College Feminists club to host UW-Eau Claire’s first Red Lips Project

From Pennsylvania to Wisconsin, women express what makes them feel powerful


Participants in the Red Lips Project will have their photo taken with what makes them feel powerful. (Pictured left to right: Taylor Stoltz, Wendy Vang and Madi Mischo) (Submitted)

Although wearing makeup is often associated with expressing femininity, the Red Lips Project uses red lipstick as a way to express confidence and strength.

College Feminists club will host UW-Eau Claire’s first Red Lips Project event from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Wednesday in Davies Center, allowing women and any other participants to show what makes them feel powerful.

Mary Shaw, a sophomore studying English with an emphasis in critical studies, serves as the event organizer for the College Feminists.Through this event, she said she wants to remind people of their inherent power.

“I hope that everyone who participates can leave that day feeling like the amazing and powerful human that they are and to take a moment and recognize the women that have made an impact in their lives,” Shaw said. “It is so easy to get bogged down by recent events because it feels like no matter how much we protest and speak out, our voices are silenced. This event hopes to redeem that voice.”

Shaw said she first learned about the Red Lips Project while browsing Tumblr during her senior year at Woodbury High School, in Woodbury, Minnesota. She fell in love with the concept of using red lipstick to symbolize women’s autonomy and courage.

As it turns out, the creator of the Red Lips Project, Aditi Kulkarni, was also a graduate of Woodbury High School. Her Tumblr blog displays numerous photos of women wearing red lipstick and their statements of what makes them feel powerful.

Kulkarni officially began the project in 2014, inspired by the #DarkSkinRedLip movement which resulted from comments made by rapper A$AP Rocky that dark-skinned women shouldn’t wear red lipstick.

After viewing these images, Kulkarni saw the women’s individual identities unified by how powerful each of them looked.

“Symbolically, I think red lipstick has a lot of significance, but it’s by no means a way to achieve power; it’s just a reflection of power that’s already in a woman,” Kulkarni said in an interview with Buzzfeed. “The real heart of the project comes from the quotes women share.”

Because of Kulkarni’s inspiration and through her involvement with SHE, a group dedicated to empowering women in the twin cities community, Shaw said she decided to organize the Red Lips Project for her high school. The success of the event encouraged Shaw to bring the event to Eau Claire.

Unlike Kulkarni’s photos, participants at Eau Claire’s Red Lips Project will not be required to wear lipstick. Anyone can participate by writing what or who empowers them on a whiteboard and get his or her picture taken. Shaw said people are also encouraged to stay, enjoy some music and get to know one another.

With the event occurring one day after Valentine’s Day, Shaw said the Red Lips Project will also serve as a nod to “Galentine’s Day” from the show “Parks and Recreation” by celebrating self-love.

“The commercialization of Valentine’s Day has always been heavily dependent on the idea of having a significant other in order to celebrate,” Shaw said, “but it is also super important to remind ourselves that we do not ‘need’ someone.”

Kourtney Ryan, a senior music education student and the president of the College Feminists, said she hopes people will take the opportunity to learn what empowers others, as each participant will have a different story to tell.

Shaw said the poetry she writes empowers her because it gives her the opportunity to create something beautiful and honest for others to read.

For Ryan, performing music in her rock bands and teaching music to young girls makes her feel powerful because it gives her a voice, and that voice can be symbolized through the red lipstick.
“When I put on red lipstick, I do it to make a statement,” Ryan said. “I will be heard. I am powerful. And I also look great.”