“I prefer women who don’t wear makeup”

So recently, sitting in the backseat of a black metal-blasting Ford of an old friend of my guy-friend, the muscle-shirted, profanity-laden driver was musing on the mysteries of love and courtship and the irreconcilable nature of the modern wacky free-thinking woman (AKA he was bitching about chicks okay) when he declared that he much preferred women who didn’t wear makeup over those who did. To wit: ‘I don’t understand why they wear that shit on their face anyway.’ (This $36 lipstick made by MAC — a top-name brand so renowned that it was referenced in TLC’s ‘Unpretty’ — is not shit, you dick.)

It must be hard being a man looking for love when women keep doing whatever they want without your approval. Bitches be cray!

What I didn’t understand about this gentleperson was that he claimed to not understand why women wear makeup in the first place. I’m no woman-motivation-studying-scientist-woman, but I can think of a number of reasons:

  1. The emphasis on feminine beauty perpetuated by a culture focused on the social exchange of women among men
  2. The double whammy of advertising/capitalism playing on women’s insecurities (a product of #1)
  3. BUT ALSO THEY LIKE WEARING IT (Most women are well aware that their affinity for makeup stems from a combination of #1 and #2, but they also derive great enjoyment from artistry and aesthetic subjectivity).

Of course, he was probably trying to express the super noble sentiment that he is a Good Guy, that unlike the rest of his gender he prefers ‘natural’ beauty, to all this ‘fake’, ‘commodified’ stuff. (I use quotation marks on these terms because I wish to call your attention to the inherent bullshit that defines them.)

His notion of ‘natural’ is bullshit because straight cis men have been deliberately conditioned not to know what this actually might look like.  Makeup artists agree that ‘natural’ is in fact the hardest look to pull-off  – you actually have to wear a fucktonne of makeup to create the illusion that you have no makeup on at all. Not many people wake up with flawless skin free of pimples, redness, dark circles, veins and wrinkles because these are real face things. They are meant to be on your face! If they are not on your face then you are either a beautiful freak of nature or you have mastered the above illusion and kudos to you, you clever person. Therefore, of course, the notion of ‘natural’ is bullshit because not only do men not even understand what they purport to want, but what society means when they talk about ‘natural’ is either a woman who is somehow still hot without makeup or a woman whose beauty regime is invisible (bitch please don’t ‘ruin the magic’ by applying your makeup in public).

So, while probably well-intentioned, my friend-of-a-friend’s comment not only passes judgement on women who do wear makeup and choose to spend time on their appearance, it demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the societal pressures inflicted upon women. It also conveys an ideology that considers a woman’s actions to be conditional upon whether or not they appease dudes.

We all understand the catch 22 of expectations like this: Wear makeup, and you’re a superficial bitch whore. Don’t wear makeup? You’re an ugly whore lesbian freak.

Ah, to be a woman.


  • Zoe says:

    Do you really think that every man who prefers women who don’t wear make-up is a misogynistic bastard who is implying that make-up wearing women are ‘superficial bitch whores’? Really? Could this friend-of-a-friend not just genuinely preferred no make-up on women? They way that some (hetero) women don’t like chest hair on men, or can’t stand muscle t-shirts?

    These things are called ‘personal preferences’ because that’s what they are – they reflect an individual’s preferences and don’t necessarily denote some kind of broader cultural commentary.

    And even if they did, your article draws a number of false conclusions – first of all that attractiveness has to be conflated with perfect skin, and other features that are usually achieved through make-up. As someone from an ethnic background, there is no make-up made for my skin tone and I like to think that my lack of wearing make-up doesn’t mean that people assume I’m a ‘ugly whore lesbian freak’ or that I’ve somehow cracked the code to natural beauty. Maybe I am just normal looking, and people don’t actually run in horror at the sight of a pimple or dry skin.

    You’re also assuming that all men (or women) prefer the exact same look in their chosen partner, as if we’re all passively forced to accept the social standard for beauty and anyone who says otherwise (like your friend) is lying or trying to be morally superior.

    And finally, you presume that ‘most’ women understand the socially constructed reasons for make-up being an accepted and practically mandated part of society, but choose to indulge anyway because they like it. I’m sure that’s true of many (and I don’t doubt that many women love wearing make-up in general), but I sincerely doubt that the majority of make-up wearing women have thought critically about why they wear it.

    Make-up can be harmless the way that fashion can be harmless – until it starts pervading our very understanding of gender roles, or starts implying that women are ornamental, or results in articles like this that seem more focussed on making a witty aside than dealing with the notions of sexism, superficiality and societal pressures, which are what made me click this link in the first place. Now I wish I hadn’t.

    • Scum Mag says:

      Hey there, you’ve raised some really great points and we certainly don’t expect every reader to agree with every post. In fact, we welcome dissent! If you ever feel like it, we’d definitely love to see a piece that responds to this one and takes a different stance. How about it? 🙂

    • Hi Zoe!

      Wow, I think you have assumed that I have assumed many things that I did not actually assume.

      This article is more about the judgement of women who wear makeup, and the ignorance of societal pressures placed on women to be conventionally attractive behind that judgement — not bashing people’s personal preferences.

      Of course not everyone finds the same things attractive! I don’t think I actually defined beauty in my article, but when discussing the pressures for women to be beautiful, it is obviously in reference to the constructed, Western, homogenous standards of beauty (that, yes, are pretty shit).

      As for how many women are aware of the influence of sexism and patriarchy in their decision to wear makeup, who knows, but I reckon women are pretty switched on about this sort of thing, especially readers of Scum.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

      • portopolitico says:

        I’m sorry but I think you’re being a bit disingenuous in your response. How can you not be bashing people’s personal preferences when you’ve just said, of a guy you’ve never met before, that “his notion of ‘natural’ is bullshit because straight cis men have been deliberately conditioned not to know what this actually might look like”?

        As you say, “of course not everyone finds the same thing attractive”, but when it comes to this guy’s preferences, it’s a clear case of deliberate social conditioning. Furthermore, by stating his personal preference he also managed to pass judgement on all women who take pride in their appearance, apparently.

        “I reckon women are pretty switched on about this sort of thing, especially readers of Scum.” I’m not sure how switched on you are when on the one hand you acknowledge the insidious patriarchal pressures but in the next sentence implicitly justify it with the proclamation “BUT THEY LIKE IT!”

  • Merle says:

    I’m fortunate because my husband is an imbecile. I only wear makeup sometimes, but I’ve got all the different layers and I know how to wear them. Because he never sees me putting it on, he just thinks I look extra pretty sometimes and he comments on all night like he’s really amazed

  • Kay says:

    “We all understand the catch 22 of expectations like this: Wear makeup, and you’re a superficial bitch whore. Don’t wear makeup? You’re an ugly whore lesbian freak.” – haha, fantastic.

    I agree with most of the things this article says, and unfortunately those who disagree seem to disagree with big words because it makes them look clever and deep when in reality there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the opinion of this article, and the writer is on the mark.

    Certainly, I have thought critically about why I wear make-up. I’ve sat at the counter wondering “why the hell am I spending thirty dollars on some magical mineral blush that’s only going to get washed down the drain eventually”, and I’ve come to the same three conclusions.

    I honestly think that we are all “passively forced to accept the social standard for beauty”. It’s naive to think the world doesn’t revolve around money and looks, even when the money is being spent on vintage down-market clothes and the look is I-don’t-care-i’ll-wear-what-I-want; it’s still money and it’s still a look.

    So let’s all hop-off of our high horse, say thanks to Jessica for an honest article, and move on with our day in which I will be wearing make-up because it’s pretty and I like it.

    • Kristine says:

      “Certainly, I have thought critically about why I wear make-up… we are all passively forced to accept the social standard for beauty”

      How exactly can you think critically about something but also passively accept it? By definition, thinking critically means you are no longer passively accepting something. Furthermore, if you passively accept it, won’t younger generations also think the world revolves around money and looks but never bother to do anything about it?

    • portopolitico says:

      If you’ve thought critically about it then, by definition, you would no longer “passively accept” it.

  • SS says:

    I disagree. I am a woman who does not often wear makeup an in fact I prefer not to as I feel uncomfortable/self conscious with make up on. You don’t have to wear makeup to be beautiful as much as magazines try to perpetuate the idea that make up makes you beautiful there will be those who believe it. Amongst my close female friends none of us wear makeup regularly and we are all beautiful. Men do know what natural beauty is/what women look like without makeup, well any that have been in a long term relationship do. Ugh there is so much more but I am too tired to go into further detail.

  • “cis.” “patriarchy.”

    Tumblr feminist troll detected.

    As a troll article, though, I liked it.

  • Blaine says:

    Double standard sexism absolutely EVERYWHERE in this article. If the roles were reversed and you were on the terribly ”misogynistic” males side, you would be writing an article about people like yourself quelling your opinion. It is people like you that make equality impossible. Because you will always have a ridiculous sense of entitlement where you are the only one who knows everything to know ever.

    It is depressing to think you will now read this rebut, laugh a little and chalk it up to ‘oh what a silly male, has no idea what it is like to be judged’. Let me remind you, you are basing an entire article on a single sentence one male said. Don’t throw stones in a glass house?

  • JJ says:

    But I *am* an ugly whore lesbian freak……. awkies!

    • cassandra says:

      Me too. I dont give a fuck. I won’t wear make up for men. I MIGHT wear i for myself.

      • chatte noire says:

        I almost never wear makeup either! Except nail polish. I *always* wear that, because otherwise I bite my nails.

        Recently a magazine article informed me that if I wanted a boyfriend I’d better stick to reds and pinks. I looked through my greens and blues and purples and thought, what the hell? I like guys, but I don’t paint my nails for a *man.* I paint them for *myself.*

    • Amber says:

      Your answer shows real inelcligente.

  • Lynne says:

    I think many women actually look *prettier* without makeup, because that “shit” gets in your wrinkles and ages your skin and makes you look like someone who you don’t actually look like! Which I think is weird, conceptually–the fact that women feel the need to look like something other than what they are. But that is a discussion for another time, and maybe that just means I like the ugly whore lesbian freak look better.

    I suppose I sort of see your point re: what “natural” is–given that companies like Dove and Aveeno and others spend a lot of time and money defining “natural” beauty and there’s a whole mess of “natural” beauty products (plus people like Jennifer Lawrence are considered “natural” beauties even though they are often caked in product)–but I think you’re casting sweeping judgements on the boys here. Implying that cis men are all ignoramus-es and are too stupid to know what a normal woman looks like is just unfair–if they’ve ever had a long-term girlfriend they’ve probably seen her without makeup, so that’s just sort of a weak point IMO.

    I think that saying that women like wearing makeup is sort of a blanket generalization that isn’t necessarily really looking at why we might “like” it. Couldn’t “liking” it simply come from the same kind of “conditioning” that you are attributing to the boys? Do we like putting it on because we get attention from the sex we try to attract? Yes, there are pressures on women, but isn’t wearing makeup conforming to them, no matter how much we think we are “doing it for ourselves”? Do we REALLY think we look better with goop on our eyelashes, or does it help us feel better about ourselves, feel like we belong, and possibly get ahead in the attracting-a-mate sense? (Yes, I am an anthropologist, if you couldn’t tell!) I think we might be stretching it there. I’ll admit that I occasionally throw on some eyeliner, but I wouldn’t go so far as to claim that I’m doing it for myself. I’m doing it because it’s “pretty”–and that “pretty” is defined by other people, not my own sense of aesthetics. So yep…I’m a conformist, toeing the line between superficial and ugly whatever it was called.

    So…merp. Mixed thoughts/feelings on this one, but I think it raises a good discussion.

    • siancampbell says:

      You raise some good points, but regarding your last paragraph on looking at why women enjoy makeup – that was directly addressed in the original article.

      “1. The emphasis on feminine beauty perpetuated by a culture focused on the social exchange of women among men
      2. The double whammy of advertising/capitalism playing on women’s insecurities (a product of #1)
      3. BUT ALSO THEY LIKE WEARING IT (Most women are well aware that their affinity for makeup stems from a combination of #1 and #2, but they also derive great enjoyment from artistry and aesthetic subjectivity).”

      I agree that we can get a lot, LOT more in depth here about the psychology behind why women feel the need or desire to wear makeup! Of course you can delve way deeper than these quick three points, but I feel as though the author certainly hasn’t just made a blanket statement about women “just liking it” – and point #3 specifically addresses the idea that there’s obviously more to it that just that.

      • Lynne says:

        It appeared to me that the first two points were duly acknowledging outside influences on the reasons why wearing makeup is so normative, but the third deviated into an explanation centered on artistry which I’m not sure I entirely agree with–it appears to claim that the subjective aesthetic is coming from the woman herself, where I would argue that it’s difficult to claim that a subjective aesthetic can be uninfluenced by the forces mentioned before. The author emphasized how universal those were, then turned around and claimed that great enjoyment was somehow separate from and untainted by other outside factors, but didn’t further explain–and that was the only point at which enjoyment was mentioned (the first two points seemed more like reasons why women would do it in the first place, not necessarily enjoy it). It seems like it’s trying to reclaim makeup as a woman’s individual choice and individual expression/enjoyment of an aesthetic value while #1 and #2 contradict that, so it’s a little confusing without more explanation (particularly as to why/how a woman’s individual aesthetic is stronger/can trump wider societal values).

        So: Looking back, I definitely see what you are saying, but I still think that the statement would (obviously) be stronger with more explanation/elaboration on why the author thinks that women derive great enjoyment from makeup for the beauty/artistic reasons mentioned–it seems like the author just mentioned that quickly and left it there. And, like you said, more on the psychology would be great, because it is fascinating, but then we’d all be here all day!

        Of course, I could still just be reading it wrong. Feel free to correct me if I am missing something.

  • voaDRC says:

    Dear Jessica Alice,

    A) What was your response to the muscle-shirted, profanity-laden driver?
    B) What is your proposal? I’m hearing you say that the madanna/whore judgement of wimen and make-up is illogical on many levels. What is your proposal moving forward?


  • Rachel says:

    this is a GREAT article!!
    what they mean by natural isn’t ‘warts and all’ natural. It’s natural as in naturally perfect. Guys say we shouldn’t care about our weight and pimples and fugly faces, but as soon as a fat or ugly girl passes, they’re the first to heap shit on her. What they’re saying is, guys like chicks who are perfect WITHOUT EVEN TRYING which is far more insulting than just straight out telling us to slab on the foundation.
    and like you said, by ‘natural and no make-up’ they mean, natural LOOKING make-up.
    Sorry world but not everybody is naturally gorgeous.

    plus I like make-up so I will wear it.

  • kisskk says:

    i dont have pimples or wrinkles just saying. I did but then i just watched my face morning and night and applied moisturizer. And i agree with him that women look tacky with makeup. Foundation to cover things also makes your skin look worse.. in some people leaving something that looks like a fuzzy layer or mask. I used to wear alot of makeup.. including buying alot of deparment store, mac and other makeup. One day i realized.. this is not doing anything for me. so I quit wearing it alltogether.

  • Bee says:

    I am a 33 year old woman who has worn makeup literally 6 times in my life (all for special occassions) and regreted all but one of those times because I felt fake and plastic. Most people don’t bat an eye about the lack of makeup when you don’t care to wear it out and about. On the odd occassion when someone notices and asks if I don’t wear makeup others around them may take a close look and realise it’s true, I don’t wear makeup. There are various reactions to this, some positive, some negative, but none make an impact on my own personal feelings about the matter. I have had a handful of people tell me I should start to wear makeup to fit in better with the expected look of a woman. But I have also had many people stop me in the street as we walk past each other and tell me that they think I look beautiful. My fiance loves the way I look without makeup and prefers that I don’t wear any. My ex was the same way the the extent that he washed the makeup off my face the one time I wore it around him (and this was makeup done by a professional intended to look fairly natural). I hate the way makeup feels and gives an unnatural look to the face by covering all the natural uniqueness that are often referred to as imperfections. Personally I always prefer the way my female friends look when they forgo makeup to when they wear it- most of the time makeup takes away from the natural beauty that really truly is there. I am feminine, I take care of my skin, I don’t worry about my “imperfections”, I don’t wear makeup, and some people think I’m beautiful, some people don’t. That’s ok. It is ignorant to assume that people who prefer women who don’t wear makeup are ignorant of what women without makeup look like. There are many of us who really don’t like wearing it, and it doesn’t mean we are judged as being “ugly lesbian whore freaks”- except perhaps by women who have swollowed the lie that makeup is essential to make them look the way they are “supposed” to look.

  • lucy says:

    What winds me up personally is when your boyfriend says wearing make up is superficial and women have been made to feel insecure by society/media without it but then he goes to work and flirts with make up wearing women and compliments the ones that seem insecure. Double standard??
    Also,what about perfume and cologne? Are they not just as superficial? After all washing and applying deodorant is all anyone needs to do to be clean,hygienic and presentable. Scent is an artificial extra.

  • lucy says:

    Also to Bee,your ex washing the makeup off your face seems a little controlling no? A womans partner may seem like he supports women’s equality by saying women don’t need make upand shouldn’t feel they need it, but the keyword here should be ‘choice,. It should be your choice to wear or not wear it,as it should be women’s choices to get married or not,have kids or not,shave or not. A boyfriend bullying you into not wearing make up,shaving etc etc is just as bad as society telling you you should!

  • Heartafire says:

    I don’t care if a man likes or dislikes me in make-up or without, that is my choice. I was madly in love with a misogynist for a long time…I know all the signs … even the war of the roses can’t stop the heart from wanting what it wants. like your blog!

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