Should makeup be sold to the over-8s?

Hey, let’s ban makeup for the over-8s. It’s okay, I’m only kidding. I for one am not about throw away a million squillion pounds worth of Urban Decay just to make some prissy feminist point about the beauty industry or objectification or whatever it is. Nothing’s going to keep me from my fave Too Faced eyeshadow (called “Lapdance” – I put it on and get to feel objectified without having to do anything!).

I have been in love with makeup ever since I first received some Crayon Girl for Christmas in 1982. For those not yet in need of light-diffusing particles to blur those fine lines, Crayon Girl was makeup marketed at pre-teens in the early 80s. I had a lipstick in the shade “fuchsia” (try reading that when you’re seven) and some “cotton candy” peel-off nail varnish. The really ace thing about Crayon Girl stuff, though, was that each item was shaped like a kid’s crayon. It emphasized makeup as an extension of play. Or, less pretentiously, it just looked really good. It was fun!

So the packaging was different, but what else was different about Crayon Girl compared to “normal” makeup? Answer: fuck all. It was just makeup, except the manufacturers didn’t tell you as many sodding lies.

Years ago I used to justify my adult obsession with makeup by claiming that wearing it constituted an active expression of my sexual identity. Unlike the burqa or Page 3, it was not a fixed response to the male gaze; it was me, making my choice about how I wanted to be positioned within the sexual marketplace. This obviously self-serving and overly simplistic explanation hasn’t stood the test of time. I have days when I try to make myself look “really special” – beyond the everyday base, concealer, foundation, powder, blusher, eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, eyebrow powder and wax – and when, at the end of the process, I find I don’t look the way I meant to look, I feel a total failure. This is not self-expression or empowerment. It’s feeling useless because you don’t look like someone who isn’t you.

Ladycurd wrote a brilliant post in response to the Pink Stinks campaign to ban makeup being sold to the under-8s. I particularly liked the following observation:

It’s a bit fucked up to freak out so much about kids playing with makeup, when actually what we should maybe be freaking out about is why so many adult women are so not comfortable in their own skins that they have to cover themselves in these make up masks in order to be perceived as beautiful.

This is spot on. The problem is not kids playing with makeup; it’s the fact that the fantasy carries on into adulthood and becomes much more painful. My eldest son likes dressing as a knight. I am not worried that when he gets older the pressure to go jousting and win favours will get too much. If I had a little girl who was currently dressing up as a fairy princess, I’d be much more concerned. Kate Middleton, after all, is a real person. It could be you, little girl. It should be you, shouldn’t it?

Anyhow, this afternoon I was back in ToysRUs*and saw the solution to my problems: Monster High makeup. It’s meant for little girls and it’s bloody fantastic. Stuff you, Urban Decay, with your “edgy” shade titles like smog, roach and, um, mucus (probably). Monster High is truly hardcore, and it doesn’t suggest for a minute it will make you look beautiful. I WANT IT NOW AND I SHALL HAVE IT! Next time you see me, I’ll be looking like Frankie Stein.

* Second trip to ToysRUs this weekend. Soon Toys WILL in fact be me (I have no idea what this process will involve, but I just can’t wait).