By Sam Royka - Staff Writer
When women went to work during World War II, they did so with cherry-red lips. This became a symbol of their resilience in uncertain times. Now, this resilience is as important as ever while the world faces a global pandemic.
Makeup, even though it may feel frivolous, is central to many individuals’ identities.
During a time such as this, rituals you can do at home become even more important than before. Red lipstick is one such ritual.
Heather Cahill, a Rose State alumni, was sent home on March 18 and has been working from home ever since. As a high-risk individual, she has left home only four times in the past month. She shared some of the things that are keeping her sane during this time.
“The power of small rituals, like putting on makeup (and being bold in the comfort of your space until you're ready to be bold everywhere), provides multiple benefits such as routine, and continuity of self,” Cahill provided via email. “But what has really helped is the ability to work in the yard and get sunshine. And moving. Exercise has helped more than I thought it would. It provides routine, and endorphins. And a sense of productivity.”
Routine can become a great comfort to lean into during this stressful time. We also had a chance to speak with Rose State Professor Dr. Sheri Jewell-Fleming.
“Self-care is often the first plan of attack that any counselor or therapist or even your physician will recommend,” Jewell-Fleming said. “Usually the key thing with self-care is taking time for yourself, and technology tends to get in the way of that. There is this thing — I call it ‘Super Walmart Syndrome,’ where we think that life on everybody’s basis is a 24/7 operative. Like I can email my boss at 11 o’clock, I can email my professor at 1 in the morning, you know, I can do this stuff and I expect answers, like, now. And not everybody is wired that way to understand that business is conducted on business time, and so we get used to this instant gratification that technology can succeed a little bit, but what was supposed to be something that gave us more free time to take care of ourselves has now sort of eaten every bit of our free time. The key thing is just recognizing that.”
She likened the internet to casinos and malls.
“When you go to a mall, there [are] no clocks anywhere, and casinos, there [are] no clocks, there [are] not even windows there because they don’t want people to know how much time they’re spending in these places,” she said. “Because if you stay there longer, then you spend more money obviously, and the internet is a lot like that, where you sit down to do something and the next thing you know four hours have gone by.”
She emphasized the importance of unplugging.
“There are several studies that are going on out there that are showing that things like social media, screen time, they’re making us more anxious, more upset, and in some cases even more depressed,” Jewell-Fleming said.
Developing a routine and making time to unplug from our devices provides more time to reconnect to the real world, and that can be comforting during this stressful time. Due to the recommended social distancing practices, it can also be difficult if you live alone.
However, she had some suggestions about positive habits you can develop at home. She mentioned indoor exercise, journaling and gratitude journaling, as well as spending time in nature.
There are many important facets of what we can do to recenter. However, if the many options feel overwhelming, that’s okay — if you start from the ground up, you can do anything.
On starting from the ground up and beginning self-care with small daily rituals, that might just be where red lipstick comes in.
A hundred years ago when suffragettes Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Charlotte Perkins Gilman loved red lipstick because it shocked men, protestors followed in suit, staining their lips red as a symbol of rebellion, liberation and freedom.
This power and femininity, the ‘modern woman,’ is what flappers were all about, so they too donned the red.
Red lipstick took the world by storm, and during the Second World War, it had another moment in the sun. Adolf Hitler detested lipstick, banning it in Germany. Therefore, in America and other allied countries, it became a symbol of patriotism and resisting fascism.
Right around that time is when Marylin Monroe’s stylist picked up the crimson shade, helping her to create a look that would remain the stuff of legend. With Monroe’s involvement, red lipstick picked up the symbolism of sensuality and Hollywood glam.
So why is this so important now?
It all comes down to one word: power.
While we all practice social distancing, work from home (many of us with children), and see panic-inducing notifications daily, it can feel overwhelming. Disruption of the daily routine can make it seem like your world has been thrown into chaos.
Rituals like putting on red lipstick in the bathroom mirror can both provide a moment away from the roar of things that must be attended to and an effective personal reset button.
If you do not feel your best, you will not perform your best, so self-care is more important now than ever. There is nothing quite the same as applying a generations-old symbol of personal power that fits neatly around every word you say.
When you go out your red lipstick and most of your face will be hidden by a mask. At home, however, it serves as a powerful symbol that carries with it generations of resistance and resilience.
And even on occasional trips outside of the house, eyeliner has its own reset button potential. Eyeliner sales are up as consumers express themselves, finding power and strength in small personal rituals that can change their entire mindset.