Hi! I'm Jessica

I'm a writer, podcaster and mentor empowering others to live and thrive with endometriosis.

Makeup Shaming: What is the problem with applying makeup on trains?

Makeup Shaming: What is the problem with applying makeup on trains?

Me looking pretty damn tired when the fatigue kicked it up a notch two years back...

Me looking pretty damn tired when the fatigue kicked it up a notch two years back...

Endometriosis, Chronic Fatigue and Applying Makeup in Public

It's more than likely that during your social media scrolling today, you've come across the news that a Japanese train company has asked women to not apply makeup on their trains. In case you missed it, here's a description of the ad from Refinery29:

In the ad, a bare-faced actress dances in front of a duo of girls as they carefully comb mascara through their lashes. A catchy song begins to play as the woman sings in Japanese, “Women in the big city are all beautiful. But they can be ugly sometimes.” The song continues with her asking, “Why can’t you do it before you get on the train? Your eyebrows restored and eyelashes multiplied, your transformation is witnessed.” The clip ends with a message kindly asking women to not put on makeup on the train.

There's so much to chew on here, especially the implication that the general public don't want to see women without makeup and that their 'transformation' is something that should be done at home. The fact that the company can't give us a good solid reason for not doing so other than these frankly sexist views is a waste of money and also (I would hope) pretty damaging to their brand, giving that half the world has gone crazy about it.

Several years back a contact of mine who I respected and admired posted a picture on Facebook of a woman applying her makeup on the tube. The woman's face was clear and identifiable. The picture was accompanied with a caption stating how she had had a hard day and all she wanted to do was to sit down and this selfish girl was taking up a seat to do her makeup. A few points sprung (okay, leapt) to mind when I saw this -

a) The implication that the woman was only using the seat to do her makeup.

b) That the woman was less deserving than her or anyone else on the train of a seat, because she was doing her makeup.

c) That the woman didn't need the seat (if she hadn't been doing her makeup, would she have been pointed out as having selfishly taken up a seat?)

d) That applying her makeup on the tube made her deserving of having her picture posted on a social media platform without her permission, removed her right to refuse the picture and removed her right to have a seat.

In my opinion, all of the above are enough reasons to be angry about the judgements that women face as a result of putting their makeup on. But there's another reason why I feel so strongly about this subject.

I have endometriosis, and as many of you know who also suffer with it, it comes with a host of other symptoms including chronic fatigue. I have been extremely tired since hitting adolescence. In the last two years, pre-surgery, I have been exhausted. Every. Single. Day. I don't know what 100% feels like. I don't know what it feels like to have a normal amount of energy. It is a battle for me to wake up each morning and I rush through my evening activities, desperate to get my head back on the pillow. I set two alarms and snooze them both. I am supposed to get up at 6:45am, but generally I don't get out of bed until 7:20am and that is still a struggle. A few months ago this exhaustion caused me to cry daily, my favourite part of the day was going to bed and I regularly contemplated suicide.

To put it simply, I just don't have time to finish getting ready. Believe me, I try and try every morning to get up earlier. I've even left a pot of coffee next to my bed hoping the smell will awaken my senses.

So here's the thing - I do my make up on the train everyday not because I'm lazy, unorganised, late, vain or selfish (but even if those were the reasons, so what?) but because I'm battling a incurable condition and if I can make my life a little bit easier by finishing my makeup on the train, then I'm going to do it. I find it infuriating that we sit there being judged day in and day out by fellow commuters, making the most negative and sweeping generalisations about us without considering the many reasons a woman may have for applying her makeup on public transport.  These women are no less important or deserving of a seat than the person next to them, slurping their coffee. In fact, has it even been considered that they might even be in more need of that seat? Perhaps they're pregnant and have been suffering from morning sickness since waking up. Or maybe they have endometriosis and are in crippling pain, or have ME and are exhausted. Or could they be unwell and unable to take the time off, so had a few extra minutes in bed?

Here's a radical idea. Perhaps these women are utter girlbosses who just have other things to do before they leave rather than ensure their face is transformed for their admirers on the commute in. Perhaps they run a business or a blog on top of their day job and get up early to work on it. Maybe they write their novel in the morning or go to the gym. Maybe they have a new born baby or young children they need to get to school.

Then there's the more serious issues that could be going on at home. Perhaps they have an abusive partner who doesn't let them wear make up (this isn't an exaggeration, this happens) or maybe they have a disabled loved one who they have to help get ready in the morning. They themselves might have a disability which makes their morning routine a lengthy struggle. Could they be battling with depression and just about got themselves out of the house?

Who knows? But really, does it matter? We don't even need all these reasons as a defense, as Joanna McGarry proudly and rightly states, maybe we just choose to. Surely touching up your lipstick is one of the least offensive things someone can do on the train. I've been stuck on a packed carriage before, rammed against the door whilst another passenger rubbed his hands against me for 30 minutes. I wasn't the only girl this happened to on that line and it wasn't the last time an incident like this has happened to me either. Could we start Assault Shaming instead of Makeup Shaming for a while? I suggest that's where train companies start directing their attention and money. 

I believe Tokyu Corporation asked us why we can't do our make up before we get on our trains in the morning - I hope this answers their question sufficiently.

Women's March London

Women's March London

Endo Awareness Month Series: EndoAware Week with Endometriosis UK

Endo Awareness Month Series: EndoAware Week with Endometriosis UK