To empower queer women towards greater involvement and presence in the community
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Advocacy for LBTQ women's rights at CEDAW
Sayoni was at the United Nations in Geneva in October 2017 to bring Singapore LBTQ women's issues to the forefront. The CEDAW Committee heard our concerns and raised recommendations related to LBTQ women in their Concluding Observations for the Singapore government.
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Sayoni is a Singapore-based feminist, volunteer-run organisation that works to uphold human rights protections for queer women, including lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. We organise and advocate for equality in well-being and dignity regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity/expression and sex characteristics.

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BUT having said all that, I do like looking at make-up products. I am drawn to colours in any form; crayons, wallpaint, and make-up included. I like inspecting the smart packaging and clever new “gadgets” eg an eyeshadow pot with built-in brush (same principle as nail varnish). I even like the smell of some brands of make-up. If I had more money and less self-restraint, I would end up with tons of make-up in my room, but not used for its intended purpose.

Which is why I have rather mixed feelings towards make-up. Deep inside, I am against it. But so many women around me cannot live without it. And now, even men are getting into the act as well. What is the deal? I figured it probably would not kill me to give it a try. Thus I decided, I would wear make-up for my sister’s wedding.

Next question: Should I just hire a professional make-up person to handle it for me? That would be simple, however I calculated that I would need to get made-up for at least 4 separate sessions (1 church wedding, then tea ceremonies and dinners in both Singapore and KL.) Logistics seemed too complicated, so I chose the alternative of doing it myself. Dykes like DIY, right? And if I can drive a manual car, how difficult can make-up be?

For a start, I had to LEARN how to apply make-up. Appointment made with one of the stores in Orchard Road, makeover session with step-by-step instructions. I arrived at the shop brewing with nervousness, and totally self-conscious. I explained to the lady that I had no experience in make-up, and therefore she would have to speak s-l-o-w-l-y, not use any jargon, and give me time to take notes. She very kindly provided me with some sheets of A4 paper and a pen too.

After that, she frowned at my eyebrows and asked if I would like them to be plucked. I tried to get out of it, but she convinced me with “You would not get the full effect of your make-over otherwise.” I tentatively asked “Will it hurt?” and she replied “YEAH,” with as much hesitation as if I had just asked her if the Pope is Catholic. But having already agreed, and having too much pride for my own good, I submitted to her tweezers. I am sure that there are some events in life that no amount of psyching yourself up can adequately prepare you to actually experience. And I am sure that Having Your Eyebrows Plucked For The First Time would rank right alongside Bungee Jumping, or Having A Baby. I had tears streaming down my face, and she kept repeating “It will be worth it when you see the results…” It was traumatic to say the least. Apparently it is supposed to hurt less as you do it more often, but hey I will just take their word for it.

Next came the actual make-up lesson. For a split second I wondered why she had given me a stack of A4 paper on which to take notes, but as we went along, it turned out that all that paper was going to come in handy. I began with “Step 1: Wash Face“. Might be obvious to some, but I wasn’t taking any chances, I had to idiot-proof my notes. “Step 2: Toner. Use cotton pad.” I ended up with close to 30 steps. More intricate steps needed little sketches too. I even drew diagrams to indicate which brush to use when. It all seemed too complicated for my little brain.

When we were finished, I thought, “Ok, I look nice.” But it was very hard to justify the time and effort spent, compared with the final result. I really do wonder what the deal is with Looking Natural. I mean, after so much trouble with the make-up, I would have expected something more dramatic ala Chinese Opera performer. To Look Natural is something I could have achieved with Step 1. And really, I have always felt that my life is too short to spend that kind of time in front of mirrors. I cannot imagine myself, on a daily basis, getting up an extra hour early just to draw my face. And then only to sweat it all off again on my I trek to the office.

So I have come to the conclusion that make-up for me is something reserved for special occasions. (Better if these occasions happen at night when one is not subject to melting in the sun.) I continue to be amazed by women who wear make-up to work. And because this is basically the majority of the female population, it gives me lots to ponder while taking the train to work. “I wonder how long they spend putting on make-up each morning… Perhaps they don’t have too far to walk to the MRT station…” etc

After my foray into the cosmetics arena, I continue to resent a society that judges people by their appearances. And I strive for a world where one’s worth is measured based on one’s achievements, ability, and character.

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