We’re All Drag Queens


When Madam was a little girl, around the tender age of six, she began to take serious interest in an exotic ritual preformed by the matriarchs of the Killjoy Clan. This ritual was usually only exercised when the women needed to leave the boundaries of the house and enter the public sphere – they decorated their faces.

Madam thought all the women in her life were beautiful (and she was right) yet she did not question this need for them to alter their appearances. Just as she did not question the fact that the men of the Killjoy Clan shaved their faces. She just thought: Girls do this, boys do that, la-dee-da, end of story. She was, after all, only a child.

Long before I began to perceive the nasty reality of being a second class citizen merely because I was born female, I longed to wear makeup. At first, this was due to my interest in theater, in make-believe. I loved to dress up. To vamp. To mock. I wanted to be Carol Burnett when I grew up. Seriously. What better job could there be?! (Other than becoming the “first female” Jacques Cousteau, that is.)

While I was allowed to wear makeup while “in character” in the many plays that took place on our back patio, Mother Killjoy had early on declared that I could not officially paint my face for the general public until I attained the mystical age of 13 (the same age I’d be allowed to pierce my ears AND “date” boys). I did not bother appealing to my father in this particular battle. While he was the one who would sneak me a candy bar when I was supposed to be deprived of dessert for not cleaning my plate, he was also reliably and unduly harsh on all matters concerning my growing up. To the question: “Daddy, how old do I have to be before I’m allowed to (date, wear makeup, leave the house)? the inevitable answer was: “When you’re 30.”

Well, at the ripe old age of 10, I was deemed mature enough by the Powers That Be to begin consuming “fashion” magazines. I rigorously and enviously studied the proper application of makeup. How to make a full nose look thinner; how to make thin lashes look fuller. How to make pores look smaller, cheeks look rosier, lips poutier, eyes “smokier.” My mother was needlessly worried that I would not be able to master the subtly of this mysterious art, with it’s goal of looking natural, even though it is anything but. She was afraid I’d end up looking like a painted trollop, a “putan,” in her mother’s native tongue. She was proudly surprised when I proved her wrong.

I was a good student. And the patriarchy was my professor.

I wore makeup almost every day for almost three years. I was particularly adept at eye makeup, darkening the crease, extending the lash line. I painted my nails, too, and wore big earrings, and became a wee bit obsessed with clothes. And no one batted an eye.

Then high school rolled around and I realized I could sleep at least 15 minutes later if I eschewed donning my public mask. (I came to this eureka moment when Mother Killjoy made clear that if I missed the bus ONE MORE TIME I would be hoofing it to school, a mere 4.5 miles from the Homestead. And yes, I did miss the bus that one more time, and yes, I walked to school.)

Just prior to the fabled Long March (and, if memory serves correct, two subsequent treks), I had begun to notice something. On the days that I did not wear makeup – in a frantic effort to catch the bus on time – I was often asked if I felt alright. Once I stopped wearing it, people stopped asking. Once everyone got used to my truly natural face, sans spackle, well, they got used to it. My only concession to beauty was to curl my eyelashes (yes, I brushed my hair, and teeth – that is grooming, not manufactured beauty).

I did not stop painting my face entirely. I wore makeup on special occasions, especially those involving photographic evidence.

Until I turned 30, when I picked up the brushes once more.

Madam’s Daily* Beauty Regiment: Clean face and apply moisturizer. Buff face with “mineral” powder and blush. Curl eyelashes. Line upper and lower lashes with cheap-ass pencil eyeliner. Perhaps sweep a trace of a peachy eye shadow across lids.

*Daily meaning Work Days or other Extended Periods of Public Exposure. For “A Sexy Evening Look,” Madam adds a darker shadow to the crease of her eyelid, applies mascara and lipstick. She still looks like shit in photographs.

I guess my point is: Why? Why the fuck do we waste our time and money on this pointless altering of our appearances? What is so fucking offensive about the natural female face that it deserves such alteration (let alone going under the knife to “improve” one’s appearance)?

Oh, right. To look pretty. Because, really, that is a woman’s function in this world, isn’t it? To be pleasing to the eye, to be easy on the male gaze. To dress the set.

If you are wearing makeup to attract a partner, well, once you attract him or her, and, I suppose, bed said partner, they are eventually going to see you au natural, are they not? Why the trickery?

If it is to bolster self confidence in the public sphere, well, how self confident can one be when she feels the need to alter her appearance, as if it were not good enough to begin with? She can’t. But if she opts out, she’s just a feminazi boner-killing dyke bitch, isn’t she?

Yes, I wear makeup and I hate myself for it. But pretty is a privilege and I look prettier by society’s standards when I’m all “dolled up” (interesting phrase, that).

Vanity* thy name is woman.

It most certainly is when you pound into little girls’ skulls, every damn day, over and over, that a woman’s only true value resides in her physical appearance. If you think society does otherwise, I suggest you ponder this quote, from that Grand Wizard of Idiocy, Rush Limbaugh:

“Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society.”

This is from a 1992 Time interview by Margaret Carlson. Feel offended? Read on:

Limbaugh: Because of the shallowness of our society and because of the biological differences in men and women, attractive women have an edge at the outset. They are the first noticed in social situations, and they are highly thought of in business situations. It’s just a fact. And in many cases attractive women have not had to prepare themselves as well intellectually because they’ve got these other things to rely on. Meanwhile you have women who don’t think they fit into the category of attractive, pretty, beautiful, whatever, who nevertheless are intelligent and bright and witty, and who have devoted themselves to education, and they care seriously about advancing through life as much as anybody else does. And they are just fed up that a bunch of bimbos are either married to high-profile people or are employed by high-profile people and they aren’t.

Carlson: So women go to law school because they’re ugly?

Limbaugh: I’m not saying that. I’m saying feminism was established, that the idea was, “Goddammit, we’re going to have to have a political movement here to get what we’re entitled to because it’s not fair, we’re not getting it out there.”

Hmm. This man’s continued popularity is a white-hot reminder of how we are not living in a post-feminist (whatever the fuck that means) world. But I will grant that I agree with him on “the shallowness of our society” and that it took a fucking political movement to drive home the fact that *gasp!* women are human beings deserving of being able to “care seriously about advancing through life as much as anybody else does.”

Of course, as an anointed Spokestool of the Patriarchy, Limbaugh is obligated to push the decidedly prickish world view that insists upon pitting women against one another – by dividing us into oppositional, and predictable, categories, i.e. attractive bimbos and ugly intelligent women. Then we have his inane invocation of the supposedly gianormous and allegedly innate biological differences between the sexes, i.e. men are so intrinsically incapable of thinking about anything other than getting off that they will deny “unattractive” women access to mainstream society.

That’s right folks, before the advent of feminism, only the Pretty Ladies were allowed to vote, own property, control their reproductive systems, have their husbands arrested for beating and/or raping them, and attain equal access to education. Not to mention that Attractive Women have always been “highly thought of in business situations.” It’s a fact. Rush says so. That co-worker who grabbed your crotch in the supply closet? He wasn’t being an entitled ass, he was just thinking of you, highly.

But, hey, ya gotta hand it to him, Limbaugh doesn’t pull any punches. I mean, at least this venerated Grand Poobah of the He-Man Woman Haters Club is willing and ready to admit that if you Lady People are not giving him a boner, you are worth less. Or, should I say worthless.

You know where you are?

You’re in the patriarchy, baby!

You’re gonna diiiieeee! Huh!

*Yes, Madam is aware that the actual quote from Hamlet is “Frailty thy name is woman.” But she remains steadfast in her belief that this line about “vanity” is thrown about and misquoted often enough that ironically misquoting it in the context of this particular piece is justified.

Published in: on June 25, 2009 at 19:43  Leave a Comment  

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