Look, loves, we need to talk about something serious. I’ve sat on this post for a little while, because A. I was concerned about speaking over people who needed to be heard, and B. I’ve been busy with my life falling apart, moving from a luxury apartment I had shared with a man I loved into the tiny rented room in a stranger’s house that I can kinda-sorta afford without him. But there’s something that has been weighing heavy on my mind.
I wear an NW10 foundation shade. That’s the lightest pink-toned shade MAC makes, but like so many people in the makeup world, I use my MAC shade as a reference even though their product makes me break out. Since I have sensitivities to certain ingredients that are very common in foundations, I have to be really picky about formulas, and one of the ones I’ve found that works for me is the Tarte Double Duty Hybrid Gel. It has been repackaged as part of Tarte’s disastrous Shape Tape Foundation line, and is now going to be called the Shape Tape Hydrating formula. Here’s my confession, that I’m not proud of: I didn’t notice how pathetic the shade range was until the controversy went public. As much as I talk about the importance of making beauty accessible to everyone, it completely escaped my notice that this product I was buying (which is not cheap, by the way) is unavailable to most women of color. The fact is, most brands that are not marketed specifically to women of color are created with white women in mind, and I’ll never have trouble finding my shade. Even the handful of mainstream brands that don’t make a perfect match for me make one that I can fudge it with. That’s part of how white privilege works–those of us who benefit from it can’t even reliably expect to notice it when it’s right in front of us.
It’s similar to the question of the pink Pussyhats at the various Women’s Marches last month. Ever since the first round of marches last year, many trans women and women of color have been saying that it made them feel excluded to have womanhood equated with pink (i.e., belonging to white women) vaginas. If this is supposed to be a clapback to the Tangerine Terror’s “grab ’em by the p*ssy” comments, and we’re supposed to be firing back at the normalization of sexual assault, then we need to be talking about the fact that any given trans woman is at far greater risk of being assaulted than any given cis woman, and that women of color are assaulted more often than white women. We also need to be talking about the fact that as low as conviction rates are for sexual assault as a whole, they’re dramatically lower when the victim is trans, queer, or a person of color. If we’re going to talk about “our bodies, our choice” in terms access to abortion and proper gynecological care, we have to talk about maternal mortality rates among women of color in this country, and how dangerous it is to give birth while black. We have to talk about how many trans people get turned away for any medical care at all, even when it’s illegal to do so.
Cisgender white women are trained from the time we’re young girls to realize that the world isn’t fair, because we’re not equal in power to cisgender white men. What we aren’t taught is how many advantages we have that trans women and women of color do not have. No one tells us that our feelings are less important than someone else’s needs, because as far as our society is concerned, they aren’t. So we have got to start using our privilege more responsibly, y’all. If makeup brands are insisting on catering to us and only to us, we need to take our money to the brands that cater to a wider market. If it makes us angry that conservatives want to control our reproductive choices, we have to talk about how systemic racism makes those choices for people. And we have to talk about how it’s our womanhood, not our vaginas, that make us vulnerable to aggression from men. We have to talk about the whole problem, and more importantly, we have to learn to shut up and listen.
I’ve felt like a real jerk, realizing how inattentive I’ve been to the needs of others. Those of us who have some degree of privilege, whether it’s because we’re cis or because we’re white or whatever, have to get off our butts and do something with it. We can do better, and we have to.