Have you ever had a reaction to something someone did or said that was so strong it surprised you? Not a trigger, that's not what I'm talking about, but a gut reaction of NOPE that blindsided you? That happened to me Friday morning while trying to get the four of us out the door to our various destinations. Kat was playing with her crayons, picked one up, rubbed it across her lips and said "Look mom! Wipstick! I beautiful." Wait, what? In that moment between thinking and speaking there was room for a lot because the human brain is a marvelous computer. I know my jaw dropped, then clenched. Thinking back on it now I get tense across the shoulders and my hands want to make fists. What am I angry at? Whoever it was who said "Here, try this!" instead of "Not for babies" when she was showing interest in make-up. Y'know, 'cause she's TWO.
I didn't waste my breath with "Oh Katherine, you're far too young to begin buying into the beauty myths and garbage societal expecations for your gender! You have been and will always be beautiful without any help at all from any make-up! It's just a collection of toxic colours that will poison your body and weaken your confidence. You don't need it. Noone needs it. "
What I said was "Kat, you are beautiful without lipstick. It's not for babies." She tried again, making a kissing sound this time, and I said no, it wasn't for her, and why didn't she draw with the crayon instead? Distracted, I won for a time. For now. A few minutes or maybe months more of breathing room in the ongoing battle to keep my daughter from becoming...something.
I wasn't expecting to have to worry about this so soon. I wasn't expecting people close to me to tell me to calm down and that I was being ridiculous for being upset about it. I'm sorry (I'm not) but she's my daughter, and she's TWO, and I feel that I'd be doing her a disservice if I blindly allowed her to just fall into current gender roles and expectations. Make-up's purpose is to a) make money for companies off of women's (commercially created) low self-confidence/esteem and b) uphold the dangerous notion that women are sexually available at all times. We can tell ourselves all we want that 'I do it for me, because *I* like it" or "It's just a part of my daily routine" or whatever, but unless you've actually taken the time to sit yourself down and analyze why exactly you wear the stuff, and for who and be honest with yourself, I'm going to say no, it's very likely you're not wearing it for yourself, you're wearing it for the people around you; your boss and/or coworkers because it's expected of you in order to be seen as professional, for your partner because you want to look 'nice' for them, like you 'tried', and just because hey, women wear make-up, even for something as simple as a trip to the store for a loaf of bread. Our bodies are seen as public property, to be commented on and critiqued by complete strangers, on a daily basis. Women have a very fine line to walk between wearing enough make-up, and not enough, and for heaven's sake it had better look natural, like we didn't even try, or the illusion is ruined.
Katherine is two. She is, IMO, far too young to be thinking about playing around with make-up of any kind. Ryan agrees with me and will be helping me to discourage her from this particular imaginary play for a while. We understand that it's likely inevitable and that prohibiting it will only make it seem even more desirable, so an outright ban isn't feasible. We are hoping that friends and family will help us out and also not play along, and continue to compliment and encourage both our kids on things that have nothing to do with their physical appearance. If Kat grows up to be the most feminine of women, that's fine by me as long it's a conscious choice and not how she feels she *has* to be. The same goes for Gabe; there's more to being a man than big muscles. To quote another mommy-blogger, "I really have no desire to add to the messages she will be inundated with her entire female life, that makeup makes you look better, prettier, sexier, and that is what women do."