First Advisor

Maura Kelly

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Social Science and University Honors


Social Science


Cosmetics -- Public opinion, Women -- Identity, Feminism, Feminist theory, Third-wave feminism




Feminists have long been stereotyped as disapproving of traditional forms of feminine expression, said to ascribe to a "'bra burning' Puritanism". And while this has been somewhat over exaggerated, there is some truth to the general feminist critique on traditional feminine accoutrements such as heels, lipstick, the color pink, etc. This is evidenced in seminal feminist works, such as "The Second Sex", "The Feminist Mystique", and from these works comes a profusion of anti-feminine sentiment. However, like many aspects of second wave feminism during the rise of the third wave, this conception of feminine expression was questioned and reformed. Second wave was criticized for being too restrictive, too white, too middle class. Thus ‘third wave’ feminism, as it is often referred to, placed emphasis on choice and on intersectionality. Due to these polarizing changes that have taken place within the feminist community over the last three or so decades, and due to wider social changes also relevant to feminine presentation, it is worth reevaluating the modern feminist perspective on feminine expression. 12 interviews were conducted with self identified feminist makeup users from the Portland area, aged between 19 and 28. From the subjective interpretations of feminism as well as subjective interpretations and habits each presented on makeup, it is concluded as a complex social object which cannot be deemed as inherently oppressive or empowering, but rather must be treated critically in relation the rest of the makeup users feminist habits.


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