My Everyday Internalized Sexism

This morning I woke up at 7am to get ready for work. I got dressed, washed my face, and put in my contacts. Then came the decisions. Do I wear makeup today? What should I do with my hair? I stared at myself and thought, “Do I need to look pretty today?” I decided, yes, I did.

I went to work. With a meeting at 8:30, I had a little time to check my email and eat some toast. Right before heading to my meeting, I checked my appearance in the mirror I have hanging at my desk. Yes, I have a mirror at my desk. Hanging at eye level at all times to the left of my computer monitor. I check it frequently. After work, I got home and washed my face — finally feeling clean again was relaxing.

This is my internalized sexism.

Logically, it shouldn’t matter whether or not I wear makeup or do my hair. I can do my job just fine with a clean face and a pony tail. But alas, inner Maggie says, “No one will like you if you aren’t pretty.”

There are pros and cons to each “beauty” decision I make each morning. The pros are that I feel more confident and more professional when wearing makeup and a hairstyle. The cons are that it takes valuable morning time and it shouldn’t fucking matter if I wear makeup or not.

To be clear, I don’t think makeup is bad. I like wearing makeup if I am going to a formal event or a costume party. I know that some people really enjoy makeup, and that is totally fine with me. Whatever floats your boat. Makeup just generally doesn’t float mine.

As I have grown up, I have chosen to stop doing several things that, if you were to go by media expectations, all women do on a regular basis. I rarely shave my legs, I don’t wear earrings, and I don’t paint my nails. These things are expensive, time consuming, and uncomfortable. They are not worthwhile to me, and I now understand that they have nothing to do with my character.

Really, I wear very little makeup on a daily basis — just a little mascara and eyebrow filler. Sometimes I wear concealer and foundation to hide my acne, but I touch my face so much out of nervous habit that I rub most of it off by lunch anyway.

But even so, my professionalism and self-esteem should not be tied to my eyelashes.

At work, most women I see wear makeup. They are “put together.” Professional. I want to emulate them so that they take me seriously. I want to hold my own with everyone I work with, and I don’t want to be looked down upon as a “kid.” There is no one at my workplace that is explicitly telling me that I need to wear makeup to succeed. It is myself telling me that I “need” it. It is me being sexist to myself.

I wonder how many women I know have the same struggle. Do they like wearing makeup, or is it just another habit developed over the years? Maybe some of these women think the same thing as me, that they are not quite as good as their dolled-up selves. It’s complete bullshit, by the way.

There is a struggle between my feminist self and my sexist self. My feminist self is winning, but it is a daily battle. Maybe someday she will win the war.

Maggie Knight is a contributor for the Godless rEvolution Blog and Podcast. She is an Engineer, a Feminist, an Atheist, an Activist, and an all around cool person.

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