We live in a day and age where political correctness is more widespread than movements for actual social justice. The makeup industry is no exception in this social trend that makes sure voices are heard, but does not bring any actual benefits to society. I’m going to explore a recent topic about the supposedly sexualized name of Kat Von D’s lipstick line. Her bright red lipstick shade is named Underage Red, sparking controversy and anger online because people believed she was condoning child prostitution and over-sexualization of underaged girls in general. Here is what Kat Von D had to say:
I clearly remember wearing a variation of this shade when I was 16 years old. I also remember the feeling of wanting so badly to go see a specific concert at this age, and not being able to get in to the venue because I was underage. Back then, I was already deeply in love with punk rock music, and although in the eyes of many (including my parents), it may have been inappropriate for me to be wearing lipstick. But I did.
“Underage Red” is not a girly, pink shade. It is not a sophisticated, deep red either. It is an unapologetic, bold red. To me, “Underage Red” is feminine rebellion.
Although I do think that public figures should especially watch the words and labels they put out there, I appreciate Kat Von D’s unwillingness to apologize for a message that was not her own. Also, it is interesting how a lot of netizens straight-up flipped shit even when they did not know the background of the lipstick name.
Many people tell me that sometimes, intent does not matter – it is impact. I get that. Racists, sexists, and many other people always “didn’t mean” what they said “in that way”, but in the end, it is still a reflection of their social ignorance and should be pointed out. However, with this case, I must say that I feel differently. If we take the time to look at Kat Von D’s commentary on how she thought of the name, we would realize that advocating child prostitution wasn’t really on her mind – in fact, it was an act of “feminine rebellion”. Once again, wearing makeup does not automatically associate with pleasing men, sexually or otherwise.The fact that so many netizens assumed this saddens me, because I believe (like Kat Von D) makeup can actually be empowering, rebellious, brave. Furthermore, public figures are human too, and their voices should not be self-censored just because of a feared impact – this can lead us down a dangerous path of silence instead of discussion, of fearing instead of facing.
Honestly, I’m not quite sure how I feel about her “unapology”, even though I intuitively support her. However, what this misunderstanding should teach us is the negative way in which political correctness can snuff out creative expression and actually, empowerment for oppressed groups in the US and worldwide. People who try to call others out for the sake of superficial political correctness need to realize that they are hurting the progress of social justice and stifling discussion on key issues – the goal they are “fighting” for in fact not being achieved precisely because of their overflowing of nonsensical, at times even pretentious, anger. When you stifle something before giving it the chance to speak for itself, rather than reflecting on the social consequences after educating yourself on the particular issue at hand, it can lead to dangerous circumstances. I will finish by a digression, as I want to qualify myself: I do believe a certain amount of political correctness does work for the better good – the popular trends against slut shaming or the campaign to “check your privilege” seem to be effective. But, one might ask, does political correctness just a new form of etiquette that just silences us or does it actually change our perspective on deep-rooted social issues at hand?