This story is over 5 years old.


Stop Telling Women They Can't Do Their Makeup on the Subway

Jakarta's MRT is finally here, and it's already making life difficult for women.
woman applying lipstick
Photo via Shutterstock

It’s 2019. You’d think by now men have stopped complaining about women putting on makeup on public transport. Not all of us are blessed with all the time in the world to get ready in the morning before we need to catch the bus or the train, after all. But Jakarta's long-anticipated subway is here, and there's an unforeseen catch: you're not allowed to eat, snore, or apply makeup on board.

The city's MRT line has been in its trial period since last week, where people can catch a free ride every day before the line officially opens. More than 180,000 people have signed up for the free rides, which will end this Friday.


Over the weekend, the city-owned operator MRT Jakarta published a series of PSA videos on public transportation etiquette on their official Instagram account. They're well-made and exciting—a reminder that highly-congested Jakarta is going to be an entirely different city. Some of the MRT rules make sense. We don't want people to eat, litter, talk too loudly, or snoop on each other's phones. However, the part where it says people can't "excessively" apply makeup or snore during their commute left many future MRT passengers baffled.

"Wearing as much makeup as you please is every woman's right," one person, who goes by the username @firdahaydarus, commented. "Maybe it's better to say women shouldn't wear excessive jewelry, to avoid unwanted attention."

Hundreds of people have vented their frustration on the company’s social media account, questioning why they highlighted snoring and makeup instead of more important issues, like sexual harassment. The three-part PSA also only briefly touched on safety issues, like warning people from standing too close to the door. After the social media backlash, MRT Jakarta officials say the videos that came out over the weekend aren't all of them.

"We will keep updating our video and its contents continuously," head of Jakarta MRT’s corporate strategy, Kamal Kamaluddin, told The Jakarta Post. "The one already posted is an appeal (for the public to be more considerate of other passengers)."

When it comes to women applying makeup in public transportation, it seems that some people—men and women—worldwide share a weird disdain on the issue. In 2016, a train PSA in Japan even discouraged women from doing because it would make them an "ugly" sight for other passengers. So far it seems like there's no logical explanation as to why women putting on makeup in front of others is a bad thing—besides the fact that we've all internalized sexism so bad that we can't stand to witness the actual work that women have to put in to look "presentable" in this world, which tells us we're ugly without concealer in the first place.

I have only one more question: how does one refrain from snoring in public when capitalism is exhausting AF? Perhaps they'll address that in the upcoming videos.