Don’t Tax Our Beauty

Recently, I’ve been wearing makeup. I started wearing it more often when I began applying to magazine companies for my internship. Since I’d attend interviews, I’d wear makeup to look presentable. I use makeup to, at least, show them that I put an additional effort to look neater for the interview and show that I’m really ready and up for it.
Well, there’s news here in the Philippines that a party-list lawmaker, AKO Bicol Representative Rodel Batocabe, proposed a 10 to 30 percent excise tax on makeup and beauty services. He called it “vanity tax” and believes it is better than imposing additional excise tax on fuel products. He said it would be pro-poor because only those who buy cosmetic products and avail beauty services, who are mostly the rich, will be greatly affected.
“Kung talagang mabigat na ‘wag ka na mag-makeup, mabubuhay ka naman,” Rodel Batocabe said in an interview. (If it is really costly, just don’t wear makeup, you’ll live.)
When I heard this news, I thought of my lipstick and other basic cosmetics in my bag and my financial status as a student. I remembered saving up money for weeks just to buy a crappy liquid foundation. I thought of being in the middle class and not being rich. I was baffled. I’m not rich but I’m sure this tax will affect me greatly. And I’m not even out in the real “real world” to work yet. I’m just a student in need of this “vanity” thing to look presentable for a required school subject.
I couldn’t help but think of people, mostly women, here in the Philippines, who use makeup for their jobs in a daily basis— cashiers, receptionists, secretaries, and tellers are just some examples. Businesswomen in malls are required to wear cosmetics. Most of them aren’t even rich. They buy cosmetics to follow work rules. They work to earn money and sustain the needs of their families.
Makeup, in many cases, is a necessity here in the Philippines. It isn’t a luxury to some people, especially for middle class people. Some even use cosmetics to boost their confidence and express creativity and passion. It’s already hard building confidence in this country but to make things even harder, it just doesn’t make sense. We have the right to feel good and it shouldn’t matter if it is done through makeup.
Of course I’m not the only one hung up about this. Many Filipinos, men and women alike, expressed their sentiments through the hashtag #DontTaxMyBeauty. This trend proposes that “vanity tax” is almost a one-sided attack. 
Maybe Batocabe forgot that most women here in the Philippines wear makeup because they are demanded to wear it. Maybe he forgot that most women here aren’t rich. Maybe he’s missing the overall picture.
I wouldn’t be surprised if some Filipinos support his “vanity tax”. Some people just have this mentality that if it doesn’t affect them, they should support it. After all, this “vanity tax” was proposed by a man who doesn’t wear makeup as a necessity. Of course, he understands.
I have yet to find out what we should do. But for now, I’ll write and speak about it as a fight. I just hope that the people in the position and in power actually look at the behind-the-scenes. I hope they come to realize where we’re coming from before its set on stone. And I hope that Filipinas keep being brave. I hope they don’t stop letting their voices be heard and don’t stop stomping on the ones that discriminate theirs. 

(Written before Batocabe announced he’d no longer propose the “vanity tax”)

Text by Samantha Fabian and Visual by Daisy Acosta

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