I don’t really want to talk about lipstick and sexist jokes. It seems like a distraction from bigger and more pressing problems. But it is still an issue that needs addressing, and out standards of beauty are creating pressing problems. I’ve often tried to explain why it is so harmful, and it frustrates me that so many people can’t understand. They keep saying, “It was just a joke about lipstick.” But it wasn’t just a joke. Nothing ever is just a joke. There is context and subtext and cultural awareness that provide the cues for people to laugh at the joke. And this is where the problems lie.
What you have to understand before you can laugh at a sexist joke about putting on lipstick to attract a man is the patriarchal standard of beauty that rules women’s lives. You have to understand the social stigma that women face when they don’t wear makeup. You have to be steeped in the prejudice that only women displaying a proper amount of femininity are seen as attractive in our society. You have to understand the stigma of being a single woman. You have to buy into the belief that single women are not complete humans. You have to buy into the belief that if a woman can’t attract a man, that is her onus—that means there is something wrong with her.
If you understand all that, then you can chuckle at a joke about how attracting a man is just as simple as putting on lipstick.
Let’s keep in mind that in church women are taught from birth that the _most_ important thing they can do with their lives is have children. We are taught that we were put on the earth to be mothers. This is the goal. This is what we live for.
But we can’t do it without attracting a man. And so in our culture being attractive to men gets tied into our righteousness. The value of physical beauty trumps all else when it is what leads you to your highest and most holy calling. And a flippant sexist joke about it doesn’t help.
An apostle of the Lord shouldn’t be instructing women to conform to societies expectations of beauty. An apostle of the Lord should be reprimanding society’s vanity and reminding us what really matters.