What do Jackie Aina and I have in common other than being gorgeous Black queens? We’re both naturally hyper-sweaty individuals. While she has had Botox to control her sweat glands, I remain with a closet full of dingy white shirts sporting conspicuous and irremovable pit stains. Shimmery looks seen in Glossier campaigns seek to empower me and my perspired kin in a trendy way that says “you’re not sweaty, you’re ~gLoWiNg~.” But why is sweat, a natural function designed to maintain bodily equilibrium, always the enemy in mainstream beauty campaigns? Is there a space where you can be sweaty and TRULY sweaty, not “glowy,” as a fashionable body?
The answer, dear Couturesquies, is yes: the pit. And by ‘pit,’ I mean moshpit. General gross, countercultural attitudes all play out in the pit through pushes, shoves, punches, kicks, stomps and general thrashing – all very sweaty activities. The pit heralds nasty adjectives like ‘grungy’ and ‘smeared’ to describe the looks of its members: your gross bodily functions are beautiful in the spirit of the fray. However, this beauty ideal exists with a misogynistic caveat.
While my sweatiness is a key part to the punk attitude, it’s seen in opposition to femininity. Wearing makeup in the pit is not only seen as stupid and trivial, it’s posed as a representation of “girliness” that highlights the misogyny that can exist in the pit. If you’re someone with a femme gender expression, you must adopt a toughness associated with masculinity to be taken seriously, and even to stay safe. Really, boys in the pit adopt this bizarre fascist attitude about protecting the sanctity of punk and ensuring its indoctrination into future generations, if you will. Take it from someone who has been thrown, punched, and literally stomped on for serving a glittery halo eye to a Death Grips pit. I was prepared to partake in the controlled violence of the pit, but I was unfairly targeted for looking too conventional. I don’t even identify as a girl, but my femme expression that night made it easy for these punk boys to make me look like one of those sensitive “omg why did you hit me” fake punk girls who have become a meme in the hardcore community.
This seems like a stretch, but I want to assure that I’m not reaching, just taking an analytical point of view when it comes to understanding how masculinity toxically teaches boys to see makeup as an extension of pejorative femininity. You know those self-titled “grunge” looks all over the Internet? All that smudgy liner, Avril Lavigne inspired goodness? Notice how boys are the first ones to be the ones to categorize people like punk princess Avril into the “poser” category because of the attention to her look seems superficial. But is that categorization because of the look itself, or because that look references femininity?
Makeup is for everybody. Yet makeup and beauty in general is not independent from that magical word, ~hegemony~. If anything, it reflects it even further. In the pit, boys don their masculinity with certain accessories of punk, like painted nails and the ever-elusive Pete Wentz “guyliner.” For them, when their nail polish chips or their eyeliner runs, it’s cool and edgy; if anything, it makes them punkier. Boys in the pit will really tell you that it’s “about the music” and that’s why your makeup frustrates them, because you care about the punk look versus the punk mentality. Meanwhile they’ll spend hours in the thrift store trying to locate the perfectly irreverent t-shirt to pair with 2 month unwashed jeans and a shrunken Carhartt beanie. No tea no shade no pink lemonade @ punk boys but…..be better (and shoutout to Jasmine Masters for that one).
When those with feminine gender expressions mosh with full faces of makeup, their makeup smears are considered banal. How could she, with foundation and eyeshadow stains, be considered punk when she’s just a “normie” wearing a “normie” makeup look?
My frustration comes in the form of yet another question: why is it that girls and those with femme gender expressions must prove themselves as “cool enough” by separating from standards of femininity? Why are men and masculine people allowed to express this femininity and have it translate as subcultural identity? Like most of my larger questions this one has no answer, other than to point out inequalities in bodies and how they play out in beauty. Subcultures are posed against the convention, but again, they are not independent of misogyny as it is a systematic issue, not something that some cathartic raging in the pit can quell.
My point is that we’ll see misogyny played out in subcultures like situations of messiness and makeup in the pit: no one hates women or makeup, but the acceptance of something on a male or masculine body over a female or feminine body is proof of how subcultural norms can still reflect cultural norms, just in a more hidden and aesthetically subversive way.
To all of my girls and my femmes: stay safe in the pit. Lock that makeup into place with Urban Decay All-Nighter Setting Spray. Or don’t, and smear your colorful face all over those crusty boys’ Supreme tees that they probably paid $200 for on Grailed. Serve whatever look you want to in the pit: be sweaty, be smelly, and pop the fuck off. Ultimately, it’s “all about the music,” right?