Lipstick: what’s in a name (part one)

image: smashbox uk

I don’t know about you, but when I layer on my favourite red lipstick (Urban Decay’s Vice Matte in the colour “Bad Blood”), I feel like I can conquer the whole world! And rightly so! Lipstick and make-up represent a form of female empowerment and expression. Bold lipstick is the 21st century equivalent of a power suit, rebellion in a tube against the “demure, feminine” and, let’s face it, narrow beauty standards that are held in such high esteem by our society.

With the empire of Kylie Jenner, make-up tutorials and trends such as “over-lining,” the focus in the make-up game seems to be on lips. Bold colour has come back in a big way, gone are the days where a smudge of my dream matte mousse on my lips was considered the height of sophistication, now I will quite happily spend my hard earned cash on a £18 matte lipstick.

That is, of course, as long as it is not called something boke-inducing like…. “Underage red” or “Pick me, pick me!”

A glance at MAC and Kat Von D’s lipstick names reveals a hodge-podge of varying explicitly sexual allusions ranging from horny teenager inspired names like “Please me,” “Lickable” or “Strip me down” to names that seem to be created by that weird old man who is awfully concerned with your sexuality like “Modesty” and “Girl about town.” I have no problem with sexual expression, let it all out! however, buying a lipstick named something like “Underage” or “Lolita” doesn’t fill me with the warm glow associated with female empowerment, no, it leaves me feeling like… well… a “Pervette” (another one of Mac’s, erm, interestingly named shades).

How can I walk out of my house with confidence if smeared across my lips is the product of the direct sexualisation of underage girls in the name of capitalism?

How can I walk into a job interview or a meeting with confidence if I’m wearing a lipstick named “Men Love Mystery” when I honestly couldn’t give a damn what men love?

I can shout until I’m blue in the face about how I wear make-up for myself, for my confidence, for my self-expression, but really, the fact that make-up names reduce women to merely sexual objects directly undermines my argument. Additionally, these lipstick names reinforce the stereotype that the use of make up is directly linked with promiscuity, that the only reason a woman would wear make-up is to lure in men like some kind of siren/ evil seductress.

As Carla pointed out to me in a discussion concerning the sexualised names of make-up, the refusal of make-up companies to embrace the “feminist trend” seems like they passed over a glaringly obvious opportunity to get their hands on our cash. Call me cynical but you would think that these make-up companies would jump at the chance to capitalise off of a movement spanning almost a century with the tireless plea of women to just be seen as equals if it means they can make a few bucks.

But if I’m being totally honest, I would sell my soul for a line of lipsticks designed for female empowerment. I love lipstick so much, but I hate the cheap feeling I have when I bend my feminist principles to buy a beautifully pigmented red named “Lolita.”

So, in that vein, here are some of my suggestions for lip-stick names that won’t leave you recoiling in horror.

“Break the Glass Ceiling” – This highly pigmented wine red will leave you grinning from ear to ear after you get that job promotion which you deserved and were better qualified for over all other candidates regardless of your gender! Hurrah!

“No Means No” – Unwanted attention from men on a night out with your girls? No worries! With this bold lilac you can banish those pesky predators right back form whence they came.

“Crush the Patriarchy” – Ahh, nothing beats a classic.

“Suffragette” – My superior alternative to ‘Pervette’. Pfft, Pervette isn’t even a word…

“Did I Ask?” – For best results, use right after your know-it-all boyfriend says “You look nicer without make-up.”

“I’M ON MY PERIOD!” – This lipstick allows you to shout the age old taboo to the world! Let it out! Let everyone know that your body is under the monthly ritual of extreme duress which aside from having to deal with blood and cramps, we are not allowed to talk about! ( A new study has found that period cramps are akin to having a heart attack just FYI…)

“Love Yourself” – Okay this one is kind of soppy, but forget about feeling attractive for anyone else, this magical shade will banish all those unobtainable beauty ideals and focus on what is important, your self-esteem! Because you’re a wonderful, self-assured, confident being and don’t let society tell you otherwise!

To conclude, don’t let lipstick names sell you the subliminal message that your self-worth is measured in how attractive you are to the opposite sex.

Keep wearing lipstick (although please avoid “Underage Red” because it is gross) and maybe someday my dreams of a “female empowerment” themed line of lipsticks will be realised, and I guess if I’m wishing for stuff I might as well wish for complete and unconditional equality between the sexes, that would be nice.


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