Break the Norm: A Position Paper

by Carl Custodio and Alyssa Tan

In pop culture, Popeye is considered to be the peak stereotypical man for his brawny, buff, and tough figure. On the other hand, Betty Boop was inspired by the stereotypes of a woman, with her make-up, short dress, and timid personality. Were you aware that these popular characters were constructed from gender stereotypes to be able to create a more identifiable character? These gender stereotypes include women wearing short skirts or dresses, having an attractive face will let men serve you, and being a housewife. While for men, strength is the main focus of their character and is known to be virtuous (Polan, 2020). People tend to attribute make-up or cosmetic products to women/girls because in the past it was marketed towards the female demographic. Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette, Marlyn Monroe are famous female icons throughout history that showcase their femininity to society with their make-up, and their flair. It is time to break the stigma that has been created with femininity and masculinity. The use of cosmetic products among men can help break the frail concept of masculinity because individuality can be achieved through these products, the idea of “masculinity” is only a social norm, and the act of self-love needs no gender. 

Cosmetic products, particularly make-up, allow people to be able to express their individuality. Baragona (2018) stated that he views make-up as art that he can constantly perfect without anyone judging him as there are no rules containing this. He is satisfied that he is able to express himself where the canvas is his own body. Adding on to that, Brant (2020) stated that for him, make-up is like armor that could be wielded whichever way he wants it to be. With the use of make-up, it allows them to be able to express themselves in whoever and whatever they want to be. Each one has the freedom to be able to choose what styles they want and be able to express themselves in their own styles. There was a dad who told his son that it did not matter what anyone else thinks about you, what matters is that whatever you wear and do should make you feel good (Deshpende, 2020). 

Masculinity is only a socially constructed norm. According to Wall & Kristjanson (2005), since these stereotypical ideas are being presented to them at a young age, boys are living under pressure due to the expectations to show and develop gender-appropriate behaviors of society. The world classified cosmetic products as feminine, and so, men are being criticized whenever they are seen wearing these products such as make-up. However, if one would look at the history of make-up, Egyptians have used eyeliner in order to create cat-eye designs. Moreover, society was later on introduced to the concept of “guyliner” which was well-known among pop-punk artists (Montell, 2020). The want to wear make-up or use cosmetic products does not make one less “masculine”. Kerpen (2019) stated that as we inform how the young men identify themselves, it should not be based on what you have read or about the feedback that someone tells you. It is how you create yourself and have a strong belief in who you are. 

Cosmetic products such as make-ups and facial care products are gender-neutral. People use these products for a variety of reasons. Some of which could be because it boosts their confidence or is their way to practice self-love. According to ForHims (n.d.), a company that sells personal care products exclusively for men, stated that those who proclaim that men do not need to practice self-care and groom themselves are talking nonsense. The want to present themselves in a clean and proper way is just normal as we are humans. In some occurrences, for example, a job interview, one would, surely, want to present themselves in their best form. This is because, in human nature, looking presentable and clean makes one appear more responsible,

capable, and trustworthy to execute the assigned tasks excellently. Furthermore, Carl Banks, founder of GIII Sports (as cited from Kerpen, 2019), stated that self-love is essential to a person. Practicing self-love is important as one would not be able to realize what love truly is. To add to that, without being able to experience and practice loving oneself first, one would not be able to truly love another person. Confidence is a huge thing when it comes to a person. Confidence allows one to be able to do things like walk comfortably in a crowd with their heads up high. Grau (2019) stated that one reason why it is okay for men to wear make-up is that it helps in building their confidence. He stated that everyone secretly wished that a feature was more defined, where make-up could be of use. And with the use of that, it could emphasize their features or hide a flaw that they wish to conceal. This is further supported by David Yi, the founder of a beauty site for men, which stated that he finds his confidence with the use of cosmetics. Moreover, he claimed that he loved what make-up made him feel as it made him powerful, sexy, and more masculine (Jones, 2018). 

Though there are a certain number of people who are starting to disregard the gender stereotypes created, there are still plenty who disagree with men using cosmetic products as this is known to be “feminine”. Moreover, society judges someone’s sexuality with their appearance and their movements. For example, when a boy wears something pink or make-up, he is considered to be gay. With the generation today, almost all the artists wear make-up to be able to conceal their flaws as well as highlight their features. With the use of make-up, artists are able to show their best selves in front of their fans. According to Yi, using cosmetic products does not make you any less of a man (North, 2018). Furthermore, he stated that masculinity is all about being confident, being your best selves, and being comfortable with yourself (Jones, 2018).

The use of beauty care products is currently dominating in today’s generation, especially for men. The application of these products to men shows that the frail concept of masculinity can be disregarded, because it is only that, a concept. It should not be that the expression of someone’s individuality be taken from them just because of a mere concept that everyone is expected to partake in. The notion of masculinity in our society was only made for Western advertisements, so you could say that masculinity was only a social construct. The act of loving yourselves should not be based on your gender, as taking care of yourselves is a normal thing for human beings to do. Be the light that society needs to be able to have a more open-minded outlook on these issues because once society is able to dismiss these useless stereotypes, the world could be a better place to live in.


Baragona, L. (2018). I’m a Guy Who Wears Makeup — Here’s Why.

Brant, H. (2020). Marc Jacobs Thinks Men Should Wear Makeup. up 

Deshpande, S. (2020). Say No To Gender Stereotypes! Men Wear Makeup Too! 

Grau, J. (2019). 5 Reasons Why It’s Totally OK For Men To Wear Makeup. eup/#:~:text=Makeup%20builds%20self%2Dconfidence&text=Using%20bronzer%2C% 20highlighter%2C%20and%20foundation,ongoing%20problems%20with%20chapped% 20lips. 

Harmful masculinity and violence. (2018). Understanding the Connection and Approaches to Prevention. 

Jones, V. (2018). Makeup is Changing the Meaning of Masculinity. html 

Kerpen, C. (2019). It’s Time to Redefine Masculinity. h=1bd6cc66315c 

Montell, A. (2020). From 4000 BCE to Today: The Fascinating History of Men and Makeup. keup%20has%20been,end%20of%20the%20gender%20spectrum. 

North, A. (2018). What the Rise of Men’s Makeup Means for Masculinity. ne-men 

Polan, M. (2020). Betty Boop Vs. Popeye: A Battle of the Helpless.

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