Red Lipstick on a Plane!


Most of us are not ethicists, and in matters of morality we often prefer to defer (Chuck, Prudence, and Carrie are all more worthy spirit-guides). However a woman's inner Betty Friedan can come out to play whenever the collective we—or, more appropriately, she?—feels that their nearest and dearest are being attacked. And, yes, sometimes that involves the entire female population—makeup preferences included.

Case in point? Europe’s fourth largest airline carrier, Turkish Airlines, has taken it upon themselves to dabble in the démodé, banning their flight attendants from wearing red—or “dark pink, etc'—lipstick or nail polish. (Platinum-blond hair is also verboten.) Ce n’est pas possible in 2o13, one might say, but this is no history lesson, nor does it appear to be the workings of The Onion. But the regressive vibes of such a rule do feel like a walk down memory lane, one that raises questions about how far we haven’t come.

According to representatives from the airline, such colorful displays “[impair] visual integrity.” In matters of branding, that lingo makes sense, but applying it to stewardi—read: living, breathing individuals—is questionable at best and downright creepy at worst. Were you aware that your beloved bag of makeup was synonymous with corruption...and even disgrace? Is lipstick not, instead, a peaceful weapon—one that anyone should be able to brandish without political debate? Or is the joke on us?

If it is—we’re not alone in thinking so. Reactions on Twitter hint at the public’s concerns, with many people cracking jokes about the “destructively seductive” abilities of lipstick, et al. that Turkish Airlines seems to fear. The company argues that flight attendants who are anything more than bare-faced will corrupt a passenger’s ability to communicate with them—to which we say, bring on the debauchery!

Makeup is often written off as a superficial dalliance that women would be better off without. Women are regularly told that they should embrace their faces without it, and while it’s hard to wholly disagree with this be-one-with-your-pimples mentality, painting your face can also be a healthy and empowering pursuit. It’s no coincidence that linguistic authority Merriam Webster lists “ maquillage' as synonymous with “ war paint.” Makeup is armor for the modern woman (ditto men who bravely flip off tradition); it helps people literally put their best face forward, fostering outward confidence so that they can focus on ventures closer to the heart (working hard, loving deeply). Rather than being anti-intellectual or frivolous, its ability to prop up self-assurance tends to increase one’s drive and curiosity.

But work ethic and higher learning aside, getting made up is, above all, self-expression—an art form with more integrity than it gets credit for (take that, TurkAir). Like other habits, it can help a person stand out from the increasingly homogenous crowd. More broadcast than mask, it has the ability to radiate what someone is all about from a distance, without words. This is as true of a freshly scrubbed face paired with a swipe of Chapstick as it is of a fully contoured Kardashian-style visage—it’s the ability to oscillate between the two at one’s discretion and leisure that’s interesting, and important. Neither should bind us.

Do you agree? At the risk of intimidation, there are some seriously awesome ladies supporting the makeup-at-35,000-feet cause (here’s looking at you, Jackie Brown). Don’t get caught up in questions of hottest-or-nottest though, this is about exercising individuality for it’s own sake, no doubt a difficult endeavor in a work environment that universally enforces a rather drab dress code. With self-expression already tamped down, these ladies [n’ gents] deserve the opportunity to meet the stresses of air travel with whatever face they choose (but, preferably, a face with all the spunk of Gwyneth in her prime).

—Jessica Schiffer

Read more of our posts about the power of red lipstick (including a response to a recent NYTimes debate): here, here, and here.

Jessica Schiffer is New York-based writer. For more of her writing/thoughts, check out her personal blog or follow her on Twitter.

Image via Air France.