Makeup Microaggressions: Let Me Wear My Full-Face Makeup in Peace

Samiksha Manjani Student staff member, Samiksha Manjani, takes a deeper look at the impact of makeup microaggressions.

I normally hate getting ready to go out with girls; or well, I hate putting on my makeup in front of other girls. Instead, I’ll put it on in my own house and then go to my friend’s house to “get ready” aka just to put on a dress. I started to do this after having the same interaction time after time with various friends. It goes something like this:


Me standing in front of the mirror, happily doing my sparkly silver smokey eye, tongue out (because you can never put mascara on with a closed mouth).

“Wow! your eyeshadow looks amazing!”

“Thank you!! I really like smokey eyeshadow looks.” At this point, I’m feeling super awesome about how I’m looking and my makeup when…

“Yeah, I mean, I don’t even know how to put on makeup. I just do whatever, you know. I don’t even wear makeup,” she says dismissively.

Aaaaaand there it is.


Her comment may seem like an honest admission of not knowing how to put on makeup, but it’s not that simple; especially when I’ve gotten similar responses from other girls. If you don’t already know what I’m talking about, allow me to explain: this “compliment” implies that she is somehow better than me because she doesn’t wear or know how to put on makeup; this insinuates that I need makeup because I’m not confident enough to go without it. Simply put, if I wear makeup, I’m not naturally attractive enough.

What makes the situation worse is that, at that moment, I can feel the need to justify myself building up. I know I don’t owe anyone an explanation. I also know that my decision to wear or not to wear makeup doesn’t make me any more or less of a woman, but instead I say,  

“Oh, yeah I mean I don’t really know how to put on makeup either. I barely wear it…”

Knowing damn well I’m lying. I didn’t watch countless MUA (“makeup artist”) Instagram and Youtube videos to act like I didn’t know how to put on makeup. Plus, my friend had the sharpest winged eye I had ever seen. How could she say she didn’t know how to put on makeup?


Other times, especially when I’m talking to guys about makeup, they’ll say, “Oh! I like you better without makeup” or “You look better than girls who wear makeup, I don’t like girls that cake on.”

Am I supposed to say thanks?

To be clear, I’m perfectly happy with the way I look when I wear makeup and when I don’t. I don’t think my value is somehow better or worse depending on whether I wear makeup. Likewise, I don’t think I’m suddenly better than other girls because of my decision to wear or not to wear makeup. Some days I just want to sparkle (literally)!

After having the same exact encounter time after time, and being inadvertently shamed for knowing how to do my makeup… I stopped going to get ready at my girlfriends. I stopped feeling comfortable in what was supposed to be an empowering environment.

Why couldn’t I enjoy putting on a full face some days and having a fresh face on others?

It may seem really small or that I’m being overly sensitive, but that’s exactly how microaggressions make you feel. A microaggression is a negative statement directed at a subordinated group; it can be intentional or unintentional. Although microaggressions are essentially micro, their accumulated impact can be quite large (here’s a video to better explain). At the Women’s Center, we like to refer to the impact of microaggressions as a “death by a thousand cuts.” The first time you experience a microaggression, it may not get you down too much, but after hearing either the same one or similar ones so many times, it’ll get to you.

It’s not just the microaggression itself that hurt, the hurt doubled because it was coming from other women. Women that should have been allies. I couldn’t understand,

Why were women perpetuating these unrealistic dichotomies onto each other? Why couldn’t we both be great in whatever we were doing?

I realized that these microaggressions between women were essentially internalized sexism caused by heterosexist patriarchy. Under patriarchal norms, women’s value is dependent on their attractiveness to men. As feminist theorists suggest, when women internalize heterosexist patriarchy and associate their source of worth, identity, and strength with men, they’re compelled to compete with each other for the attention of men. Essentially, we turn on each other when our value is tied to men.


However, we don’t have succumb to it.  Maybe instead of feeling intimidated by women who inspire us, we could feel empowered by them.

I recently came upon Shine Theory at the Women’s Center and think it’s a phenomenal way to reframe female competitiveness. Created by Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow, Shine Theory prescribes that “when you meet a woman who is intimidatingly witty, stylish, beautiful, and professionally accomplished, befriend her.”’ Friedman and Sow contest that “surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison. It makes you better.”

When we apply Shine Theory to the makeup debacle, we can acknowledge if our friend is better at something than us, but also that it doesn’t reflect a deficit in ourselves. Maybe I did know how to do a smokey eyeshadow look when my friend didn’t, and that doesn’t mean I have to use makeup to feel more attractive. Likewise, her decision to not wear makeup doesn’t mean that she is inherently more attractive, valuable, or confident than me. Wearing makeup skillfully doesn’t add or detract value from a person. It just means you wear makeup. 

So the next time you’re around a powerful woman that you perceive is rocking something better than you, befriend them instead of feeling self-conscious.




*Favorite Things* List from the United State of Women

IMG_9874.JPGA top 10 favorite things list about the United State of Women Summit complied by Women’s Center director, Jess Myers.

Maybe you heard about this little thing that happened in Washington, D.C. this week called the United State of Women Summit. If not, just to fill you in, it wasn’t little at all – it was a Pretty Big Deal. The Summit which was developed out of the White House Council on Women and Girls was the first of its kind with a charge to rally women and their allies together to celebrate what women have achieved and create solutions to help keep moving women’s issues and gender equity forward. I had the privilege of being one of the 5000 people in attendance as a representative of ACPA’s Coalition for Women’s Identities. In their opening remarks, Valerie Jarrett and Tina Tchen compared a meeting such as the USOW to the Seneca Falls Convention. And while, I’m not quite sure the Summit will have the same lasting historical event, it was nonetheless an important day for women and one which I’ll never forget.
I thought about my UMBC and Women’s Center families throughout the entire day and wanted to give you a little taste of the experience – some of my favorite things, you might say (wink wink, Oprah). Please note, this is not a critical analysis of the day’s events and speakers (you can google search for the think pieces later). Continue reading

UMBC Women Who Rock: Pritma “Mickey” Irizarry

UMBC Women Who Rock is a blog series I’ve been writing since last year and it has become one of my favorite things to think and write about for the Women’s Center blog. In my role as Women’s Center director, I have some of the best opportunities to become acquainted with some of UMBC’s best and brightest women on campus. I admire the ways they live authentic lives unapologetically that challenge the stereotypes and assumptions that are often assigned to women. By debunking these stereotypes and forcing us to check our assumptions, they allow us to expand our notion of what a woman is and can be.   – Jess 

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UMBC Women Who Rock!
Pritma “Mickey” Irizarry, Assistant Director of Health Education


Mickey, UHS’s Health Education Assistant Director, shares her I’m Not as part of the Telling Our Stories Project

Mickey Irizarry is a #girlboss. She is also a UMBC Woman Who Rocks.

What is a #girlboss? She is many things. “A #girlboss is in charge of her own life. She gets what she wants because she works for it.” #Girlboss is also more than just a type of person but a platform that is meant to inspire women to lead deliberate lives. It’s not just about being about the boss of other people, but being the boss of your own life.

It’s Mickey, who first shared the concept of #girlboss with me last fall. There is a book by the same title written by Sophia Amoruso, founder and CEO of fashion retailer Nasty Gal. Inspired by the book (and there’s also a podcast), I began hearing and seeing Mickey use the hashtag often in support or to congratulate other women on campus. I too was on the receiving end of a #girlboss shout-out from Mickey and it felt really great.

That’s what also makes Mickey a UMBC Woman Who Rocks. She didn’t just take #girlboss as an inspiration for herself and hold it tight and privately. Rather, she shares it with others. Mickey isn’t just the boss of her own life, but it is important for her to encourage and support others to do the same. When I asked her more about this she said, “If you don’t believe in yourself, no one will either” and then went on to say but “it took me a long time to master that – and its still hard to fight the impostor syndrome.” This is why its so important for her to support other women, to show them that she sees potential in them, and give them credit where credit is due. This of course, reminds me of shine theory which I’ve written about in other UMBC Women Who Rock posts. Shine theory as explained by Ann Friedman in her article states that “Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison. It makes you better.” Otherwise known as, “I don’t shine, if you don’t shine.”

So, I wanted spotlight Mickey as our in-residence #girlboss for this UMBC Women Who Rocks post. Between my initial reaching out to feature her and the time that it took me to write this, though, Mickey was offered and accepted a new position at American University as the Director of the Wellness Center! Her last day with us at UMBC is March 11th. So while this didn’t start off with the intention of being a tribute post, it seems that this is where this post is going to have to go. So you’ve been warned, it might get a little warm and fuzzy up in here.  Continue reading

UMBC Women Who Rock: A Reflection on Encouragement and Accountability

UMBC Women Who Rock is a blog series I’m working on throughout the 2014-15 academic year. In my role as Women’s Center director, I have some of the best opportunities to become acquainted with some of UMBC’s best and brightest women on campus. I admire the ways they live authentic lives unapologetically that challenge the stereotypes and assumptions that are often assigned to women. By debunking these stereotypes and forcing us to check our assumptions, they allow us to expand our notion of what a woman is and can be.


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UMBC Women Who Rock! A Reflection on Encouragement and Accountability

With only three posts in this series, it might seem a little too early to spice things up, but the spirit of this series is really that of personal reflection (in addition to of course, celebrating other women) and I have some reflections to share. So for this post, I’m expanding the concept of the series to not just write about a particular UMBC woman but the experience of working with other UMBC women.  In this case, it’s the experience of writing a chapter for a women in leadership book series called Advancing Women and Leadership: Moving the Needle through Applied Theory Building with Virginia Byrne of Student Life and Crystal Diaz-Espinoza of CWIT. Our chapter called “The Non-Traditional Patchwork of College Women Student Leaders: A Multidisciplinary Reflection on Theory” focuses on ways in which we seek to build bridges at UMBC between marginalized groups of women leaders and the larger campus community in an effort to encourage transformational leadership development. We specifically focus on the experiences of UMBC women adult learners and women students majoring in information technology and engineering.

Now that the first hurdle of submitting our draft is behind us, I’ve had time to reflect on the experience. It was hard! I knew what I wanted to write and had all the confidence in the world until I sat in front of my computer trying to put my thoughts into words. It was like teaching someone to tie their shoe or ride a bike. I’ve been doing the action for so long that taking a step back and breaking it down part-by-part proved to be more difficult than I thought. On top of the challenge of actually writing, we were doing so with a week left before the spring semester begun. I felt behind on my work in the Women’s Center and some of our biggest programming and events were coming up in just a few short weeks. And it was cold and winter is the worst. Long story short, I was a grouchy baby.

I look back over the past week of writing sessions and writing and recognize they weren’t some of my proudest moments. I kept looking for ways to convince myself that I wasn’t smart enough to write this paper and that I possibly didn’t have anything worth including in a real-life book. I kept hoping that maybe Crystal or Virginia felt the same way and we could quit this whole thing.

Shine Theory fail.

Through my love of podcasts, I’ve recently been exposed to this concept of Shine Theory. Explained by Ann Friedman in her article over at The Cut, she explores the idea that powerful women make the best of friends. She writes, “Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison. It makes you better.” I can get on board with that, but what I really take away from Shine Theory is how Anne’s best friend, Amina, sums it up:  “I don’t shine if you don’t shine.”

Thank goodness Virginia and Crystal were willing and able to share their shine with me. As Friedman continues in her article, “True confidence is infectious.” While I know we all had our doubts, my writing partners wouldn’t let me quit. Time and time again, they’d share accolades and encouragement with me and with each other. This is great. You’ve got this. Yes, keep going. We’re going to finish this.

And, you know what? The more I heard it, the more I believed it. As our paper came together, I gained more confidence. The words came out easier and I was able to be a better teammate in the process.  I also think our chapter is pretty darn awesome and I’m really glad I didn’t give up. Thank you Virginia and Crystal!

When I hear people talk about Shine Theory, I hear it presented from the perspective of “you, good person… go find other great people to help you shine,” which I think is important and enriching for one’s personal and professional lives. We all need people to learn from and share encouragement. But, I want to hold myself accountable as well. I want to be a person that just isn’t doing the taking of the shine but is giving of the shine. This experience reminds how easy it can be to make something just about you. I wasn’t the only one who was busy and working through other deadlines or feeling challenged by the task at hand. Where could I have provided more support and encouragement to my writing partners? What steps do I need to take next time to get my shine on earlier? These are questions I’m going to keep in mind as I move into a busy spring semester and will be confronted with opportunities to shine for others and be motivated by the shine of UMBC Women Who Rock.

Shine on UMBC…. Shine on.

Who are the UMBC women in your life that inspire you to think outside your expectations and assumptions? What are the counter narrative stories they’re sharing with us allowing UMBC and our greater community to be more of exactly who we want to be? Comment below and maybe you’ll just find them featured in a future UMBC Women Who Rock post.

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Check out other UMBC Women Who Rock:

Amanda Knapp (featured August 2014)
Susan Dumont (featured October 2014)
Jahia Knobloch (featured January 2015)