A new makeup brand on the market, War Paint, is marketing itself as a brand for men, by men.
Almost immediately, however, it began receiving criticism from people online for its promotion of toxic masculinity, lack of shades for people of color, and claims of being ‘gender neutral’.
War Paint, as many people pointed out on Twitter, is a term indicative of indigenous people and cultures. It is also what women have been calling makeup for years, implying it as a form of armor against society’s sexism.
The company, however, refuses to engage with people of color and says it wants to be gender neutral while making something for men because there are products ‘just for women’.
"Our aim is to allow makeup to be gender neutral, which is why we used a potent mix of cultural appropriation and militarization to brand our product as expressly for men's tough skin" pic.twitter.com/eqGaOQvk7j
— andi zeisler (@andizeisler) May 9, 2019
‘It made me feel cast away’
GSN spoke to beauty bloggers and people who tried to engage with the company on Twitter.
One such person was Daqurius, a black man from Florida.
He told GSN he doesn’t use makeup, but was interested in products for other uses like under-eye circles.
‘After seeing the company hadn’t offered anything for my darker skin complexion as a black man, I proceeded to ask them about people of my skin color,’ he said.
That’s when the War Paint Twitter account blocked him.
‘About an hour later or so after receiving some support in likes with my tweet, I checked to see if I could look at the brand again and was discarded with a block. It made me feel cast away and that I didn’t belong. I was extremely disappointed in the actions of the company in completely blocking me off from contact for asking a simple question.’
This action — ‘blocking of a black man’ — answered Daqurius’ question.
He said a friend then recommended Rihanna’s beauty line, Fenty, which Daqurius describes as ‘welcoming’.
It’s a ‘regression’
‘I think the makeup industry is following the pressure that is being applied from social media, to be inclusive with all the right intentions,’ Harwood conceded.
These right intentions, though, don’t fix the problems. As Harwood noted, there’s a lack of diversity, such as trans people, in these campaigns and behind the scenes.
‘When you start a makeup line, you tend to begin catering to the needs of yourself as the ideal client,’ he further explained, adding that War Paint ‘was maybe a tacky identity.’
‘If they have no desire to expand their range of colours, that would be a massive issue,’ Harwood acknowledged. He added he doesn’t see much difference between War Paint and other brands.
Zapanta took a stronger stance.
‘As a person of colour, especially as someone who uses makeup as an expression and extension of myself I don’t agree with the brand concept as a whole,’ he said.
He spoke of his own experience: ‘Growing up, it was already hard to find makeup for brown and darker skin tones and I feel like over the years this has changed and developed. It is now much more readily accessible and available with a lot of brands being inclusive. With this new brand coming out into the market, I feel like it is a regression not just towards the makeup industry, but also towards the inclusivity of race and gender.’
War Paint, he added, reveals how much further the beauty industry needs to go.
‘Makeup full stop should be for everyone, for every culture, gender, race and colour.’
What War Paint says
GSN also reached out to War Paint for comment on the criticism.
‘We are not commenting on this,’ a spokesperson said.
The spokesperson then linked GSN to a Twitter video of War Paint’s founder, Daniel Gray, explaining the brand.
In the video, Gray talks about being bullied and experiencing body dysmorphia.
Many responded critically to the video, repeatedly pointing out the brand’s lack of inclusive shades and actions blocking people of color.