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

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