“Two photos of me: one wearing makeup and with my hair done; the other, me eating gummy bears in bed, no makeup. I don’t really know how to do makeup. I own one liquid cover-up or possibly foundation, I actually do not know the difference, one lipstick, and one mascara. That being said, I love beauty products and I often treat myself to face masks, expensive eye creams, etc. I prefer to invest in healthy food and beauty products that protect and enhance my natural beauty rather than on makeup. I don’t really see much of a difference between when I wear makeup or don’t.
What makes more of a difference for me is whether I wear tight/revealing clothes or baggy, plain stuff. However, I have been sexually harassed when wearing casual clothes as well, so there isn’t that much of a difference in any case. Sexual harassment happens everywhere: in Canada, in the U.S., in Peru, in Japan, in Thailand, in Italy, in the U.K., etc.
One time in Montreal, I was walking in the daytime, wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and running shoes, no makeup. I was in a good mood, so I just happened to look up and make eye contact with a man walking past me as I smiled. Big mistake. The man then turned around and started following me. I crossed the street, he crossed the street. After about 5 blocks, I ducked into a depanneur to hide. I waited for about 3–4 minutes and then went out. In the stairwell outside the shop, I saw the man standing in a dark corner and as I quickly walked past him, he exposed himself to me. I was so afraid that I ran outside and tried to flag down a car. Luckily, someone was sitting in a parked car nearby and when I knocked on the window and explained the situation, he let me in and drove me down the street. This happened in my own country, without any makeup, wearing casual clothing. And that’s just one example, I could list dozens.
To be totally honest, it doesn’t matter what I wear or don’t wear in terms of makeup or clothing. I often get harassed, either way. People seem to think that when a woman goes out in public, it is every passerby’s right to judge her looks. You can’t win no matter what you do. Even women will bother me, tell me to cover up, ask for photos with me, give me dirty looks, mutter under their breath, etc.
Typically, the dirty looks and negative comments from women increase if I wear tight/revealing clothing, but don’t change in frequency depending on whether I wear makeup or not. Once in Lima, I was wearing a short dress and just lipstick for makeup, going out in the evening, walking to the bus stop in Magdalena del Mar, when an older woman looked me dead in the eyes, tsk-tsked under her breath and crossed herself. Yes, she looked me up and down and made the sign of the cross, touching her forehead, chest, and shoulders.
Here in KSA things are even more insane than usual. When I wear fitted clothing and makeup together, things get crazy. I get double the number of stares, catcalling, harassment, etc. Living in rural Saudi Arabia, people literally photograph and film me whenever I go out. Men, women, and children ask for selfies with me. I don’t wear a hijab, so that is the main reason. I am also one of a very small group of foreigners living here in town and the only one who consistently doesn’t wear a niqab, hijab or abaya. So, I am like the village freak! An oddity to be gasped and leered at!
Men and women tell me to cover my hair, but it is against my beliefs to do so. You could also say that there are some ‘benefits’ for wearing makeup and getting dressed up. People are friendlier and more willing to help me, especially men. It’s easier to get directions or to ask for assistance finding something / going somewhere. Store clerks are more helpful. Men hold doors open, step aside to let me pass, offer to help me carry things, etc.
However, a lot of these ‘benefits’ really aren’t worth the cost. I usually don’t wear makeup, but when I do, it’s not to get attention from strangers; that’s just an unfortunate by-product. I wear makeup because it’s kind of fun to put on when I’m bored (albeit I’m not very knowledgeable or good at it), it makes me feel good to look special sometimes, I wear it for myself, for my friends and for that special someone if I have a beau.”