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Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Make-up hypocrisy?

Something I often associate with darker fashion is heavy make-up, a la Adora BatBrat or - more traditionally speaking - Siouxsie Sioux. For a long time this is something I've felt, and still do feel, is very beautiful and expressive, not to mention great fun.

However, it occured to me lately that for all its rejection of mainstream aesthetic values (you must be thin, you must be curvy, you must not wear too much make-up, you must not be a man and look feminine), for some people 'dark' ideals of fashion and beauty can tend to operate under the stereotypes of hyper-grooming more commonly associated with Barbie dolls than punk rockers.

Don't get me wrong - for all that what some Goth girls seem to prefer being fully made up at all times when in public, there are some obvious boundaries between the world of purple lipstick, Siouxsie eyebrows and perfectly ironed V-fringes and the super-bronzed, super-blonde but equally super-groomed figures presented to us on, say, The Only Way Is Essex.

(I hate to generalise, but for starters, one aesthetic seems to be about pleasing and expressing oneself, the other seems to be about matching up to society's 'standards' of feminine beauty and pleasing the opposite sex. Of course, I could be wrong. And I'm sure that in some cases the opposite could just as easily be true.)

But nonetheless the feminine aesthetic of Goth has changed rather a lot since the deliberately 'ugly' styles of make-up seen in the early days of the punk scene - whilst certainly exaggerated and often featuring creative use of colours (and eyeliner doodles), many dark make-up looks now aim to be beautiful (in an otherworldly kind of way) rather than discomforting or provocative.

This is neither a complaint nor approval, merely an observation. I was thinking about it after bumping into an old friend who wears no make-up, although I once saw her with glitter sprinkled under her eyes for a night out (and who also has blonde dreadlocks, wears 'boho' style clothes layered over each other... we probably looked like an interesting pair standing next to each other!). As someone who strives to be body-positive and to not get caught up in media-hyped ideals of how we should look and present ourselves, I was intrigued by the comparison of her personal rejection of media and mainstream aesthetics vs., say, that of deathrock model Emily Pollution. Visually complete opposites, but sharing the similarity of a preferred personal aesthetic instead of how we are told we should look.

However, I suppose what I am trying (badly) to say is that whilst it is creative and expressive, in many ways it could be said the dark aesthetic is not necessarily that different from the much-maligned 'Barbie' look sported by the likes of Cheryl Cole, as it is also creating a certain image using a precise style and grooming using large amounts of product.


I don't necessarily feel that going make-up-free is more 'anti-mainstream' than choosing blue or green lipstick over red or pink. I also don't have any particular dislike of the mainstream beauty aesthetic, I just don't like how it marginalises certain groups (e.g. anyone not 'perfect' by beauty and fashion industry standards) and I prefer not to have it rammed down my throat. But I do wonder if perhaps it's hypocritical for those who wouldn't ever be seen outside without their many layers of black eyeliner to claim superiority over non-Goths who wouldn't ever be seen outside without many layers of black eyeliner based on aesthetic preferences alone.

A few disclaimer-y notes: not all followers of dark fashion wear make-up, and of those who do certainly not all consider themselves 'superior' in any way to anyone else. I personally think that no make-up, Goth make-up and 'mainstream' make-up can all be beautiful.

I just wondered what others' thoughts were on this?

31 comments:

Ria said...

Humans are social creatures, we all want to be different, but not different enough to fit in nowhere.

I feel the appearances are getting more homogen in general. All the 'normal' girls wear jeans, tshirt and sneakers, all the goth girls wear black tshirt, black jeans and combat boots under their jeans. At least around here (central germany)someone fully gothed up is a rare sight in everyday life.

A couple of weeks ago I saw an old teenage movie made in the ninetees (can't remember the name) it seems like even mainstream fashion 10 years ago was more diverse than today.

So it feels like it's not only true for make up.

akumaxkami said...

I tend to not wear much makeup on a daily basis (I can't be bothered usually) and I sometimes get flak for dressing alternatively but not wearing makeup that "matches" that. People have said my look is incomplete.

Whatever. I do what I want. ^_^

Nebel Finsternis Violet said...

The same with shaving eyebrows, makeup can be a border goths tend to close themselves in. I say it's relevant to piercings and tattoos as well. As if, in order to be alternative, you have to be extreme.
Not necessarily!

Kismet said...

Other's thoughts on this:

Sometimes, it is easier to acknowledge yourself to be unattractive and try to be unique rather that try to be "pretty" and miserably fail.
For example, no one can say I don't like makeup. BUT. When I was younger, my parents were convinced it was their own responsibility to tell me I'm "beautiful" everyday, and how "ugly" I am making myself by wearing makeup. I consider myself average looking at best.I regularly wore natural foundation, smoky grey eyeshadow, soft rose lip gloss and brown-black mascara, for reference.
Then,one day I lost my purse, makeup bag in it.
With the small amount of cash I had on me, I went out and bought the cheapest black eye pencil I could find and discount brown-red lipstick. Something must have happened that day; because I still wear this look and like it much better. In a way I feel more comfortable like this.

Daniel_8964 said...

I agree with that, beauty shouldn't be dictated because it doesn't fit society's so called standards.

In my opinion, I don't think makeup and non make up is better than each other and is just equal because forcing yourself to put it on all the time to look more 'Goth' is just trying too hard and it is more about whenever you're confident to put it on and feel comfortable to do so. In honesty not all Goths feel like to put it on confidently. I can admit I don't put it on a lot as I don't feel too confident and plus my eye makeup doesn't blend and stand out well as I expected it to be like such as Robert Smith's, since I wear glasses and I find it difficult to apply and don't always feel confident to put it on unless I am confident or in a makeup mood, so I just don't bother about that at all.

Anonymous said...

I myself am a Goth who doesn't wear any makeup (I'm not against it, I just think my face looks better natural and don't want to go to the effort). I assume there are others like me of course, but I've never actually bumped into another Goth, in rl or online, who didn't wear makeup (but for that matter, I don't run into a lot of PEOPLE who don't wear at least some makeup, period)

I think there are parallels--alternative or mainstream, there's still a stigma to wear makeup to look more 'finished' or to cover up flaws or look nicer or pretty. What 'pretty' looks like is the only real difference. A lot of ott goth sorts look just as synthetic as the 'barbie-doll' sorts. But at the same time, I do think there are plenty of people, both alternative and not, who see makeup as a creative hobby and a means of self-expression and don't have any unhealthy image issues regarding it.

Lady Bethezda @ Bethezdas Preoccupations said...

I like your observation. I am a pretty active person and do a lot of sports-type activities. I also shave my eyebrows. Therefore, drippy eyebrows running into my eyes through pools of sweat are not my cup of tea. I actually spend large amounts of time with no makeup on (although I have a makeup blog LOL). I do feel less subcultural when not wearing makeup. It's an interesting dilemma yet I refuse to be a slave to makeup while doing things that in my mind are makeup's antagonist. :) I've actually chided myself for not being one of those women who won't step out of the house without makeup. *shrug*
I don't comment on your posts a lot but I do enjoy reading them and am always impressed by the level of thought you put into your posts. Sorry for the book. ;)

Anonymous said...

Joji Grey is a proven scammer you know

Saphire Rainforest said...

Interesting obervation. Sometimes I wear makeup and sometimes I don't sometimes I dress "Goth" and sometimes I don't.It all depends on my mood and wearabouts.

AsylumAlice said...

I feel that makeup must be done for oneself. I've only just started wearing it, but I reign myself in on days that I just don't feel like putting it on and my brain starts to say "But wait, if you go out without makeup you won't be pretty!" I feel pretty in my natural skin and with makeup, so I put it on when and how I want, not to please anyone else. :D

The Countess said...

I have thought about this before. I have noticed that even though we want to look different, many people in the scene tend to look similar when it comes to their make up choices etc. (v-shaped bangs, no bronzer...) so actually we aren't that different at all. Some people choose to follow a certain trend that expects them to look feminin in a tanned, blonde, dolled-up way, others wear corsets and run around with parasols. Is it really that much of a difference?

Anonymous said...

One big difference between "goth" makeup & "mainstream" makeup, is that we tend to create a "signaature" look (of course this is a *general* statement), while those who fall into a mainstream aesthetic tend to copy what they see in magazines, blogs, etc.

Along with this blog, I regularly read a very well-known beauty blog and the blogger posts "looks" that many followers want to re-create. Apparently, this is big among beauty blogs. These bloggers get these huge cult-like followings of women who want to transform themselves into the blogger. Seriously; some of the comments border on stalking.

Goths, on the other hand, while it seems like we "all look alike", we really don't. Most of us do have our own unique spin on the aesthetic. I tend to go for more ethereal, "Boho" looks, as I find it physically comfortable, while others prefer corsets & tutus, and still others prefer simple band tees & jeans. Even within these styles, there is plenty of variety. Yes, there are those (especially newer to the scene) who try to copy more "seasoned" goths, but most eventually find what works for them. Again, those in the mainstream tend to follow the crowd, and when trends change, they change with them.

Marmalade Marionette said...

I do agree; not everyone adheres to the daily use of eyeliner. That definitely applies to me. Sometimes I would wear slightly heavy makeup, then the next time I would go out with no makeup (which brings surprised faces and question marks above most of my friends' heads).

LeashRox said...

i do feel that when im putting on my face that i need to make it look perfect and beautiful and il spend ages making it perfect and then half way through il tell myself to cop on, and il go crazy with colours or ezagerated not so nice looking features. i aim to shock people when they see me, not be a desirable wench :)

Spike said...

I feel that the very definition of being non-mainstream is doing your own thing, because YOU want to. Thus, if you wear Barbie makeup and a short skirt because you, personally, feel good like that, then you are not being mainstream, in my opinion. The only problem, then, is that other people might see you as being mainstream, but who gives a rat's ass anyway?

MadamNoire said...

I have thought about this a lot of times. As a makeup artist I am of course obsessed about makeup and I love wearing a lot of makeup. But I have no problem going out in public barefaced either. :) Mainstream people often makes a lot of rude comments about my eyebrows though, since I shave them off and draw them back in. Personally I think both mainstream and goth makeup can be awesome looking. :)

Rosie Corcoran said...

i have often wondered whether putting effort into my make-up clother etc was as bad as following the 'plastic' image that society expects of women. However, i came to the conclusion that as long as people are happy with how they look, whether that means wearing white foundation and having a head of black dreadlocks, having a fake tan and bleach blonde hair, or simply weraing no make-up at all it is personal preference and no one can judge the motives behind someone's look other than the person themselves

Thankyou for posting, you inspire me greatly! :)

Ariadne Blackmoore said...

When I put on make up, I just focus on what I like, not what's mainstream, what is, or what will shock people the most. I guess my make up does kind of have a shock factor to it (I like to use really bright colours, which contrast nicely with my mostly black wardrobe). But most of the time I just do what makes me feel pretty. I guess that the feeling of having to look nice is a product of what the mainstream tells women, but in all honesty I don't mind all that much. I really do enjoy looking and feeling nice.

TeamEdwardJace said...

Hey,

great post Amy! yes ia gree i like the manstrrema make up(some of it) and the dark alternative makeup which is sometimes better than the mainstream. also certian mainstream make could be incoroorated into the warddrobe of of those who are goth or punk. also i like parts of the mainstream but there i think i like gothic beaury which is despite what some mainstreams think is actually quite nice and more flattering than some of the mainstream styles at times

Amy Asphodel said...

Wow, I really enjoyed reading all these comments and was interested to note that quite a lot of you seem to think along the same lines as me on this! I have lately been thinking that whilst feeling pretty is a nice thing, it's definitely not the be-all and end-all, and there's more to a person than whether they are pretty or not. I went to work without make-up this week; it didn't bother me as much as I thought it might, although some did ask if I was ill!

(Anon - 'proven' as in Encyclopedia Dramatica says so or actually proven? Also, I am only mentioning how he does his make-up.)

The HouseCat said...

I think it's a good point you've made there; I read too many posts of (usually younger) Goths going on and on about how "fake" and "carrot" or "barbie" some mainstream women are, all the while they probably put just as much effort into their carefully crafted appearances, and are probably wearing fake nails, fake hair, a corset and fake eyelashes and loads of makeup!

One word of caution; Joji Grey is the current alias of King Gutterface/Kazakai who scammed people in the dolfie scene, used her menstrual blood to ruin someone's dolfie, and was also involved in the deliberate desecration and vandalism of a cemetery.

bunika13 said...

I really like how you said goths 'aim to be beautiful in an otherworldy kind of way'. That is so true. Just the other day a guy told me that I 'look like a cartoon character' and that I'm 'cute'. This was coming from a non-goth who listens to rap.

Wyntre said...

I frequently go make-up-less as I find it irritates my skin and causes my rosacea to flare up (yes, I'm only 20 and I already have rosacea, I've had it since I was a baby... URGH).

I'm naturally pale and I self-identify as goth, and I feel there is less of an expectation within the gothic community (at least, where I live in Sydney) to wear make-up than there is in the mainstream community.

Anonymous said...

I think that one specific thing that stands out to me about goths vs any other group on this issue is that goths seem to be more likely to shave or tweeze their eyebrows to an extreme extent. I know that I do, and it's part of the reason I don't like to be seen without at least a little makeup. Being imperfect is one thing, but missing whole facial features is a bit worse.

Amy Asphodel said...

The Housecat - cheers for clarifying that, have tweaked the post accordingly.

Anon - very true, I've been make-up-less for a week now and the eyebrow pencil was definitely the hardest thing to give up!

Phoenix said...

I think shaming people for their personal appearance is ridiculous. Makeup or no makeup, goth or not, people should feel free to wear whatever the hell they want and not be chastised for it.

I tend not to wear any makeup on a daily basis, but I like to go dress up when I go out.

Great post! ^-^

Shannon Rutherford said...

>the dark aesthetic is not necessarily that different from the much-maligned 'Barbie' look sported by the likes of Cheryl Cole, as it is also creating a certain image using a precise style and grooming using large amounts of product.

That's true.
But I've never felt bad about doing something that's considered close to mainstream culture, so I think it's a positive thing, having something in common with people who don't share our tastes in style :)

The HouseCat said...

http://domesticatedgoth.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/the-synthetic-aesthetic-hypocrisy.html I wrote a blog post in response to this one.

What I know about Joji/Kazakai/whatever other internet pseudonyms, is from what I've read from several people on the internet, in the dolfie community, talking about how she's scammed them, warning others. From what I've read, these allegations seem pretty well documented (the cemetery desecration made her local papers), and I deem them fairly credible, but this IS the internet. She hasn't scammed me personally.

Lady Zendra of Noran said...

I usually try to at least put on some eyeliner but lately I only save going all out for special occasions. I live in Florida, so the heat makes it harder to put on as much makeup as I want without it melting away after 5 minutes in the sun.

Anonymous said...

It's only logical to use makeup as a goth, especially if you are one with dyed hair and without eyebrows - you just don't look natural anymore, but incomplete and unfinished, if you don't match the rest of your appearance to that contrasting, harsh and unnatural style. Goth is somewhat of a statement and that statement cannot be made without the look. I mean, if you're just not feeling like looking like the majority of people in your society,there are plenty of ways to style. But Gothlings like the AESTHETICS of black (and white), ornaments and what not. They make themselves 'goth' by looking like it. If you choose to look natural and not to follow any kind of trend (and of course gothic is a trend too), that's very fine. But then you look mainly like a person with a liking for dark clothes - not necessarily (like a) goth. But so what? Everyone's more than that. Everyone has more than one face. Maybe the mistake is to think, you have to be goth all the time. Maybe you are more than that. Hopefully there are more adjectives needed to describe your personality!

Vivi said...

This is the first time I have read any of your blogs, I've got to say that this is very well written. I personally an indifferent to make-up or no make-up. I have associated myself with Goth for a long time, and feel that it's what's on the inside that matters. I will however get wonderfully and darkly decked out for the club, concerts and randomly for shopping excursing. I actually love playing with make-up abd have a variety of styles I where when I want to express who I am. But I don't have to wear make-up for that.

I can see where people might compare the heavy make-up and constant look to a Barbie. As you see many goths with absolutely perfect hair and make-up. I sometimes feel like why can't my look be as gorgeous as so-and-so's. But then I have be asked many times how I get my make-up just right. So I guess I am guilty as well.

I'll certainly be reading more of your posts. ^_^ wonderful topic choice.

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