Why do people get upset when little girls play in makeup?

By my personal definition, femininity is the power to own your girlhood in all of its glory and revel in the exclusivity of what it means to be a girl. And being a girl, in my eyes, is a state of mind, a mentality that isn’t overruled by your body or body parts, but really by your spirit. It’s fun, it’s exclusive and it’s empowering. It’s not girly or un-girly, perfect or imperfect, subtle or outlandish. It’s your personal expression of what it means to you to be a girl and inevitably, a woman. And that expression is what so many of us women fight for day in and day out against men, media and society. It’s a constant battle for us to keep trying to remind the world that “being a girl is freaking amazing and without us you wouldn’t be here, so back off.”

Yesterday, I got annoyed after reading a comment on my Facebook profile under a video I posted of the little girl who tried to re-create her mommy’s “skinny face” with all of her makeup products. I thought it was so adorable and couldn’t believe that she had done her makeup that well as a 4-year-old. Part of me reflected back to the days when I was younger and used to play around in my grandma’s vanity (my mother was never a makeup kind of woman), and part of me daydreamed into the future in hopes that I’d have a little girl who’d love makeup and hair and nails just the same.

But, after I posted the video, one of my male cousins left a comment that she was “too young” and that people should watch what they do because “kids are watching.”

Blank. Stare.

What? She’s playing in lip gloss and blush. I couldn’t understand why he made such a big deal out of this. For me, a little girl understanding an optional aspect of being a girl is fascinating. And for a 4-year-old to understand and imitate her mother (who is believed to be an actual makeup artist) was so beautiful to me.

But not everyone has this excitement when little girls fancy glossy goodness, beautiful blushes and everything else that comes in the “mommy’s makeup bag” package.

We’ve heard people say time after time, when seeing a little girl do these things, that she’s acting “grown”, or “fresh” or mention how she’s too young for the makeup obsession to begin. And while I can respect each parent’s preference for their own child as a childless young woman, I can’t completely agree with the preference to stunt a part of girlhood they may naturally be into.

If my grandma had gotten on me about playing in her makeup, instead of teaching me about it, I may not be the proud, confident woman I am today. And that confidence isn’t from makeup and beauty alone, but from the free flourishing I was offered as a little girl to embrace all parts of being a girl, including beauty and makeup. It’s part of the reason Beautifully Brown is here. It’s part of the reason I care so deeply about Brown women and our confidence. It’s also part of the reason that I know I prefer a bold lip over a statement eye. You following? Good.

It’s true that heels, makeup and other frilly things don’t make femininity what it is.

You can be tatted to the max, rocking a buzz cut and have never worn lipstick a day in your life, and still embrace what it means to be a girl and thus, a woman. But the experience of wearing heels, trying on makeup, and painting your nails is and has always been a first cousin to feminine nature, as have other things (like your first training bra, finding your signature style, and so on). And many little girls (and even some boys) have grown up playing in their mom’s makeup and fashion, only for it to help them figure out who they are, what they like and what they don’t.

I know I’m speaking as a motherless woman, and I understand that moderation may be key. My mother held off on me getting fake nails until 16, no weave all throughout high school, and only “wild” makeup on the weekends from middle school, up (and by wild, I mean glitter, shadows all that fun stuff). And truth be told: I’m so glad she did that. It kept me feeling like there were things to look forward to as a little girl, a tween and teen and a young woman. But, she also allowed me to feel empowered and experience the joys of beauty and makeup without shame. To this day, she’ll ask me the best lipsticks out!

Basically, my biased point is: as women (and hopefully men too), with or without kids, I hope we can always find inspiration and awe in the little girls who have an affection for their femininity and who are as outspoken as this little girl was to say what they like, don’t like and embrace their experience as a girl, instead of being scared and caught off guard by it. I know for me, the excitement of catching my little 3 year old cousin, Troi, primping with my blush brush, smiling ear to ear one summer ago reminded me that being a girl really is that much fun.