MAKE-UP: Women as Spectacles

Women, when it comes to snaring men through the eye, bait a great many hooks that fail to fluster the fish. Nine-tenths of their primping and decorating of their persons not only doesn’t please men; it actually repels men. I often pass two days running without encountering a single woman who is charmingly dressed. Nearly all of them run to painful color schemes and absurd designs. One seldom observes a man who looks an absolute guy, whereas such women are very numerous; in the average theater audience they constitute a majority of at least nine-tenths. The reason is not far to seek. The clothes of men are plain in design and neutral in hue. The only touch of genuine color is in the florid blob of the face, the center of interest— exactly where it ought to be. If there is any other color at all, it is a faint suggestion in the cravat—adjacent to the face, and so leading the eye toward it. It is color that kills the clothes of the average woman. She runs to bright spots that take the eye away from her face and hair. She ceases to be woman clothed and becomes a mere piece of clothing womaned.

Even at the basic feminine art of pigmenting their faces very few women excel. The average woman seems to think that she is most lovely when her sophistication of her complexion is most adroitly concealed—when the poudre de riz is rubbed in so hard that it is almost invisible, and the penciling of eyes and lips is perfectly realistic. This is a false notion. Most men of appreciative eye have no objection to artificiality per se so long as it is intrinsically sightly. The marks made by a lipstick may be very beautiful; there are many lovely shades of scarlet, crimson and vermilion. A man with eyes in his head admires them for themselves; he doesn’t have to be first convinced that they are non-existent, that what he sees is not the mark of a lipstick at all, but an authentic lip. So with the eyes. Nothing could be more charming than an eye properly reinforced; the naked organ is not to be compared to it; nature is an idiot when it comes to shadows. But it must be admired as a work of art, not as a miraculous and incredible eye.… Women, in this important and venerable art, stick too closely to crude representation. They forget that men do not admire the technique, but the result. What they should do is to forget realism for a while, and concentrate their attention upon composition, chiaroscuro and color.

From APPENDIX ON A TENDER THEME, PREJUDICES by H.L. Mencken: SECOND SERIES, 1920, pp. 238–39.


5 thoughts on “MAKE-UP: Women as Spectacles

  1. Interesting. I rarely wear makeup and usually dress very plain, although I do have an eye for what flatters my figure and what doesn’t, and my husband insists that men always watch me. Why is anyone’s guess, and I never notice. But given the way I dress, not following trends or getting all decked out like the majority of women I see, it seems odd to me that anyone would so much as take notice of me, unless it was to sneer down their smug noses.
    I’ve heard from more than a few guys over the years who prefer women who don’t always wear makeup, not holding the photo shopped unrealistic woman as their ideal of feminine beauty.
    What is really bizarre about humans is that in our societies women dress flamboyantly, while men are usually so drab and plain. But in the animal kingdom, it is quite the opposite. It is for the male to attract a mate, not the female. In the animal kingdom, males have the brighter and more striking colour schemes or physical attributes, while females tend towards neutral colours and simpler physical traits.
    Something seems very backwards in humanity. Aren’t men supposed to be competitive, driven and assertive? There’s an inherent reason why women want to be chased, and why men enjoy the hunt.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I support your view in every way. That is enlightenment, to live so wakefully as you have highlighted above. I wish more women could have a similar realization as you concerning beauty. True beauty is rooted from within. Thats why your natural beauty is recognized easily by many.

    Thanks for the comment Jess.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I was never into makeup until I was about 25 years old. That’s young still, but late compared to all my peers. My sister started wearing makeup at age 15. Now as an adult woman, she allows her young daughter to wear makeup. I’ve heard many woman describe makeup as an art therapy. I can see how we need this art therapy as a form of self-love after we get our hearts broken. But I found Jessica’s response very intriguing. I have also heard many men say that they like a woman who’s in a natural state without makeup. But then I wonder why then do they leave us for the beautiful Barbie types? So, they love women. Aesthetics is really irrelevant I think. I think they are looking at a combination of qualities in a woman. Great article by the way. Gutsy, to tackle this subject.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Why they leave for the Barbie’s? Because men and women of the world love in a state of spiritual unawareness. They will never get satisfied or fulfilled with what they have lest they strive towards enlightenment. This is my prescription. The society-everywhere in the world- thrives on placing the cart before the horse. For as long as men and women of this world dont know or understand truth , they will never know love. This is just an immutable law of nature.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

    Liked by 1 person

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