If you spend any time on Instagram, beauty blogs, Twitter, or leaving your house, you’ve probably noticed a trend over the last couple of years, a trend called “cool girl beauty.” The premise of this trend is basic (no, not the derogatory kind of basic, I literally mean basic): you are so naturally pretty that you don’t need to wear make-up and instead smear on something ethereal and glowy on your perfect face in less than five minutes to remind everyone how little you even need make-up to begin with. And because we live in a patriarchal society that prizes one ideal of beauty, this is a Cool Girl.
No, I’m not bitter. I swear. Hear me out.
If you were to ask me what makes a girl cool, I would have a million answers—she has interesting clothes! She looks at home in those clothes! She has a cat and she shows me pictures of her cat and lets me come over and pet her cat all the time! She is surrounded by things that make her happy like friends, family, skateboards, pizza, warlocks, warlocks eating pizza and petting her cat—she knows what she likes but isn’t afraid to try new things. She can show me something new and is equally open to learning. She is smart, focused, and creative in ways that are authentic to who she is. She is cool because she doesn’t sit around in a marketing office figuring out what makes someone cool, because she is too cool to worry about it. Her coolness has nothing to do with how genetically gifted she is.
The entire idea of “cool girl beauty” essentially boils down to one thing, which is conventionally attractive affluent white women. The look values “effortless beauty,” which can be broken down into a few things: an expensive, well-tailored wardrobe she isn’t fussing with all day, she is young, but old enough to have an education and an impressively stamped passport, and she doesn’t care what you think about her. Most of these things are an extension of class, race, CIS-gender, and body privilege, as it’s easy to genuinely not care what others think when you’ve never been victimized because of your appearance. It’s easy to look great when you have money to pay for amazing clothes and haircuts. It’s easy to feel confident when you haven’t presented a gender opposite from your true gender. Basically, it’s like telling people that being privileged is the ultimate currency of cool. And I have a problem with that.
There is nothing wrong with CIS-gendered white women. They are valuable, wonderful people, who just happen to have more privilege than others. And it’s not their fault. Women are constantly taught to compete with one another. We are pitted against our sisters by the media, society, men…just about everyone would prefer to see us as adversaries rather than existing in solidarity. When women are split apart, our power is compromised, and that power is cultural leverage. Women are amazing, no matter how cool they are, and I’d love to see us learn how to build each other up rather than aspire to one standard of beauty.
So I’ve devised my own idea of a Cool Girl Beauty routine, designed to help you and the other women in your life feel cool as you are.
1. Give Sincere Compliments
Truly cool people know that the accomplishments and talent of others doesn’t encroach on theirs. So let other women know when they are doing something awesome, and not just regarding their appearance. It’s easy to assume people around you are being complimented and know how cool they are, but think about the last time someone told you–I bet it’s been a while, huh? Obviously don’t give people compliments just to do it, but do make a point to notice what your other lady friends are up to and recognize them for it.
2. Experiment with Your Look
I don’t mean trying navy blue instead of black eyeliner. I mean actively pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to wear things you feel like you “can’t” wear. Don’t have a perfectly flat stomach? Who gives a crap, wear a crop top anyway. Flat chested? Awesome, your body rules and you should try low cut tops. Have acne? Forgo makeup; your skin isn’t a problem, society’s expectation are. Try things you want to try, look the way you want to look, and don’t let the expectations of others shape your feelings about your aesthetic.
3. Don’t Tear Other Women Down
“She should eat something!”
“She should not be wearing that!”
“Doesn’t she have a mirror at home?”
The appearances, bodies, and styling of other women is none of your business, so don’t perpetuate girl-hate to elevate yourself. Advocate for other women, lift them up, be intersectional in your feminism and speak out when you hear this kind of talk.
Cool, uncool, whatever–we are all on the same team, and it’s important to remind each other we are ALL cool girls.