Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Make-up free

Says my friend Willa, "It's a sad state of affairs when it's considered brave for women to show their naked face in public." I believe she's referring to how celebrities posed for the #nomakeupselfie campaign. As a woman who doesn't wear makeup, I can attest to the pressure I am under to abandon my 'less is more' ethos and hop back on the self-loathing bandwagon. It's not easy to determine where the pressure is coming from - every day that goes by, I'm soaking in pro-makeup messages. No one ever tells me "Wear make-up!" or is going to hold me at gunpoint until I blink into a mascara, but it's pretty much expected that women will do their best to alter their appearance for the consumption of the outside world. My resistance is met with disapproval by many.

Of course, I'm not here for anyone's approval. I have ditched make-up upon reading Naomi Wolf's wise words on it in The Beauty Myth. I am happy not taking makeup into consideration, for my own face, as I go about my day. I cannot say the same for most other women's faces. Sometimes, to my horror, I find that I've plugged into the matrix and gaze mildly accusingly at other women without makeup, as if they think they're good enough without it (which is exactly the point I am supposed to be trying to make). It's the same look that others turn on me because I dare to show my face as it is.

In one of my weakest moments last year (when I suffered extremely high stress levels), I couldn't shake off the imperative to own a lipstick anymore. I deliberately botched any functional benefits the purchase would have brought me by selecting a shade which both clashed with my skin tone and I personally disliked, however I still made it. Somehow, somewhere, I was looking for relief from the negative vibes. I don't know where the product is these days (my family moved house and I didn't care enough about it to track its movements), and I don't want to know. If I ever find it I might donate it to someone else. Make-up... a voluntary prison. Fortunate enough as I am, I keep escaping.

But back to Willa's quote, I had read an article on the Guardian about the #nomakeupselfie phenomenon, and attached was a picture of women in the public eye who had suddenly gone without (much in the way of) make-up and looked completely different. Never underestimate how drastically cosmetic products can change the look of someone's face - eyebrows develop curves or angles previously unimaginable, lips and eyes gain volume and gain new shapes, skin texture looks completely different. No wonder that women who wear a lot of make-up, or wear it in such a way that it alters their appearance significantly find themselves addicted to the stuff. In order to keep up their socially sanctioned, supposedly attractive visage, they need to be made up whenever there is the possibility of public scrutiny. How exhausting to care so deeply about what the patriarchy thinks!

I'm lucky in that I associate beauty with intelligence, humour, perceptiveness and other inner qualities. And that brings me more rewards than any amount of masking my face ever will.

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