February 15, 2020

The 'red' lipstick bias

All through my growing up years, whenever I entered a cosmetic store, there was one question that’d always spring to mind.
‘Why not the red lipstick?’

Back then, a woman wearing red lipstick was regarded no less than a pariah, an outcaste. Men would leer. Elders would frown. And her character would be speculated. Only the fallen were believed to colour their lips red...a sign of seduction that girls/women from 'good families' were not to experiment with.
Ergo, all through my teenage years, I went without the slightest trace of makeup.

However, as is the case of the forbidden fruit,  this ‘no make up’ abstinence period managed to trigger a deep seated curiosity inside me, which I got satiated first thing I turned 22 (yes, that was the first time I used a rose tinted chapstick. Late bloomer I know).

Cut to present day, I see my neighbour admonishing her teenage daughter on using the hardly used red lip colour in her make up box. I see the child wilt in front of her mother's wrath. She retreats in a shell as her mother keeps yelling.
“Do you want to go out looking like a whore?"

And I am gobsmacked! By the audacity of the statement. I wonder what repercussions that preposterous argument could have on that child's psychology. It also makes me think how scarred my neighbour might be to talk like that...had her own mother been equally brutal with words to create such a deep impression, I wonder.

And that gets me thinking...
We have come so far in terms of gender equality and feminism. Yet, I wonder, what about the red lip stick is so intimidating to people even today?


If you ask me, I think there is nothing as beautiful. A red lipstick represents strength and character. A bold combination of sass and power.
The colour red is one that can be interpreted in myriad ways. It is the colour of life...the colour that a woman bleeds when she brings another life in this world. Red is the colour of undiluted passion...of blissful romance...of unadulterated love. However, if rubbed the wrong way, red can represent anger and wrath too.
The vermilion in the hair of a married woman, the blush creeping up on the face of a coy bride, and the colour of Sidhur Khela...are all represented by red.

When a woman wears red on her lips, it is a reminder that she is a force to reckon with. That she has a voice of her own, and that she is not afraid to use it.
Fiery hot, unpredictable, aggressive - this shade is much more than just a passing fashion statement. It is a declaration...of confidence, of being capable to protect and defend oneself.
A piercing war cry as opposed to the subtlety of its timid contemporaries; the soft pinks, plums, maroons that promise to decently sit on your lips, blending in with your skin tone in less conspicuous ways.

“Garish”, “too loud”, “such bright shades don’t look good on dusky skin” are some of the excuses I have heard women come up with for looking down on the red lipstick. These are the same women who turn up their noses at other women who dare to wear something they themselves may be too insecure to wear.

One woman told me it had something to do with the vibe a woman wearing dark red lipstick sends across. What I thought to be confident and beautiful, she considered brazen and indecent.

“Besides, what will people say? I am too old to wear such shades.”

Red was clearly outside the comfort zone of her fashion.

Oh,. well!

I am aware a lot of women like me love the red lipstick. This post is directed to those who don’t.
Of course, we are entitled to our open opinions. I think a difference in opinion is completely fine.
But an illogical antipathy towards a certain vibe/look/attire different from ours only from fear of what others may think of us...how empowered does that make us really?

As women, we pride ourselves in being the more inclusive sex. But how inclusive are we really if we cannot open our mind to a different shade of cosmetic (leave alone character) on fellow humans?
A thought worth pondering on...

As for all you ladies sitting on the fence about this whole (non)issue, hesitant about that red lipstick you have been secretly stashing away in your dresser, unwillingly settling for some milder shade every time you step out, today is the day to break the bias.
Take out that red lipstick. Let it breathe. Wear it. Flaunt it. See how it makes you feel.

Too dark, too garish, too bold, who cares?!
If it makes you feel happy, stick with it. It’s called lip-stick for a reason.

So here’s to us, women, and our choices...
May we always have the independence, the courage, and the wisdom to live them, love them, and stand up for them.

More power to the red lipstick.
More power to us!

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