Crimson pouts fell like autumn leaves on the runways of Jason Wu and Prada, Philipp Plein, and Maison Margiela this season, but a bit of matte Ruby Woo says makes you more than a hawk-eyed trend watcher. Red lips are a cultural statement, a way for women to own both femininity and feminism. And in today’s cultural landscape, that couldn’t be more refreshing.

By Marlys Klossner

Last year, there was a meme that made the digital rounds: two photographs of the same young woman placed side-by-side; one of her totally bare-faced, and the other with a full makeup look, accompanied by the caption, “This is why you take her swimming on the first date.” In a single image, some troll with a photo-editing tool and an Internet connection had encapsulated the very double standard women have faced for decades. It implied that women without makeup were undesirable, and that women wearing makeup were liars.

But then something amazing happened.

Women around the world started posting their own side-by-side versions, pointing out the inherent cruelty: the young female whose face went viral was a 20-year-old student from Tacoma, Washington. A movement started to not only remind other women, but men, too, that the real meaning of makeup is defined by those who wear it. And in a world where even the President of the United States blatantly degrades women, thereby normalizing this behaviour for sexists everywhere, it’s more crucial than ever for feminists to continue to express their ideals. Today, instead of wearing pants and burning bras, women are once again wearing red lipstick.

It’s the perfect symbol to lead the revolution, one that’s first credited to the suffragettes in New York City, just after World War I. These women coloured their lips rouge as a sign of power and unity as they took to the streets to protest for the right to vote.

Decades later, feminism became about proving that women could take on traditionally masculine traits, to the point where embracing femininity became something to be ashamed of. So-called “lipstick feminists” (those who practice feminism while embracing things that are traditionally associated with femininity) are still accused of being hypocrites by both sexists and second-wave feminists. Earlier this year, Helen Mirren told Vanity Fair, “…I was the kind of feminist that wanted to wear high heels and lipstick, and that wasn’t on in the late ’60s. You couldn’t be a feminist and do that kind of thing. Well, you can nowadays, so I’m a modern feminist.” Unlike its predecessor, third-wave feminism celebrates every variation of human.

French existentialist Simone de Beauvoir, often credited with laying the foundation for third-wave feminism with her book The Second Sex in 1949, proudly sported red lips. Her mantra, “one is not born, but becomes a woman” helped pave the way for some some of the most vocal present-day feminist icons, including those within the transgendered community like Laverne Cox; the Emmy-nominated actress and producer is a role model for her advocacy for feminism and trans rights, as well as for her mastery of makeup.

Today’s brand of feminism is more inclusive than ever, with leading voices ranging from the polished and measured Emma Watson to the tell-it-like-it-is Lena Dunham, both of whom have been known to wear a scarlet pout from time to time.

In 2017, you can be as feminine or as masculine as you want to be. Dress however you want. Wearing red lipstick, just like wearing no lipstick at all, means you are you. And you are powerful.

A movement started to not only remind other women, but men, too, that the real meaning of makeup is defined by those who wear it.”

Revolutionary Red

Three red lip hues fit for any occasion.

1 Chanel Rouge Allure Velvet in N64 First Light

2 Elizabeth Arden Beautiful Color Moisturizing Lipstick in Marigold

3 YSL Tatouage Couture Matte Lip Stain in Rouge Tatouage