I’m a firm believer that women should do what empowers them and not take any notice of anyone else. For some this means putting on their make up or perhaps a lipstick to go out, to make them feel confident. Hell, I know I’ve put on a splash of lipstick to make me feel more confident than I really am. While I’m not a frequent make up wearer, I understand that others do and respect their choice. Banning make up isn’t going to sole gender inequality in the world. This week, however, I did have a serious think about children and make up.
When I was a little girl I thought my Mum’s red lipstick was the most classy thing ever ( which is probably where my love for a good red lip comes from), but she only did this when we were going out somewhere special. Day to day, while my Mum used make up it wasn’t made out to be a big thing, she could go out without it if she wanted too, and often did. Now she has two daughters, one who has minimal interest in make up (me) and another who can shame some make up artists if she tried (my sister). I thought back to our childhoods and the way make up was presented to us, it was just another thing. Did we want our nails painted like our Mums? Of course we did but that’s all it was, Mum never showed us a desperation or a need for make up.
Now, when I look for presents for my Goddaughter, due to the fact she’ll be a big sister soon, I find myself increasingly frustrated about what is put on the shelves and the child models themselves. Someone on my Facebook shared an image of a toy that was marketed as 5+ but, alarmingly, the little girls on the front appeared to have red lips. There are piles upon piles of ‘toys’ that have nail varnishes, lipgloss etc with Disney Princesses on. I fully understand little girls wanting to be like their Mums and Sisters but at the same time I’m worried that at the age of 3 or 4 little girls are introduced to an idea that playing, for them, is to do with their appearance.
We all know that growing up is not easy, so why are the toy companies cashing in on making little girls grow up even quicker? I know it’s about business, I know it’s about profit but there’s something I find deeply uncomfortable about it. You don’t want a 4 year old thinking that all they can do is play with dolls and lipgloss. I’m a big believer in letting children be children, because they are for such a short time. Women are told to worry about their bodies from all kinds of media for their entire lives, but putting lipstick on a child that’s going to go on a toy box? It’s too far. We need to take back the toy aisles. We need to tell girls it’s ok to want to play with other things, that they can build whatever they like about lego and we need the kids on the boxes to look like happy and healthy kids, not a dressed up version.
Sometimes, when I write these, I just feel an overwhelming sadness. I struggled so much to fit in even at secondary school because the only make up I was interested was eyeliner, and a lot of it. I struggled when girls would be making up dance routines or playing ‘Mums and Dads’, because I was leading an army in the woods with the boys. I’m not saying that I didn’t LOVE body glitter the age of 10 or put on my Mum’s make up like other girls, of course I did at home. The thing is for almost al of my life I’ve felt like make up was just a thing, not the be all and end all. I don’t care if I go on without it, but I worry about what little girls are seeing now. Look at everyone on Youtube doing make up tutorials, the images used on boxes and the pop stars they watch. There’s never a hair out of place and images are photoshopped for perfection. It may only be a little bit of make up on a model but I for one want to give kids as much time to be kids as possible, before they have to deal with growing up.