Make-up Tube
Good time management or infuriating?iStock

Why is it that someone doing their make-up on public transport warrants judgment from those around them? Overt staring, comments, a nudge, a tut, a tweet.

This isn't the only kind of public shaming, from women eating on the Tube to manspreading and fat-shaming – when it comes to personal space, the general public can be judgmental, to say the least. Yet for women, in particular, public shaming is even more marginalising.

When it comes to applying make-up, it's not just the misogynistic males who judge, but often women bringing other women down, too. Derogatory comments such as "This girl went from being a 5 to an 8" are commonly thought and, worse still, publicised on social media.

In my experience, older generations are particularly prone to passing judgment, tut-tutting because of ingrained nuclear-family principles dictating such ladylike issues must be dealt with in private. Such traditional norms urge women to be presentable and attractive at all times, but God forbid anyone else witnesses the process.

In a Telegraph column, Celia Walden wrote: "Why bother with the whole charade if you're going to let the outside world into every step of the process?" But it's doubtful that women (or whoever wishes to) will be applying make-up for the strangers who happen to see them commuting.

"What's the point of erecting a formal facade... if you're publicly admitting the fraudulence of it all?" she continued. Make-up is not for strangers' benefit but for personal confidence, professionalism, and those known at the destination. Not to trick nor defraud anyone. How strange that women wearing make-up for their own self expression is seen a preposterous lie; everyone on the train thinks it's all for them.

And while not everybody worries about the disapproval of somebody they may never speak to or even know the name of, I'm sure most of us could do without starting their day with public opprobrium.

Applying make-up is also compared to chatting loudly on the phone, eating sticky or smelly food, and a multitude of inconveniencing behaviour – but while you have to hear someone's phone call or smell their food, you don't have to look at me touching up my lipstick.

Angry commuters may also claim they resent the unsanitary nature of a woman applying blusher – but what's unsanitary about it? It's been compared to a man was shaving or cutting his nails in public, but a dab of powder won't leave discarded human remains on the Tube seat.

It's mind-boggling that the multibillion-pound female beauty industry can be both so colossal and celebrated yet a woman saving time by doing her make-up on a train is still frowned upon.

The fact that no eyelid is batted at mass-scale cosmetic campaigns or the beautiful models splayed across city buildings, makes the criminality of seeing a woman merely doing make-up in public frankly nonsensical.

Strangers have no place critiquing a woman disguising the under-eye bags of the daily grind when we live in a society where cosmetics are not just routine humdrum, but expected by some. Skipping on your make-up for a day invites co-workers to comment that you look "tired", "poorly" and on some occasions "just awful", so forgive a girl for slapping on some powder to avoid the remarks.

Even if you're not someone who makes a comment or readily offers disgusted expressions, you don't have the right to stare at me anymore than I can sit and gawp at you reading a novel.

If you are repulsed by my mascara wand, please reconsider why it's such a significant travesty. Is it the beauty industry as a whole that gets your goat? Can you genuinely say that train journeys should be reserved for sitting cross legged, hands in lap? If applying make-up doesn't encroach on anyone else's space, on what basis could shaming be justified?


Jasmine Barrow is a second year English Literature and Classics student at The University of Birmingham, and Fashion Editor for the Birmingham Tab.


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