Right now I just wear mascara and a lot of illuminator a lot. I like to look shiny and poreless, like it's a metaphor for infallibility. Eyeliner instantly feminises you I think, and I don't like the kind of autopilot uniformity a cat eye and red lipstick represents anymore. I'm not femme; cat eyes make me anxious nowadays. I like how naked my eyes look without it. My make-up look changes pretty regularly nowadays in very subtle ways I'm sure no one else gives a shit about, and that's the way I like it.



Text Hannah Ghorashi
Photography Taylor Smith

make up
arabell sicardi