Now I try to keep passionate rants to a minimum, though there are times when I experience events that irk me to the bone. This topic spin from a recent debacle that put me in rant mode for the past few days.
It’s something we see all the time, aggression toward people (and particularly women of color and POCs in general). The “Misleading” stereotype we pin on others for wearing makeup, wigs, and any body altering accessories.
If you don’t know or having seen my photoshoots, I dress rather eccentric on a daily basis. It started years ago and eventually became a part of me. Growing up as a mixed kid you can bet that I faced discrimination for my appearance. I was too-black or not black enough, there was no middle ground. I was also a creative, someone who’s constantly experimenting so I never felt comfortable having the mainstream forced onto me. I began experimenting with my appearance around middle school and started creating my own style in high-school. I’ve had my share of physical health concerns that effect my skin and body as well. The only way I could feel happy was through creating, so it was only a matter of time until that creation turned to my body.
Let me ask you this, is it really a crime? For one to put on extravagant clothes (sometimes self-made clothing) to feel more at home? Would it make you like me less to know that no,
I don’t appear the same going out as I do when I’ve been at home, working on drafts for 10
+ hours and have no need to wear makeup? Does that threaten you? If yes, then I encourage you to think about why.
I get an array of reactions when I say that perception is only a mirror, but think about what that statement entails. When you perceive someone as “fake” for what you perceive to be misleading, without confirming with the person in question, all you’re doing is projecting the stigmas you have been raised with in combination with your own lack of understanding.
I learned recently about a select few who were criticizing me because I don’t l look the same without makeup and wigs than I do with it. Specifically with a guy who felt mislead by my get up. I often retain my anger over these petty incidents, but this time I won’t. I’m sick of women and non-binaries who choose to create themselves being threatened for doing so. I say threatened, because this exposure culture plays a big hand in why this happens. We’ve become so entitled to how others look. Take a gander at the people in the public eye whom we line-up for the moment we’ve dug up some dirt on them. Oooh what, you mean someone who contours their face doesn’t naturally have airbrushed skin? You mean that camera lights often affect how a person appears due to lens refraction and professional lighting? Let’s stop this mess. It goes beyond photoshop (if you choose to photoshop yourself, go for it, I’m not going to say what you can or can’t do) it’s something rooted in entitlement and even discrimination.
This topic has a huge racial side I’ve both experienced and observed. We shame black women for wearing “makeup and weaves”. Recently I’ve both seen and read articles that talk about black women who’ve been victims of violence for looking misleading. I’ve seen screenshots of twitter conversations from rampant a**holes who’ve exclaimed it should be ok to violently assault a black women who wakes up looking “ugly” versus how she looked going home the night before. Part of my freedom includes wearing what I wish regardless of how I look or how many scars I have under the makeup and jewelry. My skin is rather wrecked, why? Because I have several health concerns that directly impact my skin, that is why I wear tights with everything, my skin does not handle sun exposure well. Yes, I created myself out of insecurity, but that exact action was what cured my insecurities.
Photo by Flor Celeste
A common argument to alternative dressing is insecurity. I’ve had people tell me that I must hate myself now because I “Can’t go out without it” which is preposterous. The act of self creation is what healed me. I used to care about how I looked way more when I wasn’t dressing up versus me now. Now I couldn’t care less what people think of my appearance nowadays. That is all because I know that it won’t be for everyone, and I personally wouldn’t prefer it any other way. I’ve had people yell at me in public, I’ve been publically humiliated in my first few years of dressing eccentric everyday. After a while I began to feel more confident despite the stares and micro-aggressions. It taught me how NOT to be a people pleaser. It taught me how to stand up to what I was often told I could or couldn’t do. I would rather risk being controversial than look according to who’s threatened by how misleading my makeup is. I’ve gone through every hair color imaginable, I’ve worn lavender wigs, pink Marie Antoinette wigs, hats made from baby bottles, spiked corsets, vintage dresses and I’ve even made my own clothing (I still do when I have time). I do it out of a desire to constantly recreate myself.
I’m tired of the need to diagnose and harass others for appearing misleading. It’s an issue we need to tackle more of. As a black creator I want to see more black creators. There’s still a huge issue in creative communities of talking about representation but not supporting the people who’re most affected–those who are oppressed. I create stories with hopes of giving hope to people who like me, grew up wondering why there was so little representation for queer and black creators who wrote authentic depictions of their experiences. I wondered why black women were always types as bossy and egotistical for asking for control over their visions. There is no problem with demanding for control over creative endeavors, especially for those who’ve been ostracized for breaking the barriers placed on them. I look for creative control over my content, why, because I am a part of a heritage of people who’ve been denied, threatened and leached for expressing their innovative tendencies. Creative Control; having control over the content one creates without having it watered down or misused, assuring that all involved have a passion for the same or similar visions. There’s a deeper aspect to all of these issues that needs to be brought forth. The more I speak of this, the more I realize it’s not just about seeming misleading, it’s discrimination, finely woven discrimination with many factors as systematic oppression usually is.
I could make an entirely separate post about representation in media and fiction. My frustration is often aroused by today’s culture of people who believe that because they’ve taken a few courses in sociology have more authority over the people who’re directly affected by the lack of racial representation (this is why supporting black owned and run creative businesses is one of the best ways to combat this, far more than just having the same people write diverse characters, the stories will automatically be less authentic, as it’s not from experience).
Once again, I apologize for this rant, I’m cautious about ranting too much, I often trail off on tangents.
My message is to look at ourselves before we write off others due to what we don’t understand. I know that sounds corny, but it’s the truth. I won’t compromise what I genuinely enjoy doing for those who’re afraid of someone acting on their vision. I won’t be “pretty” for you, if I’m going to be pretty I will do it for myself, because I enjoy it.
~Jai M. Morgan