Makeup & Masculinity

If you’ve been on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram in the last 24 hours, you’ve probably already heard that in a notable swerve move CoverGirl has given its iconic “cover” to its first male spokesperson. While James Charles’ “CoverBoy” appointment has been received mostly positively, there is some upset about a 17-year old guy wearing makeup. I would usually expect this type of outrage from Facebook-Moms™, but surprisingly I’ve been seeing a decent amount of comments from 20-30 year old girls who are rattled that a man can be a CoverGirl.

Men wearing makeup is nothing new, but for a man to wear feminine makeup like Charles is still shocking to most people. While most people traditionally view cosmetology as an interest of women only, there is no legitimate reason that men cannot also conceal, blush, and blend to their heart’s content. The fact that there has been arguments about how this promotion will somehow damage Charles or harm people really speak to the ways in which we construct gendered behaviour; not to get all Judith Butler on you but this “outrage” is seriously silly (to put it nicely).

I don’t doubt that CoverGirl anticipated controversy, and I think there is room to be critical of the brand for creating an ad campaign that has benefitted from the controversy of being associated with progressive gender politics. Nonetheless, I don’t find anything objectionable about challenging gender norms and opening up masculinity to include traditionally feminine pursuits.


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