You’ve probably heard about Chimamanda Adichie’s beauty campaign for Boots No7 make-up line. After making its debut on television, online, in print and in outdoor media last week Friday, the campaign has received plenty of attention thanks to the beautiful, yet unlikely, face on the campaign. The campaign was so powerful that it got CNN asking if Adichie was “the most influential woman in Africa.”
You typically don’t look to a make-up ads or beauty campaigns to tell you something meaningful about feminism. Maybe that’s what’s different about this one. Adichie sends out a clear and unequivocally political message about feminism in her Boots Campaign. The premise of the ad is simple: it’s okay to be feminist and feminine. Wearing lip gloss and spotting some killer pair of Louboutin’s does not make a woman unserious or less feminist.
“Our culture,” she says in the ad, “teaches us that to be taken seriously, women should not care much about their appearance. So I stopped wearing makeup and became a false version of myself.”
Denying what makes us comfortable or beautiful or confident, for the sake of being accepted into the structure of patriarchy is precisely what feminism is not about.
Adichie’s attempt to bridge the realm of beauty\style with that of feminism began as far back as 2013 in her Beyonce sampled feminist TED talk. In the talk, Adichie shares a story that many professional women would find relatable. She recalls preparing to teach a graduate class and worrying about being “too feminine.”
“I was worried that if I looked too feminine, I would not be taken seriously. I really wanted to wear my shiny lip gloss and my girly skirt, but I decided not to. I wore a very serious, very manly, and very ugly suit… I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femininity. And I want to be respected in all my femaleness because I deserve to be.”
This Boots Campaign takes things a step further. It celebrates the act of making-up as a way of exploring femininity guilt free and without apologies.
In doing so, Adichie’s message in the ad deviates from an age-old feminist belief that make-up is bad because it imposes masculine ideals of beauty on women. Adichie, it seems, wants to change the conversation. “Make up doesn’t mean anything…make-up is just make-up,” she says in the ad. Make-up is not supposed to make you feel more or less feminist. Embrace it if makes you feel good or “walk ever so slightly taller.”
The message in the Boots No.7 make-up campaign is straight forward: feminism can be pretty. Contrary to popular belief, feminism does not have to be only about masculinization of women or the denial of femininity.
Feminism is freedom—the freedom to embrace femininity or not, whatever that may mean to each individual.
Whether as women we feel it appropriate to draw on our brows, blend our contours, stick on lashes, or whether we do not, is up to us.
We should no longer apologize for being female.