Youth And The Beauty Binary: An In-Depth Look

When it comes to the gender and sexuality binary, change tends not to be welcomed with open arms.  People like what’s familiar and they enjoy what’s comfortable; anybody that doesn’t fall within the traditional gender roles, the gender binary, or isn’t straight is met with weird glances and disdain.

Being comfortable in what is familiar is not inherently a bad thing. It only becomes more of a problem when someone is complacent, indifferent, and contributing to issues that are actively hurting individuals that do not fit into a binary.


It seems like there always has to be a revolution that has to happen in order to enact some form of positive change.  And even when that positive change happens, there is no guarantee that it’ll stay, especially when it doesn’t fit within the traditional, heteronormative ideals that have been set in place for years.

Though in recent years, there has been more pushback from youth, especially from Generation Z, against the gender and sexuality norms, largely in the binary beauty industry.  Gen Z is challenging traditional beauty standards by creating an accepting environment for fluid expressions of oneself.



The Beauty Binary

I’m sure most of you are aware of the traditional views of beauty.  From my own personal experience, I know that makeup and skincare and anything of the like were always “for women” or something that was inherently feminine.  If a man were to ever take care of his skin or touch a makeup palette, he was immediately deemed gay.  In other words, the norm is that beauty is only for women and not for men.

The beauty binary is rooted in patriarchal views that exist within our society.  For centuries, women have been told that wearing makeup is the only way to hold some sort of value in society; beauty is all that matters when it comes to living as a woman, and women have been reduced to mere objects.  As for men, they do not need to wear makeup, because more than just their looks are taken into account when considering their roles in the world.


Afraid To Express Yourself

Beauty, makeup, grooming, and so many other things have been so gendered for so long, that individuals who have wanted to explore the realm have been unable.  

There was and still is a stigma surrounding those who do not fit into the beauty binary.  If you are a woman and don’t wear makeup you are seen as ugly, and if you are a man who is interested in beauty, you are gay.  


Women might feel pressured into wearing makeup even if they don’t want to, and men might suppress any desire for beauty in fear of being perceived as less of a man.

Queerness And Beauty

Makeup has been considered something for straight women to use as a tool to garner the attention of men and the jealousy of other women.  Too long has makeup been weaponized to pit women against other women. And, it has also been restricted to one group.

In order to combat such norms, members and supporters of the queer community have used makeup as a way to resist conforming to the systems set in place.  Queer beauty can range anywhere from having no makeup to having a full face and then some — there really is no rule to it, as long as you feel comfortable and happy expressing yourself with your looks.


A New Era

Despite there being obstacles when it comes to challenging the “norms” that have been set in place, that has not stopped Gen Z youth from tackling the beauty binary.  Gen Z does not hesitate to question authority when it comes to ideals that seem unfair or outdated.  With Gen Z, a more accepting environment of those who think “outside the box” has been created, and offers a home to those who express themselves in ways that aren’t strictly in line with the binary. 

Social media has been a great contributor to this as well.  Social media allows people to share their stories with others as well as have conversations on certain topics regarding society.  There is a niche for nearly everyone on the internet, which gives a space for people to express what they are interested in with others who get excited about the same things.

Social media spaces like YouTube or TikTok have been great outlets for teenagers and young adults (and honestly everyone of all ages) to share their beauty journeys.  We have creators like Bretman Rock or Hyram Yarbro who have gone above and beyond in terms of breaking down societal norms when it comes to makeup and skincare.


Many other creators on these platforms also share and express their own makeup looks, showing how makeup is accessible for everyone who wants to try it, and that it is not something just for cisgender women.

Dissolution Of The Beauty Binary

As the years have gone on, more and more people are unafraid to wear makeup and express who they are.  Young people — men, women, trans/non-binary people — are becoming more comfortable in their skin and are unafraid to dive into the world of beauty.  


There is a slow (but steady) normalization of makeup and beauty for everyone.  An example can already be seen with Korean Pop (KPop) Stars, where boy groups like BTS are showing off their glamorous makeup looks without fear.  Even our own red carpet looks here in America are starting to become more experimental and bend the gender norms that are in place.

Looking Forward To No Beauty Binary

In my personal experience, I’ve seen a lot of straight men painting their nails or wearing makeup and overall expressing themselves in ways that they thought they may not have been able to prior; it’s a joy to see youth embrace beauty fluidity and actively combat the norms that have been set in place by the beauty binary.  And I absolutely cannot wait for the beauty binary to be completely destroyed and for everyone to show off their beauty in any way they want.

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Have you noticed a shift in the beauty binary, primarily among the youth? When do you think the beauty binary will become history? Share your thoughts below.

Read More On Fighting The Beauty Binary:

Shari Siadat Spills On TooD, The Importance Of Identity, And Breaking The Beauty Binary
Laura Kraber Never Asks Why She Should Helm Fluide – She Just Does It

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Lexiss Morgan
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