Wednesday, 26 March 2014

What's In My Bag? TEDxOxford

Even though I'm a student who has to attend lectures regularly, I actually gave up the whole of my Sunday a couple of months back to go to a TEDx conference and listen to a whole host of interesting and inspiring speakers. You've probably heard of TED, and a TEDx conference is essentially the same except it's been independently organised. As well as a day of listening to thought-provoking speakers such as Laura Bates, Anders Sandberg, Susan Greenfield, and Augusta Thomson of the Girl Rising project, we were also treated to goodie bags! This is what mine contained along with a few things I gathered during the day.

TEDx tickets, wristband, and program - It was a slightly miserable wait outside in the rain before we could go into New Theatre, but once inside we were extremely excited for the conference to begin. The program was packed with speakers, all of whom had a very short slot. That was the best thing I think, because even the most engaging speaker can lose the audience's interest when they have too much time to fill.

Gloves - It was a very cold day!

Thermos - This was part of the goodie bag. We were so excited about them that we ran over to the cafe where we'd had breakfast (Combibos Coffee, a place a heartily recommend if you're ever in Oxford) and asked for our drinks to be put in them.

National Geographic Traveller - Also part of the goodie bag; I do like a good copy of Nat Geo, if only for the photography.

Phone - In contrast to most events which take place inside a theatre, the organisers encouraged us all to leave our phones on and to Tweet and Facebook throughout the day. It was slightly odd having your Tweets favourited and retweeted by several people who you knew were in the same room but didn't know where they were!

The Oxford Student - We went to Blackwells for lunch and happened to find copies of the OxStu there, which had my article about university life in it.

This happened quite a while ago now! I've had this post in the works for a good two months. Anyway, we really enjoyed the day, and if there's a TEDx conference happening near you I definitely recommend getting tickets, or even volunteering to help out. You leave with all sorts of interesting ideas buzzing round your head and it's a great way to spend the day.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

#nomakeupselfie and me

When I first saw the #nomakeupselfie craze (a viral awareness-raising campaign where nominees take photos of themselves without makeup and donate to a cancer charity) circulating Facebook, I felt somewhat uncomfortable. It was difficult to pinpoint at first, and of course I recognised the benefits of a trend which combined the mood of the moment with giving to a worthy cause; using a nominations system in the same way as the infamous neknominations did, and using it for good, is a stroke of genius. However, as articles began to come out which criticised the movement, I was able to identify what it was that I found questionable.

Firstly, the whole thing seems to imply that for a woman to show her face without any makeup is a brave act, which is quite indicative of the way society tells women they ought to cover up their 'flaws'. Now of course even though it shouldn't be scary for women to show their bare faces in the same way men can, this doesn't change the fact that for many it is a daunting task, which raises another problem: once you've been nominated, everyone has seen you tagged as a nominee, and you feel obliged to go through with it even if it makes you uncomfortable. I remember a girl at my school once being forced to remove her foundation in front of a class, crying as she did so. Makeup isn't just a way of improving how we look, it acts as a kind of armour against the world, a comforting aspect of ourselves which we have total control over. While #nomakeupselfie has its heart in the right place, I can't help feelings that some girls are going to be pressured into taking part when they really don't want to.

Secondly, as great as it is that some people are being liberated by the challenge to show their un-made-up faces for the first time in several years and being supported by their friends, I've noticed a certain trend in the comments on photos. Many people exclaim "you don't need makeup!", "so that's what you actually look like!" or "you look so much nicer naturally!". All of these things are said with the best of intentions, but sometimes it can perpetuate the notion that women wear makeup because they have something to hide, and often the assumption following this is that they must hide it in order to attract a man. I've got to be honest, I'm pretty sick of being told that I wear makeup "to get boys to like me" or "because the media has made me insecure about myself". Has it occurred to anyone that I wear makeup for fun? Or because I feel good wearing it? There are countless reasons why we use foundation and blush and mascara, and yes, sometimes that is to feel sexy, but sometimes it's to experiment with our identities or simply to mix things up.

Which leads me onto my final point (sorry this is just a complaining post, I promise I have a point). It's very sad, considering how much fun I get to have with makeup, that men can't really wear it without being seen as doing something out of the ordinary, and possibly laughed at. There have, of course, been several men in popular culture who rocked makeup - Adam Ant, David Bowie, every punk-rock band member of the mid-noughties - but often this is part of a stage persona. I love that, as part of the #nomakeupselfie craze, men are daubing on the eyeliner; it's a great way for even more money to be raised. However, it again reflects the fact that it is 'normal' for women to wear makeup and for men not to, because the point of the fundraiser is to do something out of the ordinary. That's just the way things are at the moment, but I think it's a bit sad that they are.

And so, when I was nominated, with all of this going around in my head, weighed up against the benefits of the campaign, what was I going to do?

Well, by a rather strange leap of logic, I decided to try doing my makeup like a Georgian lady.

Why? Well for several reasons. Firstly, I tend only to wear a bit of eyeliner on a regular basis (I would wear mascara too but I always seem to forget) so my no makeup selfie (which you can see at the top of the post) isn't that different to how people usually see me. To get into the spirit of things, I thought it would be good to do something far more out of the ordinary.

The other thing is that I was thinking about how there's this assumption that women will go to all sorts of lengths to change their appearance these days; while true to some extent, I feel this ignores the fact that this is not a new phenomenon. People - that's right, not just women but men too - have been doing crazy things like painting their faces with lead and pasting mouse-fur to their brows for centuries. This whole "girls cake their face with makup these days" attitude is just completely fallacious.

Richard Griffiths in Stage Beauty
Anyway, the point is that I both had fun with makeup and also did something out of the ordinary, as well as making my donation to Marie Curie Cancer Care. Don't get me wrong, I do think that #nomakeupselfie is a fantastic initiative to raise money, but there are some problems with it which I had to get off my chest. Have you been nominated? Can you think of any other alternative ways one could respond to the trend? Let me know in the comments or tweet me @fashionmoriarty

Quick Update #2

Well hello there, it has been rather a long time hasn't it? I'm afraid I'm going to do another post like the one I did way back in November to let anyone who cares know what I'm up to. I do have some proper posts in the pipeline (most of them have been there for some time) but this is a useful way for me to, if not excuse, at least beg for your understanding in why I haven't been posting often.

Since my last post:

  • I've finished my second term at university, and in the process studied all sorts of things including Virginia Woolf, Anglo-Saxon poetry, the short story, and feminist literary theory. It's gone so quickly this time, and despite the looming specter of exams, I'm looking forward to going back.
  • I've become fashion editor of The Oxford Student! If you're wondering where all my fashion output is going these days, do like us on Facebook or follow our Twitter account for updates on what we're doing.
  •  My review of The Great Gatsby has become one of my most-viewed posts, presumably because everyone was Googling Catherine Martin after she won her Best Costume Oscar. Incidentally I'm by no means surprised that she won, as the costume design in the film was stunning and - I have to say - outstripped the others in the category.
  • I've bought several fab things from charity shops, including two £1 jumpers, a glittery top, and the dress I'm pictured in above. Here's a fuller image:

  • I've written fashion articles about age, religion, gender, and individuality, as well as overseeing and styling this lovely shoot with vintage clothes from The Ballroom Emporium.
  • On a non-fashion-related note I also wrote this about the pressure for university life to be the best time of your life, and it had a very positive response from readers.
  • Costumes so far this term have included dressing as The Magic Mirror, a Grecian Urn, and wrapping myself in a rainbow flag.
  • I made a floor-speech at the Oxford Union (oh look there's a photo of that too)
Credit: Roger Askew
  • I can't think of anything else. Rest assured I will post at least one more thing before I go back to university, but as I say, if  you don't hear from me for a while, keep up with OxStu Fashion since I'll mainly be doing that.