Cat Calls & Cat Eyes
My relationship with makeup is very complicated for a lot of reasons, which is something you will learn about me in great detail over time I’m sure. A lot of the time I use it as an outlet for self care; getting ready in the morning reassures me that I am, in some way, taking care of my body and making myself a priority. On a most basic level makeup makes me feel pretty and presentable.
When I was around 19 I started to become much more interested in different kinds of makeup and makeup application and I think for a long time I used it as a way to make myself feel sexy. It’s so easy, like, way too easy, to slap on a cat eye and a red lip and watch heads turn. It’s the 1950’s submissive, housewife, pinup, doll-eyed, brain dead, plaything of every liberal indie city boy’s wet dream. I realize this also has a lot to do with being able-bodied, young, white, and conventionally attractive by most standards, believe me. But as I grew older I began to question why I was doing this and what I was getting out of wanting male approval. It is something I still grapple with. On a day to day basis I wear makeup for myself and not for men, so whether they like it or not doesn’t really concern me. But being able to manipulate makeup so that I know more men will find me attractive is an available option. What once made me feel sexy and empowered now makes me feel violated and out of control.
Cat calling might sound like a trivial issue but it’s a reflection and a symptom of our current society. It is men feeling they are entitled to verbally take ownership over women’s bodies. It is men thinking they have a right to comment on a woman’s appearance and that it has merit and carries a great deal of weight. It is men not being raised to respect women and treat them as people. It is men viewing women as objects. It is a micro-aggressive act of violence.
While one lewd remark echoing out of the backseat of shitty car might not bother me, ten of these comments in one afternoon is completely draining. Which happens plenty, especially if you are young and live in a city and need to spend a somewhat lengthy amount of time walking outside for whatever reason. I come home and I feel violated, I feel dehumanized, I feel powerless. I take a shower or three. It makes me feel like I’m in fifth grade again and some girl is asking me why my feelings are so hurt by her teasing me when she’s just one person, when what she doesn’t know is that I’ve been getting teased by a dozen different kids all day. It adds up, the weight increases, and it makes day to day living exhausting and filled with unnecessary anxieties.
Maybe it’s the heat leading to more revealing clothing or maybe I’m just paying more attention but lately I’ve been getting cat called in the street quite often. When I say lately, I really mean the last couple of years and even more so in the last couple of months, which also happens to coincide with my own personal growth in confidence and feeling ok with myself. It’s unsettling knowing that the more uncomfortable I feel with myself, the more uncomfortable I feel about the men around me. Regardless, it is happening, and it also effected my relationship with self presentation.
I began to explore less traditionally “sexy” makeup options; blue lips, hot pink eye shadow, anything that was just a little off and could make me look overdone and unapproachable. This worked in some respects but at the end of the day men still yell at you from across the street, but the specific words just might be different. At the end of the day, regardless of how you dress, men are going to make a comment, and they are most assuredly going to make you hear it.
This has made my current self presentation and style fall into some kind of middle ground; I don’t really know where I’m going next, but most days I fall into a mixture of wanting to look good by my own standards and wanting to look somewhat unapproachable while exploring perfecting my makeup techniques. This shade of purple in particular is a great repellant for straight dudes in bars. Little do they know I am queer anyway and most likely not interested. Especially if they open with, “Hey, nice makeup, I’m diggin’ the pinup girl look.”
Eyes - liquid eyeliner by ELF; blue eyeshadow from ELF 144 piece eye shadow palette; mascara from Beauty Without Cruelty in whatever their brown shade is (the sticker came off!)
Lips - Impulse Cosmetics matte lip color in “Storque”
Face - Tarte foundation in whatever their palest shade is; ELF bronzer; ELF facial whip in “Spotlight”
Photos by Bree Garrison, unedited
All makeup products are vegan & cruelty free