Speak On It

Cosmetics and their role in feminism

The word feminism is perceived in many different ways. It is a movement, it is equality in life, it is a power. The meaning of it carries many connotations for people and every day, we are subconsciously seeing or reading about it. Whether it is the stark reminder of women’s right to vote, a campaign for women in sport or a female figure which is seen a role model to women, feminism has become a part of everyday life. It is a huge part of society and there have been many waves in the last century that have paved the way for women to feel empowered.

Empowerment comes from the many forms of feminism and the importance of image and being perceived in an equal way. Cosmetics could be seen to play a huge part in this. Females have been wearing them for 6000 years, dating back to Ancient Egyptians and the role of Cleopatra, whose iconic beauty and image is still recreated today.

The question is – what does make-up mean to women? Is it a vital tool in their feelings for driven strength and courage? Going back to Cleopatra, it appeared that make-up was indeed a significant cog in her image and reputation. She was regarded as the most beautiful and intelligent woman in her empire with her smoky eyes a signature look that she is clearly remembered for to this day.

Let’s also look at Elizabethan Britain and Queen Elizabeth, whose celebrated portraits echo a demure woman of ultimate power. Achieving her porcelain English rose complexion came with the help of egg whites mixed with white poppy seeds and waxes, which formed a foundation that she was infamous for and many women of this period chose to adopt. It became the look of the era.

Fast forward to today and make-up remains a huge part of the female image. It has integrated into not just offering a sense of empowerment but has entered women’s social roles, with the rise of beauty salons/counters, brow bars and manicure stations that allow women to embrace and take pride in appearance on the go, openly and confidently.

Not only is access to cosmetics greater but the faces behind the product are prolific, hugely successful women that today’s female generation aspire to. Whether it is to front new innovations in skincare, a lipstick collection or new hair dye, these women are everywhere. They are in magazines, on TV, on billboards, on public transport, delivering an image of feminism through the language of make-up. Could cosmetics have contributed greatly to their feelings of empowerment which ultimately has led to their famous status? It may very well have.

In truth, the steps women take to feel empowered are totally unique. Some choose to wear cosmetics and some choose not to and that does not make them unequal. Make-up is not there as a compulsory form of expression for women to measure each other on.

It is there is to inspire you to take pride in everything you are and all you aspire to become.


Govinder Rayt

Govinder Rayt

Writer and expert