Are black eyes and bloody lips fair game for the runway? At least one designer thinks so. Today in London, Chinese designer Shangguan Zhe of Sankuanz directed makeup artist Maria Comparetto to give black eyes, discolored bruises, and split lips to the models (with makeup, of course). Comparetto told Yahoo Beauty that the Fight Club-inspired look was an attempt to make the bright, cartoon-tinged collection look manly and macho. “Beautiful bruises,” she says. “That was the tagline we came up with…it’s not meant to be aggressive.”
But hold on a minute—doesn’t this “beaten-up” look, as applied to male models, wind up glamorizing violence? Comparetto acknowledges the possibility, but she also says that wasn’t her aim. “These are beautiful boys and cartoonish bruises,” she says. “So I thought, ‘How am I going to portray this look and not offend?’”
What’s notable about Sankuanz’s makeup look is that apparently, nobody blinks an eye about seeing a black eye—as long as the “battered” models are men. (The only major fashion publication to cover the show was WWD, whose story didn’t mention the makeup at all.) If female models were to walk down the runway with bruises and bloody scrapes, there would be much more uproar about the sensationalization and glamorization of violence and abuse—and Comparetto seems to know it. “Even if I were asked, I would not have put bruises on a female model,” she says. “No, this was boys being boys. This was playful. This was just roughhousing. This was just theater.”
Just theater, maybe—but at the same time, it’s theater that perpetuates some damaging beliefs about men. Too often, people mistakenly assume that men can’t be victims of partner violence, or that being a “real man” involves resorting to violence. And that simply isn’t the case, as 1 in 4 men have experienced some of form domestic abuse—and there are plenty of cases that aren’t being reported.
While Comparetto may have done her best to make the designer’s request for Fight Club makeup as “beautiful” and “playful” as possible—as is her job as a professional makeup artist—the artistic direction of the show still equated masculinity with violence. It’s a shame, since masculinity could be represented in so many other more sensitive, appropriate, and creative ways. After all, masculinity is about a man’s strength of character—not about his strength of body.