Backlash over eyeliner just more anti-‘woke’ folly

Red state busybodies are coming for Maybelline, iconic Chicago brand.

SHARE Backlash over eyeliner just more anti-‘woke’ folly
Judy Blume (left) and Dylan Mulvaney attend the Los Angeles premiere of “Are You There God It’s Me, Margaret” on April 15, 2023.

Author Judy Blume (left) and Dylan Mulvaney attend the Los Angeles premiere earlier this month of the movie based on Blume’s book “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” Maybelline has been targeted by some conservatives because it sent makeup samples to Mulvaney, a trans actress and activist. Blume knows something about being targeted; the book regularly makes lists of the most-banned titles.


Myself, I’m proud to live in the state of Illinois. A hardworking, mind-your-own business kind of place. We wake up, do our various things, whatever they are, whether parking cars or assembling them, without constantly looking over our shoulders, worried about what everybody else is doing.

Why are we so blessed? A legacy of freedom, I suppose, walking the same soil trod by Abraham Lincoln. Sure, there are dissenters, those downstaters who wish our wise and benevolent Gov. J.B. Pritzker had just allowed them to quietly die of COVID — honestly, sometimes I find myself agreeing with them, before the better angels of my nature object.

Which brings us to other parts of the country, not as far along the Noble Eightfold Path as Illinois. Places to the south and west that seem a permanent carnival of anxiety over anyone unlike themselves.

Opinion bug


From a distance, it can seem simply nuts. Places like Florida, where they passed a law designed to gag school teachers from discussing sexual orientation, because parents are so good at that. The Walt Disney Co., burned by the backlash to the $250,000 it donated to backers of the bill, cleared its throat, raised an index finger and quietly objected. Setting Gov. Ron DeSantis on a mad, endless vendetta against Disney — using the full power of the state to punish the Magic Kingdom, Florida’s largest employer, which is now suing in federal court, trying to make them stop. You’ve probably read about it.

The Bud Light tempest is even weirder. Every beer company has an endless amount of promotions and sponsorships. Hundreds — minor league ball teams, stock cars, barn dances, you name it. But let Bud send one custom can to one trans influencer, a certain Dylan Mulvaney, and red states have mounted one of the rare boycotts that actually works — sales of Bud Light are down 17%.

The whole thing is so sad and dull and predictable and baked into the GOP soul that to point it out seems pointless, like trying to tell fish they’re wet. It isn’t worth wasting one lungful of fresh Illinois air to remark on the folly of those in distant places.

But flush from their success with Bud Light, the eternally aggrieved have turned their sights on ... wait for it ... Maybelline.


Chuck Berry in September 1957.

Not only was Maybelline, the makeup brand, created in Chicago, but so was the 1955 Chuck Berry hit song. Producer Leonard Chess thought the original name, “Ida Red,” sounded too rural and, a band member claimed, inspired by a box of cosmetics, picked “Maybellene,” changing the spelling to avoid litigation.

Sun-Times files

That’s just too delicious. And close to our hearts, circling back to sweet home Chicago. Maybelline is as Chicago a product as deep-dish pizza, brainchild of one Thomas Lyle Williams.

It was Williams who, as a teenager during World War I, the story goes, watched his sister Mabel applying a mixture of Vaseline and coal dust to plump up her eyelashes. He saw a business opportunity, started making the stuff, mashing together his sister’s name and the substance and ending up with “Maybelline.”

Here’s the thing. Williams was gay, possibly what we’d consider trans, or as his cousin explained, “kind of known for wearing his own makeup.” Even 100 years ago, when it was against the law, people wanted to be themselves.

If one company has trans acceptance in its DNA, it’s Maybelline. Going after it for sending samples to Dylan Mulvaney is like going after the makers of feather boas for being in RuPaul’s closet. It’s not a flaw but a feature.

A reminder that none of this is new. When I was 16, we all piled in my buddy Jim’s car to head to Cleveland to see “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” where the audience equipped itself with squirt guns and toast, having made the film into an interactive camp romp. I doubt very much whether my parents knew or cared what I was seeing, so long as I came home in one piece.

Liberals are supposed to be the helicopter parents. But here are these supposed Southern tough guys who have so little faith in their own children’s ability to navigate a complicated world filled with other people that they try to put blinders on them and everybody else and jam the law books with prohibitions of every book or whisper that there are lives other than their own.

They do know about the internet, right? Cat’s out of the bag. Man up, or woman up, or somewhere along the spectrum up, and get on with your life. Which is a sweet, wonderful thing — if you let it be. In Illinois, anyway. In Florida, maybe not so much.

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