Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Is it feminist to... let your child wear make-up?

After listening to an old Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast on the right age to start wearing make-up I began thinking about this ridiculous question.  Make-up is not inherently bad, good or sexy.  That last one is the most important here because that is the whole issue.

First. things. first.  NOBODY needs to wear make-up.  Nobody.  It does not mean you are a more valid or respectable or attractive human being if you wear it and if someone tells you different then you have my permission to head-butt them.  Okay maybe not, no violence.  But it's true.

Despite not needing it to survive, a lot of people do wear make-up and for many different reasons.  Women often wear it so they feel more ready for the day, more 'put-together'; it's the war paint, the face we show the world.  It's partly ritual too.  If I am going on a night out that is part of the routine.  For many people, including myself, it's fun.  It's creative and enjoyable to paint your face and make it look how you want that day.  I covet certain make-up items for their beauty and ability to brighten up my face and my day,  I get excited by certain lipsticks and eye shadow palettes.  I love the different finishes and the myriad of colours available.  And I don't ever, not once, give a flying monkey's bum what anyone else thinks of my make-up.  I don't care what anyone else says 'suits' me or thinks is inappropriate.  Unless I am working, then I conform, or don't wear it at all, girls gotta earn.

Now we have the purpose of make-up all straightened out, is it okay to put it on a child?  Well, allergies aside, why not?  I don't wear it because I feel like I must to look nice, pretty, sexy, beautiful, presentable, not tired, not hideous.  I wear it because I feel like it that day and I enjoy it.  So why can't kids put make-up on for fun, if they choose too.  My almost two-year-old son already loves watching me put my make-up on and touching anything I'll let him get his hands on.  He loves how the brushes feel on his skin and copying what his mummy does by putting blusher on  his cheek.  Why should that be any different for a little girl too?  So long as you are not telling them it makes them look pretty (as that implies prettier) then what's the harm?  Emphasise the fun and creativity of it and you can't go wrong.  Let them experiment as they grow up, whether boy or girl, and if they are in no way interested in it then don't tell them they need it.  Because they don't.

The real problem with make-up comes when we say things like "Mummy needs to put her face on" or "I can't go out like this!" or "I need it to make me look nice".  We all feel that way sometimes but, in our current pressure cooker of a society, our little girls (especially) don't need another person telling them that they need make-up to be respected and liked.  They need to know that their face is fine and that how they look is irrelevant in most circumstances.  If you emphasise how you look to your kids they will think how they look is really important too.  It's no good spouting off self-loathing diatribes about being fat and ugly then telling them they don't need diets or make-up.  That doesn't make sense to young, growing minds.  Be the best example of loving yourself and they will love themselves too.  Make-up is not evil.  The patriarchal society that tells girls they must be attractive to be valid is evil.

The history of make-up might relate to make-up making women appear more sexually attractive but it doesn't need to mean that now.  It can just be fun, like dressing up.  We need to get away from the idea that women must attract men to have a full and worthwhile life.  That starts with make-up, wear it, don't wear it.  It doesn't matter.  But don't tell kids that it's a grown-up thing because then that automatically links it to sex, which is ridiculous.  It's a vicious cycle that many teenage girls find distressing: wear make-up-attract-boys-be-validated-sleep-with-boy-be-vilified.  They don't need boys or make-up and linking one to the other is damaging.  We need to tell our children that wearing make-up does not make you more or less likely to attract a mate and there are more important things to worry about that attracting a mate any way.

To conclude, there is no 'right age' to start wearing make-up because it is for frivolity, creativity and amusement - not to make yourself attractive to the opposite sex.*

Fem Love - Danielle

*Very hetero-normative, but that seems to be where the problem is

What do you think?  Do you let your child put on make-up?  Do you think there is a 'right age'?

Comment below or email me at

   He also likes to try on my shoes - so cute!


  1. It's Charlie here, your cousin.
    First off, love the photo's of the little chap. If you had only written the title and included that first photo it would be an interesting post on its own. There must be a few hundred words in those eyes alone!

    A few of the brands I stock in the shop are classed as unisex or genderless and I have since become aware of a small movement that seems to be simmering. The majority (but not all) of the styles I have are leaning towards the more masculine end of the scale, which I guess is a lot 'safer', but they do incorporate feminine cuts. I've had a few couples come in and try on the same item of clothing. I love the idea of couples sharing a wardrobe. I wonder if sharing make up could be the next step?
    I buy all my wash products from lush and I'm obsessed with their perfumes. I like that most of their products are unisex and their mens range isn't segregated.

    I guess unisex stuff isn't the same as men buying or using products specifically designed for women but its a bridge right?

    1. I think fashion is going more that way and the masculine and feminine are blurring and merging which is great - you're right that unisex stuff is generally more masculine but you're also right that it's a good start!

      I'd love to design genderless baby clothes - that's where there is a massive gap in the market. But one thing at a time...

      It would be cool if more people of all sexes could enjoy the fun of make-up but it may take some time. We just need to make sure more women stop feeling like they need it to be valid. That's what makes me sad.

      There is a massive problem with the whole 'man' products and 'women' products thing (the marketing is horrific with a lot of toiletry brands) so I'm glad you're embracing Lush which is mostly associated with women but is totally great for men too!

      We will get down to Bristol soon - hopefully this year!

      Much love xxx