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On Wearing Red Lipstick

Yesterday I overheard Anne on a Zoom call, urging her audience to wear lipstick – specifically, red lipstick. “Let’s all express our courage and strength in the face of this pandemic and its impact on women, by wearing red lipstick!”

As an owl, I have never even tried to wear lipstick. I asked Anne why this is important? And, she gave me an earful about the rich history of red lipstick, steeped in identity, self-expression, and liberation!

As usual, Anne started with a lesson. Did you know that it is 100 years since women’s suffrage - the right to vote in Federal Elections - was granted to white women in Canada and the United States after a long fight by Women Suffragettes?

Anne told me that the feminist women who fought for women’s suffrage in the UK, US, Canada, and elsewhere adopted red lipstick as a symbol of power and strength.

According to Rachel Felder, author of “Red Lipstick: An Ode to a Beauty Icon.”:

“The suffragettes in the UK, US and other places too, wore red lipstick literally every day as part of their virtual uniform to, without saying a word, communicate that power, and that feminine power.”

Legend has it that Canadian feminist and entrepreneur Elizabeth Arden herself handed out her signature Red Door Red lipstick to women fighting for voting rights at the 1912 New York City Suffragette March!

During World War II, red lipstick became patriotic, and women proudly wore shades of lipstick, referred to as “Victory Red,” sending a big middle finger to Hitler. He reportedly hated red lipstick so much that he instructed women visiting his country estate to “avoid red lipstick.”

In 2012, Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door Red lipstick, the symbol of female solidarity and fearlessness, was relaunched at the center of their “March On” campaign. All proceeds from the sale of Red Door Red are donated to the United Nations Women (UN Women), which dedicates its work to achieving gender equality and empowering women around the world.

On January 21st, 2017, as Donald Trump stepped into the Presidency, the first “Women’s March on Washington” made history as the largest single-day protest in the United States. The momentous demonstration outside the White House spawned a worldwide movement, and the annual march continues.

In January 2020, to celebrate the fourth annual event, the forces behind the Women’s March teamed up with social justice-driven beauty brand Lipslut to design a red lipstick in the statement shade Feminist As F*ck Lipslut. founder Katie Sones is proud of the collaboration:

“Our fans have always suggested that we collaborate with other women-led organizations … 50% of all earnings from orders of Feminist As F*ck lipstick will go towards helping the Women’s March and their commitment to dismantling systems of oppression through nonviolent resistance, intersectional education, and the creation of entry points for grassroots activist organizers.”

So that’s a bit of history to demonstrate that by wearing a red lipstick, women are doing more than boosting their own confidence; they’re displaying a symbol of women’s rights, and their power to make change! And, if you choose, you can support feminist organizations!

Now I understand why Anne encourages women to wear red lipstick! And, while it still doesn’t work for owls like me, I hope you will follow her example! Like Audrey Hepburn, Anne insists there is a shade of red for every woman!


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