By: David Whiso
Who Said Boys Can’t Wear Make-Up (2018) – An educational film, written and directed by the very resilient Priyakanta Laishram was nothing short of a revolution. The film had broken glass ceilings and raised many eyebrows since it was the first-ever film from the entire North East India to highlight the topic of gender-neutral fashion, make-up, and clothing and Laishram won the Best Multimedia Influencer Award 2018 for it in Mumbai. The film also featured many other boys and men who wear gender-neutral clothes and make-up in day-to-day life alongside popular names like Priyakanta Laishram himself, Inder Bajwa (Former India’s Top Model), Nimrit Kaur Ahluwalia (Indian Television Actress), Thounaojam Strela Luwang (Femina Miss India Manipur 2023), Peden Ongmu Namgyal (Miss Diva Supranational 2017), Bala Hijam (Manipuri Actress), John Oinam (Singer) and others.
No one bats an eye when a girl/woman walks out of the house with makeup. On the other hand, if a boy/man does the same, everyone stares, as if makeup on a man is a sin. People have denied the fact that makeup has its origins thousands of years ago and has historically been used for both men and women. In today’s society, makeup on men is taken as taboo, and men are discouraged from doing it. The fact that this behavior is viewed as socially unacceptable lies equally in homophobia, toxic masculinity, and misogyny. Men with make-up are painted as effeminate and assumed to be homosexual, their masculinity is either questioned or attacked, and their sexuality/gender identity is falsely branded.
Through the film Who Said Boys Can’t Wear Makeup, Priyakanta Laishram raised numerous valid points against the existing stereotypical thoughts, practices, and beliefs of society.
“Various civilizations across different eras in human history have documented men using different forms of makeup or their equivalent at the time. So, how did men’s makeup become so stigmatized in the first place? The lack of representation eventually led the majority of men to think that makeup makes you look more feminine – a view that has been ingrained in modern society, albeit diminishing, until today.” Priyakanta addressed.
When asked about how he decided on making a film on men’s make-up and gender-neutral fashion, Priyakanta said it all started from his personal experiences as a boy who wears makeup and gender-neutral clothes in real life.
“Everyone around me got offended when I first started wearing make-up, including my friends, family, relatives, and neighbors. Wherever I go, I used to get a lot of derogatory remarks from people. People called me all sorts of names. During high school, one of my teachers even dragged me out of the classroom and forced me to wash the makeup off my face with contaminated water from the toilet. It traumatized me for a long time. I didn’t even tell my family because I was afraid of getting judged again for my choices. I cried and spent many sleepless nights. But eventually, all those criticisms and hardships that I had faced made me braver and more confident. I started caring less about others’ opinions and started following my own choice of fashion and style. That was when I decided to make an educational film on gender-neutral fashion and make-up titled ‘Who Said Boys Can’t Wear Makeup’ in 2018, to raise my voice against stereotypical societal norms and expectations. “- Priyakanta added.
Today, the world has reached a new level of acceptance where in many circles (at least in Westernized societies) anyone is welcome to use makeup. Men use makeup in both natural and stand-out ways to day-to-day looks and enhance their natural features, and skin care in particular has seen a huge rise in popularity. Like most things in our society, makeup has been assigned a gender, when in reality, it doesn’t have one. If a man chooses to, we need to stop thinking that it’s a commentary on his masculinity or sexuality.
Beauty products are for everyone regardless of one’s gender identity, and it’s time we normalize wearing makeup for those who have been instructed not to.
2018 Manipuri film Who Said Boys Can’t Wear Makeup is no less than a revolution
By: David Whiso