By Isabel Astill-Chandler
The Femin-Men generation
It is a well-known fact that feminism and the fight for gender equality has made incredible strides towards creating a gender neutral future, yet gender norms are still being tackled in the 21stcentury, with many cosmetic brands still not catering for men due to the feminisation of makeup and beauty products.
With easy access to YouTube videos and social media, gender fluidity, drag and the LGBT community are gaining more awareness an acceptance than ever before, however makeup on men is still a huge topic of controversy in today’s society, as it’s considered ‘emasculating’.
History proves that cosmetics were never just a female oriented industry; for millennia, stretching from 4000 BC through to the 18thcentury, men traditionally used makeup in numerous ways. In Ancient Rome, men were known to use rouge to colour their cheeks, and in Elizabethan England men wore pale powder to whiten their skin. So why has the reputation of makeup changed over the years?
Charlotte Libby, a senior beauty analyst, says using makeup “will never be for all men” but there’s “definitely a growing audience…To put it into context globally it accounts for less than 1% of the market. But the stigma around men being well groomed and enhancing their appearance is falling away and cosmetics are benefitting from that”
Jeffree Star, a beauty influencer with a multi-million base following, has recently released his own cosmetics line, with the idea of combating the controversy surrounding masculinity.
He states “I discovered makeup at the age of 13 and have been obsessed with it ever since. I used to copy looks from fashion ads in my mother’s Cosmopolitan magazines and steal her eye shadows”
Through activity on social media, he has made it evident that it has not been an easy journey to the acceptance of his passion, even within the beauty community. But with his many fans supporting and purchasing his makeup line, it seems as though society is getting used to the idea of male makeup again.
To test this, I conducted a social experiment, in which I dressed a male model in typically masculine attire with striking makeup, that played with the idea of gender norms. I photographed the model in various poses to create a portfolio of images that contrasted the ‘stereotypical look’ of a man. Then I posted the images on a blank Instagram to see the reactions of the public, and the comments were shocking.
They included; ‘drag or fag?’ and ‘not a real man’. Whilst these comments are disheartening, are they surprising?
The whole concept of what makes ‘a real man’ is the underlying cause for the controversy surrounding male makeup. Many men feel embarrassed to express their feminine side due to the negative reception that they may receive, which is reflected in the social media comments.
Amongst the negativity, there were many supporters who appreciated the images for what they were; a glimmer of hope for an equal future.