“Why do I need makeup to do well at work?” my friend Karla wondered aloud, feeling offended.
I told her bluntly that the reason why she wasn’t getting recognition in her male-dominated office was probably because she didn’t dress like she deserved it.
Maybe my comment was uncalled for, but I was the only one who would say it to her very intimidating face, as we’ve been close friends since grade school.
I was best in English class, she was best in math. Today, I’m a managing editor of a magazine, and she is a finance manager of one of the top tobacco corporations in the country.
She had asked to meet up with me for coffee. She said she was frustrated with her job; though she would yield the best numbers in the team, she barely got recognition.
Judging from her overgrown roots and undereye circles comparable to an Instagram-worthy lunar eclipse, her work hours had been tedious. She looked terrible. “Is this how you look like at work?” I asked. Karla narrowed her eyes at me, and reluctantly nodded. I dropped the bomb as gently as I could: “Well, I don’t think the way you look justifies your competence.”
I firmly believe that whatever industry we work in, and however high up we are in the ladder, it always helps to build a good impression.
Because I was talking to a math freak, I backed my argument with empirical proof. At lightning-fast speed I turned to Google and showed Karla a study by a prominent multibrand company that indicated that wearing makeup, as long as it’s not overdone, helps increase people’s perceptions of a woman’s likability, competence, trustworthiness and, most obviously, attractiveness.
Feminists may argue that appearance unfairly affects employees, and that the quality of work shouldn’t depend on whether or not one wears makeup. I, too, wish that this world did not reward beauty as much and as often, but alas, we live in a material world where looks matter.
“I don’t feel the need to please those chauvinists,” Karla snapped. But I resolutely explained to her that it’s not about pleasing men at all. Cosmetics should not be utilized by a woman so she passes a male-dictated standard, but rather, so she can dictate the impression she effects, and feel empowered about it.
Cosmetics are a woman’s weapon, especially in a male-dominated workplace. She can do a natural look to seem warm and approachable, or don a bold lipstick to show that she is in charge.
Regardless, she shows her willingness to take care of herself, and this integrates with a willingness to take care of her work and other people.
According to the same study, I told my friend, makeup also helps women feel more confident and self-assured, thus giving them the energy to rock a sales pitch, or take a strong stand in a board meeting.
I have always believed feminism is about embracing womanhood to provide that which men lack, and not about trying to beat men at their own game.
So I told Karla she was already intelligent enough to outshine her male coworkers; she just needed charm and confidence for maximum impact!
If you are like Karla, or a girl who simply does not know how to wear makeup and thinks she can’t, have no fear. Wearing makeup can be simple and fuss-free.
MAC Cosmetics, determined to let women all over the world look and feel their best, will provide free, simplified makeup lessons for beginners: How to achieve flawless skin, soft lips, lined eyes and shaped brows.
On June 19-25, MAC Instant Artistry will set up a pop-up store in SM North Edsa, The Block, where MAC artists will be offering hourly live makeup demos, step-by-step videos on the most essential makeup skills and one-on-one tutorials, all for free.
Go alone or bring your mom, your sister, 10 friends, whoever. The tutorials will be quick and easy. Certainly, you will see me there with Karla.
To be discussed are “flawless skin in a flash; soft and simple lips; quick brows; the perfect eyeliner,” and others.