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Why people need to get over others applying makeup on public transport

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In a move that has probably shocked no-one, men are complaining about something women do; women are applying makeup on their morning commute.

Woman applying lipstick

A recent BBC poll of passenger pet peeves, including obnoxiously loud music and eating bad-smelling food, included another major source of irritation in the form of women who dare to do their makeup on public transport.

“I think once or twice I just stared at the person thinking that they would eventually notice and feel embarrassed” said Michael, 59, who claims he had to move carriage due to the sight.

Equally 60-year-old Gerard complained “why can they not get up 10 minutes earlier and do [their make-up] at home?”

However, this habit isn’t a nation-wide conspiracy to upset innocent commuters with our dangerous lipsticks.

Instead, our modern lifestyles are just really, really busy.

Women, and the increasing number of men wearing makeup too, have to get up and run out of the house to go to university or work, then see friends, volunteer, do a weekly shop: the list goes on.

Like a lot of people, I always lived a distance away from where I go to university or work and, when you are constantly on the move, time is a precious commodity.

So why not do something productive in those empty hours of commuting by doing your makeup?

Sure, it’s not the most sanitary thing in the world but until someone invents a makeup that manages to stay perfect all day through hours running around, or even bigger train toilets, applying makeup mid-commute is going to remain a necessity for many.

This argument ultimately comes down to our relationship to makeup.

For many of us, makeup is a self-confidence boost which makes us feel ready to face a long day.

It’s an act of self-care which allows us to play around with our identities and, more than anything else, we statistically wear it for our own benefit. 

However, it is also a symptom of a patriarchal culture which is obsessed with how women look, and the sad fact remains that women are expected to remain perfectly groomed throughout the day while appearing as ‘natural’ as possible.

Maybe it’s the fact that some men don’t like to break the illusion that all women have perfectly long black eyelashes and red lips and as such seeing women apply makeup shatters their dreams.

Maybe they’re afraid of glimpsing behind the curtain and seeing the constructed nature of female beauty.

Or maybe they’re afraid that a person who can do a perfect eyeliner wing on a moving train probably has more power than they can ever imagine possessing.

Whatever reason, it’s a damaging cycle of expecting women to adhere to beauty standards and then shaming them for not hiding this by ‘star[ing] at the person’ hoping they’ll ‘feel embarrassed’ and self-conscious.

I remember doing my makeup on a tube between London Bridge and Old Street and seeing a woman opposite me doing the same thing.

My first reaction was to smile at her and this is what we need; to join forces against judgemental stares.

Indeed, the fact that many who complained are of an older generation may be telling about how this view is becoming outdated.

Public transport is, obviously, a public space, and while people-watching is a national pastime, what we don’t need is this kind of misogynistic shaming that goes with it.

So, unless ‘in your face’ means ‘these women are holding you down and literally putting makeup on your face’ or ‘taking up the entire table like it’s the dressing room at London Fashion week’ I don’t think judging this is fair.

Honestly, the only thing I’m worried about when doing makeup on a train is the train jolting and getting my mascara wand in my eye, not the opinion of Michael, 59.

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