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The shit people search for and end up at my blog

Best search engine words thus far: “fucking girls while applying red lipstick.”

Pretty sure whoever searched for that amazing string of words was looking for some homo femme porn and was subsequently blessed (disappointed?) to find my text-heavy post about queer make-up.

Now I’m just waiting for whoever searches for “girls wearing lipstick reading zines eating pork” to land on my site.

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Make up, my bane and saviour

I was recently told by someone close to me that I “don’t need make up.” This is nothing new; this good-willed sentiment is not unfamiliar to most women. Well-intentioned people, particularly men, like telling women that they are beautiful as they are, blah blah. After the feeling of being validated wears off (I am farrrrr from being immune to white patriarchal standards of beauty), I interpret these “compliments” as unsolicited advice on what I “need” and “don’t need.” Here is a to-the-point visual of this very common phenomena:

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Source: unfortunately unknown.

The thing is, as much as it does make me feel good to know that someone else thinks I am beautiful “the way I am,” I want make up to be a part of “the way I am.” And this is incorporation of cosmetics into my “way” is actually really tough for me. I think about wearing make up a lot. I am around cosmetics often. I spend hours on the internet, watching Youtube make up tutorials. I re-blog photos of interesting and innovative ways of doing make up on Tumblr. I like to stop by cosmetic stores and counters after work, just to have a little browse (I’m at the MAC counter at Yonge Station all the fucking time). This is pretty much as close as I get to make up – in my head and around me. I have a number of tubes of lipsticks, but I don’t use them often.

Two thirds of my entire make up collection.

I love make up, but I’m scared of it. Aside from not really being able to wear any eye make up due to some eye conditions I have, I have some internalized shit around gender and drawing attention to my body (particularly my face). I remember being in grade six or so, and spending my saved-up allowance on a shitty ring from Ardene. I used to  only wear the ring in the safety of my bedroom, where no one could see me taking pleasure in admiring my ring-clad hand. I never, ever wore the ring in front of my parents. I felt ashamed of adorning myself in this way. The ring symbolized some sort of feminine maturation that I was uncomfortable with. As a boy-ish girl whose chose baggy t-shirts over little tops, but simultaneously wanted to explore a realm she was unfamiliar with, I didn’t know how to reconcile those things. Instead, I hid that gender curiosity in fear of being asked what I was trying to do and feeling embarrassed. And now, well into my adult years, I can still feel that same shame when I step out the door with bright pink lipstick on: I feel like a fraud; I think my lips are “too wrinkly” for lipstick; I never used to wear lipstick, why am I starting now?. I ultimately feel like I have to justify why I am doing what I’m doing, even though I know I don’t have to.  (doesn’t help when I nervously decided to Skype my parents one night wearing dark burgundy lipstick and they asked me, “what’s on your lips?!?”). So. I’m scared of indulging myself in this way.

But what helps me move through this internalized shit, bit by bit, is knowing that, I think, for queers, make up is not only about correction and emphasis; it’s also about exaggeration, breakthroughs, and self indulgence. Exaggeration is about making things bigger and more prominent. Exaggeration takes up space. Breakthroughs come with the boldness to try things unthought of. And self indulgence is about treating ourselves well in a world that doesn’t pay us enough (money) nor treats us with all the respect we deserve. We are not always only interested in covering up certain parts of ourselves and then accentuating what we think are our assets. Queer make up isn’t always neat, natural, and pretty; it can also be trial-and-error, freaky, and totally unnatural. It’s like, I love blue and yellow, I should wear them all the fucking time, so why not put it on my fucking face??? And in queers’ fearlessness in pushing the boundaries of aesthetics, I am finally starting to feel like I can “come out” with my make up-obsessing self. In their confidence that is fueled by risky boldness, there is so much to appreciate and to take delight in.

Where would we be if not for lo-fi lesbians, dangerous drag queens, femme warriors, badass mamas, aunties, and grandmothers?

One of my favourite make up and style goddesses is Arabelle Sicardi aka Fashion Pirate. She coincidentally just wrote a short piece about the best lipsticks for “girl monsters” (girl monsters!!! omg, I love it.). A green-haired, blue-eyelined, purple-lipped feminist writer, Arabelle recently wrote about what it is that she wants in fashion:

I want ridiculousness in fashion. I want ugly. I want destruction, I want imperfection, flaws, ripped seams, extra armholes, mutated glory that when people walk by me they whisper that they just don’t get it. [Source: Fashion Pirate]

Kyisha Williams, director of the short film Red Lips [Cages for Black Girls], insists on accentuating her lips with red lipstick as an anti-racist statement. In talking about Red Lips, Kyisha says:

In the film, I talk a little bit about how I came to start wearing red lipstick. It was a really hard thing for me. I had made this decision when I was a really young girl that, well, my lips are too big and I can’t call more attention to them . . . Later on, when I was an adult, I thought, ‘Hey, why don’t I do this?’ and I remembered. It just popped up as a memory, the reason why I wasn’t doing that. I thought to myself, ‘That’s totally racist! I should totally do this if that’s something I want to do. My lips are beautiful, and they can be accentuated!’ and all of this stuff. Obviously, I had that knowledge [only] later on in life. When I did start wearing red lipstick, people reacted really weirdly to it. Men on the street would catcall and be really forceful. I would reject them, and they didn’t understand. They would get upset. It was like, ‘I’m wearing red lipstick, but it doesn’t mean that I’m available to you. It doesn’t mean all of these things that you think it means.’ For me, wearing red lipstick is an anti-racist statement. [Source: Xtra!]

And this is not a blog post about queer make up, queer aesthetics, and boundary pushing if calloutqueen, Mark Aguhar, is not remembered. Mark committed suicide in mid-March of this year because the world is fucked up and did not have enough space for them. Mark once wrote this simple poetic manifesto:

These are the axes:

1

Bodies are inherently valid

2

Remember death

3

Be ugly

4

Know beauty

5

It is complicated

6

Empathy

7

Choice

8

Reconstruct, reify

9

Respect, negotiate

Mark Aguhar, 1987-2012

And so, I’m remembering the fabulous queers for whom the world was simultaneously too much and too little. I’m grateful for all the queers who put on blue lipstick and don’t give two shits what people are whispering about them as they sashay by in all their gloriousness. I’m thankful for the queers who are, similar to me, just starting to wear any make up, particularly accentuating parts of themselves they have been told was disgusting or ugly. Thank you for making it feel easier for me to put on that pastel pink lipstick a la mid-90s I bought on a whim. I might only ever put it on a couple of times this summer, but having y’all feel like my personal cheerleading squad (1-2-3-4, “natural” make up is a bore! 5-6-7-8, yr green eye lids look fucking great!) is a blessing to my 27 year-old self.

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I’m staying at the Tulip Farm in Montreal for two weeks to work on a zine!

My life rules because I have been accepted to the Fight Boredom Zine Residency in Montreal! I will be staying at the Tulip Farm with Amber Dearest (of Culture Slut), right by Ste-Emilie Skillshare, for two whole weeks in August, to work on a zine called Repeat Conceit (working title). The zine is going to be a practice in what Mimi Thi Nguyen calls “the politics of repetition,” as I scour old zines by queers and punks of colour and write reflections in response to their work. It will also contain interviews with older queer zinester punks, as a way to pay homage to queer lineage. 

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Back from Chicago

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So much to process, to ponder over, to remember, to record, to write down, to respond to. Old queer POC lady punks like Mimi, Osa, and Miriam have rekindled something in me, making me feel like I need to keep making zines and that zines and I are *not*, in fact, over (which was what I was feeling before going to Chicago). More to come about these older punks, history of POCs and zines, the importance of revisiting words and texts, and new project ideas.

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Bloggers ruined me and my confidence, but lipstick saves all my days

For the last month or so, I’ve been questioning my hairstyle choice (and my style in general). I’ve had this DIY, short, asymmetrical cut for about three years now. And I’ve generally really liked it. I like it not only because I feel like it suits me, but also because I do it myself and I feel good about saving that money so I can spend on other things that make me feel really good (like eating out with friends). But lately, I’ve been feeling uncertain about my hair. I’ve been daydreaming about long locks, about wavy hair with volume, having enough length to dye my hair many different colours at once. I come across POC bloggers like Arabelle of Fashion Pirate and lust over her hair, thinking, OMG I CAN DO IT TOO I WANT IT. I find myself wishing I “looked good” with long hair. I have somehow convinced myself that only short hair styles are “flattering” for my face. I think I am going through a bit of a “I’m-not-femme-enough” period. And a “I-should-be-more-unique-what-the-fuck-is-up-with-my-banal-gay-haircut” period. And a “I-want-to-stand-out-more-and-I-should-not-play-into-that-Asian-stereotype-and-I-want-to-be-sexier” period. God, I can’t even stand myself.

I think what/who is partly to blame are bloggers and blogs. One of my favourite leisure activities is following style and crafting blogs. Jumping from blog to blog and having ten plus browsers open works really well for me as a Gemini rising. I feel like I have exposed myself to quite a large number of blogs, yet I find myself doing circuits between only a few types of aesthetics. If it’s not the ephemeral, translucent aesthetic of a white blogger with long hair and clothes from fancy vintage stores, then it’s the whimsical aesthetic of a white mama blogger with a nice family and the goddamn cutest fucking baby. And I get totally sucked in, scouring my local Value Village for more gold picture frames and kitschy kitchenware with so many rust spots they must be hazardous to my health. Sometimes I look around my room and my apartment and wonder how I let these bloggers I don’t even really know decorate my entire living space.

The aforementioned rusty kitchenware excavated from Value Village

(But it’s also not just the pretty, straight white bloggers. It’s also femmes of colour with whom I compare myself. But fuck, that’s another blog post that I’m not quite sure I am ready to write.)

But, sometimes, when I am able to be easier on myself, I tell myself that these things make me feel kinda good. And feeling good is hard to come by. It’s so important for me to remember that if I’ve found something that makes me feel even slightly happy (and I’m not causing too much harm to others), then hold on to it for as long as it still makes me feel good! Let it go when it becomes stale and allow myself to be changed in the process of being exposed to other aesthetics and forms. As Iris of Bossy Femme recently said:

One thing I’ve learned about myself is that it takes me about six months to go from hating something and believing I will never to do it to loving something so much that I become a major proponent. I remember when I thought I would never wear skinny jeans, floral print, navy blue with black, short skirts, high heels, big eyeliner… you get the idea.  Eventually, all of this stuff comes at you in a context that you find appealing and you begin to get just as stoked about it as everyone else…I don’t feel scared of being labelled a hipster because while I do love listening to records & drinking my coffee out of jars, I love other things, too. (I assume something similar is true for most people.) Better yet, I know I will learn to love all kinds of things that I haven’t even considered. And that’s pretty badass.

My Goddesses. My Saviours.

Anyway, all the new lipsticks I’ve recently purchased is helping (I’ve visited the MAC counter at Yonge station at least two times in the last week). I feel really proud of myself for wearing lipstick and accentuating these lips that I feel self-conscious about. And so, I’m gonna keep layering that lipstick on for as long as it protects me from my critical self.

The problem-causing hair + the armour lipstick = I'm doing all right!

Muah!

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I have things to say

I have things to say and want to say them through zines. Two and a half weeks until I finish this MA degree and have a bit more time to do things that make me excited and nourished. Some things I want to talk about: astrology and kindness, crying, online dating, and male approval. But for now, I will continue plugging away at my degree. I feel like there is a giant rubber ball expanding in my chest and that it’s about to burst any minute. This is not a good feeling. It is not a good feeling and I know the solution for this is to write and make zines…of which I don’t have time for just yet.

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Femme Sharks Love, Dyke March, Toronto Pride 2011 (and always, forever)

FRESH OFF THE BOAT
AND IN YOUR DAUGHTERS’ UNDERWEAR.

(Photo credit: photos 1 and 2 were taken by Rees Nam, and photo 3 was taken by Taryn Williams)

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