Can you be a feminist and beauty lover?

In honor of International Women's Day and the #metoo movement, Violet Grey put together multiple points of view (POV) from powerhouse women in beauty and fashion to get their opinion on the palpable tension between feminism and beauty.  I have put together a sample of those women (full blog link below) as well as a few thoughts of my own at the bottom. 


Activist, Writer & National Organizer, Women’s March on Washington | @sarahsophief

The truth is, there is a tension that has always existed between beauty ideals/business and feminist ideals. Much of how we are taught to see ourselves is a reflection of the male gaze, right? An all out rejection of beauty, however would probably be a doubling down, or upholding some form of misogyny though wouldn't it? If we agree that most things coded as "female" are summarily dismissed, seen as frivolous or at worst, lacking value, then emulating standards coded as "male" or patriarchal structures, doesn't seem like much of an answer does it? 

Perhaps all we can do is answer these complicated questions for ourselves. I ask myself, what image of myself do I want to put out in the world and why? Do I love beauty because I crave admiration or attention? Do I do this for myself? Do I love beauty because I fear aging and the sexism inherent in that? Am I culturally appropriating with the image I put out in the world? As a somewhat public person, can I own the privilege that subscribing to a certain image of beauty inherently bring? Can I enjoy the ritual of beauty without judging how other people choose to engage in their own image? How can the culture of beauty and fashion be made accessible to everyone? Where does my satisfaction and joy come from in the daily act of doing my make up or washing my face? These are just a few questions. As I get older, the answers become more satisfying, mostly because the beautiful thing about aging is, for me at least, I just give fewer fucks.

My truth may not be anyone else's and I figure, as long as my truth does no harm, is a true reflection of my values and beliefs, and brings me some enjoyment, then I can feel good about it! Whether we choose to reject or embrace a ritual of beauty, adornment, self definition, and identification, these choices must be personal and unique. The moment we are in brings me a lot of joy, whether it's attending a BeautyCon convention, with young people of all genders, finding community in the joy of of self expression, or the more inclusive tone of fashion, our kaleidoscope of beauty is growing. As it should.


Founder & Creative Director, LPA | @piaarrobio

For a long time, I felt selfish about working in the fashion industry. I felt intense guilt that I was using my education, skillset and charm to convince people they HAD to have a certain product or article of clothing. Those feelings went away a few months after I launched LPA, and have completely lifted now that I have grown into an engaged, 31-year-old woman. In the beginning, I was preaching for women to feel good, using it as my brand ethos and writing taglines like “this will get you laid” on LPA labels—but didn’t feel that way about myself. I was overworked, and didn’t take time or money for myself.

The change started with a few simple messages from customers saying, “You were right! Your dress did get me laid!” and has continued to grow as I have shared my very open, and at times, very insecure journey. It was positive feedback and support from other women that initially gave me a surge of confidence. I had to practice what I preached and invest in self-care in order to really be the woman I wanted to be. This started, naturally, with some therapy, meditation and hot yoga. It has developed into a daily routine that I am semi-obsessive about, and one that is important to my physical and mental well-being.

The conclusion I have come to is this: being a feminist is whatever the fuck you want it to be. It is whatever makes you the best, most well-rounded version of yourself. Being a feminist shouldn’t be a trend, it should be your truth. I am more of a woman than I’ve ever been because I am myself—a process I couldn’t come to without respecting my mind, body and my heart. For me, being a feminist is being inclusive; being your best self according your own needs; being nice to yourself; being nice to other women; and sharing beauty tips.


Creative and Programming Director, San Vincente Bungalows | @punchhutton

Feeling beautiful is empowering because it builds confidence. And a confident woman is a force to be reckoned with. A confident woman gets things done. There is nothing wrong with or anti-feminist or superficial about the pursuit of beauty and wanting to look one’s best. It’s the exact opposite. It’s about owning your desires and being in control of how you present yourself to the world.


Co-Founders, Sakara Life | @sakaralife

I think the notion that one has to reconcile [them both] is completely counterintuitive to what it means to be a feminist. I choose to feel beautiful and sexy because it makes me feel good, not so I can cater to a masculine ideal. The thing we must all be careful of, as the world shifts to the feminine and we tread new waters, is to remember that the only feeling we want is to feel empowered and limitless. Trying to quiet a love for something (whether it be beauty, fashion, etc.) means we're right back where we started from: living a life where we don't feel free.


Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon @archerfacialplastics

When I was in college, I thought that I had to decide - being smart or being pretty.  I think that all ambitious women struggle with this at some point.  I knew intelligence and relentless drive were my passion so I doubled down (not sure how much was consciously or unconsciously), never wore make-up, t-shirt and jeans only, hair always in a pony tail, no nail polish etc.  Hell, I was in college and broke.  I realized that, despite what I had on, I felt happy, confident, and pretty when I was surrounded by people who loved me - my friends and my family.  To this day, I am my best self when I am with my girlfriends.  Why?  Beacuse they love me NO MATTER WHAT.  Around them - it's just me - and that's always good enough!

In an interview for my head and neck surgical residency program in upstate New York, I was asked by Dr. Hsu - what is success to you? My answer - being happy.  As I grew into a young professional, I love things that are classically feminine: trying new makeup trends, dry bar blow out, nail polish when I'm not operating, and putting together an outfit that makes me feel pretty (definitely not scrubs).  For example, a makeup lesson at Anastasia Beverly Hills to get my brows done (I am lost when it comes to brow makeup) is on my ultimate wish list.  It makes me wonder sometimes - am I any less an advocate for women's rights because I care about how I look?  I once had a woman sitting next to me at a luncheon tell me that she can't understand why a woman would EVER want to get plastic surgery.  Well, isn't that kind of rhetoric anti-feminist?  I believe that feminism is about self-love and respect and lifting other women up.  Who am I to tell you that what you are doing is good or bad?  I believe that if it makes you feel complete, confident and self-assured, MORE POWER TO YOU.  I have no interest in plastic surgery/beauty shaming and the notion that women are judging other women, to me, is anti-feminist.  We are all so different and what makes us different is beautiful and what makes us happy is different.  Fitting perfectly into a masculine aura of anti-beauty is no more feminist than another woman wearing makeup and expressing exactly who she is without any apology.  I think inner strength is beauty and regardless of your favorite products or style, that is something we can all have in common.               

As always, I would love to get your feedback and POV.  Please send comments, thoughts, your own opinions to me Twitter @ArcherMD, Instagram @archerfacialplastics, Facebook @archerfacialplastics.

Picture from VIOLET GREY

Kaete Archer, MD Facial Plastic Surgeon

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