So last week, Elder Ballard gave this bit of wisdom at a Single Adult fireside:



“Brethren, wake up! Open your eyes and look around a little. And you beautiful girls, don’t wander around looking like men. Put on a little lipstick now and then and look a little charming. It’s that simple. I don’t know why we make this process so hard.”


Clearly, Elder Ballard has never spent an hour in front of the mirror Sunday morning anxiously painting a new face because he knew the one he was born with wasn’t good enough to get him a date. Nothing like the thought of spending life lonely to make a girl evaluate what her God-given features are actually worth.


“I don’t know why we make this process so hard.” Well, Elder Ballard, that’s because no one ever told you you had to change your face in order to look like a man. You didn’t go through this weird transformation at puberty where suddenly, everyone started telling you that in order to look like your own gender, you had to change your body. Those eyelashes you were born with? I know you’re a man and all, but they don’t look like man’s eyelashes. Paint it up. Your eyelids? Men’s eyelids are way sparklier. We’ll have to fix that for you. What’s wrong with your fingernails? Men’s fingernails don’t look like that. And all that hair that naturally grows on your body now, well, we know women grow that too, but for them, it’s natural and womanly, and for you, it’s unnatural and gross. Shave it off or you’ll look like a woman.

I wonder if Heavenly Mother wears lipstick. I guess She would have to. Otherwise, how would Heavenly Father tell Her apart from the guys? I bet no one ever had to remind Her to be a little charming. Being omnipotent, She knows full well that Her natural face can easily be confused for a man’s, and requires the aid of lip coloring in order to appear properly gendered. I’m sure She paints Herself with a healthy Celestial glow every morning before Her husband even gets up, so He never has to see Her fine lines and pores.


Or maybe I’ve got it wrong! Since every flaw will be corrected in the Resurrection, all of us women will surely find our faces changed on the morning thereof. Our lips will grow plump and appropriately shimmery so that our gender can finally be identified without the aid of cosmetics. And God will wipe away the bags from our eyes; there shall be no more cellulite; neither eyes too small; nor noses too big; neither shall there be any more female body hair at all; for the former things are unattractive, and therefore passed away. Of course Heavenly Mother doesn’t need lipstick! In her perfected state, her lips must look like an eternal ad for Revlon, no beauty aids required.


Speaking of Heavenly Lips, I’ve encountered some worry and confusion among my fellow women as to what exactly is the most Gospel-centered and attractive shade of lipstick for them to be wearing, in order to be identified as female without crossing the line and provoking lust among the brethren. You see, we haven’t forgotten our duty to keep the men’s minds pure, and the heavy responsibility we have to guard our own safety by not dressing like we’re asking for it. We have to look pretty, but pretty in the right way. Attractive enough to please men, but not so attractive that they want to, you know. Since every man is different and standards of beauty vary across cultures, this can be a really hard line to walk, and we’re always stepping on the wrong side, offending some guy in the BYUI testing center with our jeans or scaring men on the street with our exercise attire. It would really be a shame if women’s efforts to follow Elder Ballard’s well-intentioned advice resulted in lips too sexy and brought our dear brothers to sin. But since we clearly can’t figure out for ourselves how best to groom every morning so that we don’t offend the men with either our lack of beauty or overabundance of it, I would like to petition the First Presidency to consider releasing a list of lipstick shades that would sufficiently enhance our femininity without looking too tarty. If so moved, perhaps the Presidency could create its own line in order to firmly resolve this question and further reduce the incidence of inappropriate cosmetic use. Shades like Modest is Hottest and Individual Worth could be introduced in the Young Women’s program, with full coordinating palettes in color themes such as Mother in Zion and Sweet Sister for the more mature Relief Society ladies.


Somehow I think this is not the sort of lipstick Elder Ballard wants me to wear.

I think this is likely not the sort of lipstick Elder Ballard is looking for.



Now, I don’t want to be misunderstood. This is not about, “Silly people, you should be able to tell a woman whether or not she’s wearing lipstick,” though as a cis heteronormative woman, I do look as a woman is expected to look within Mormon culture. But if I didn’t, that shouldn’t be framed as a problem to cover with makeup. Being a woman is about who a person is inside. If you identify as a woman, then congratulations, you look like yourself, therefore you look like a woman. I am a woman, and therefore, my lips look like women’s lips, my ears like women’s ears, my thumbs like women’s thumbs. No alteration necessary. 600 years ago, European women used to pluck off their eyebrows and several inches of their hair so that it all disappeared under their tall hats. They thought it made them look virginal. Aztec women used to stain their teeth red. Identifying lipstick as an item that makes me look more like a woman isn’t any less arbitrary.


A visual aid:



Woman. Even though no lipstick.




Woman wearing lipstick. Not any more female than the last picture.




Woman wearing a butterfly sticker on her nose. It’s a lot like lipstick.


Not enough butterfly for the boys? Let me put on more so they can tell I have ovaries.







Sticking crap on my face doesn’t make me look like more of a woman.


Taking it off doesn’t make a difference either.


It’s just a bunch of stuff on my skin, and if you can’t find me attractive without it on there, that’s your weird fetish, and not my problem. Instead of teaching the women to put the equivalent of butterfly stickers on their face in order to attract men, how about teaching the men to value women based on factors that don’t wipe off. I look like me, and that’s all that should matter.

Heidi Doggett graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Arts in Theater and a minor in Anthropology. She dedicates much of her time to research and writing on the women's topics and the LDS church, as well as running her blog No Dead Beetles and leading forums and workshops to discuss parenting and life balance issues. She lives in California with her spouse and two children.

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