21 Mar

I have today been nominated to upload a #NoMakeUpSelfie to Facebook as part of the latest social media craze.

At first, I was baffled by the campaign, which, according to status updates in my facebook newsfeed, had the aim of “raising awareness of cancer.” I found this confusing because I thought most people were pretty much aware of cancer by now (unless they live in a secluded community in the Brazilian rainforest far from the media and carcinogenic chemicals, I suppose).

Nevertheless, the campaign has evolved into one that aims to raise awareness of the work of breast cancer charities, especially Cancer Research UK, and my generous and fabulous women friends have been donating money when uploading selfies. This is admirable and makes much more sense as a campaign.

I do have some problems with the basis of the campaign though, if not with its aims (*collective groan* – sorry everyone).

The idea of women being sponsored, or sponsoring themselves, to go without make-up raises some interesting issues. Is removing make-up really the sort of grand gesture that is deserving of donations? The ultimate sacrifice for charity? The social media trend suggests that this is so. This in itself points to the fact that the world has not accepted women without make-up.* Indeed, the airbrushed, perfect images of women in the media pressure women to wear make-up, as do the endless advertising campaigns that make women feel ugly without it. Of course, why should women care if they feel “ugly” or “beautiful” according to social conventions of what constitutes attractiveness? We shouldn’t, but most of us do, because society trains us to from childhood.

If the #NoMakeUpSelfie idea was consciously and critically attempting to raise awareness of the patriarchal idea that women must be beautiful, and the capitalist idea that they can only be beautiful if they spend money on cosmetics, then I would applaud it. However, I’m not sure it is doing this consciously. It seems to have been started on the basis that an un-made-up woman is something of an unusual freakshow (unusual because many women have been made to feel unattractive without make-up, which is highlighted by some of the comments by men on my facebook newsfeed, calling women’s fresh-faced selfies “ugly”), something outrageous that is done for charity, like having a bath in baked beans. What is this saying? That women should strive to be more attractive by wearing make-up all the time, only taking it off if it’s for charity?

 On the other hand, many women are reclaiming the #NoMakeUpSelfie campaign. The proliferation of diverse, un-airbrushed, un-cosmetically-enhanced images of women is a positive thing, which many of my women friends have noted in their own facebook statuses accompanied by their selfies. Furthermore, quite a few of my women friends have pointed out that they never wear make-up anyway, which in itself shows that the (sexist) basis of the BareFaced campaign – that it is always a daring feat for women to go without make-up – is flawed.

Here is my #NoMakeUpSelfie, which I post to raise awareness of how patriarchal society tells us that how we look isn’t good enough, and how capitalism cajoles us into spending money on (carcinogenic) cosmetics to make us look more socially acceptable:


And no I’m not dressed yet.

I have chosen to give my donation to Breast Cancer Action, which highlights the very political nature of the disease. I think it’s worth raising awareness of the their work and policies:

  • They lobby for more funding transparency by cancer campaigns that partner with corporations profiting from cancer (by selling products that they know have carcinogenic chemicals, for example, or from creaming huge profits off the medicines they make), such as the Pink Ribbon campaign.
  • They focus on the social disparities amongst mortal victims of cancer. In the US for example, a black woman is 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than a white woman. Cancer is not just about genes, it’s also about social injustice.
  • They highlight the environmental links to breast cancer (did you know that 70% of breast cancer victims have none of the known genetic “risk factors”?) and campaign against the use of carcinogenic chemicals in many of the products that we use everyday (WHICH, IRONICALLY, INCLUDE COSMETICS**
    – in the light of this, going “make-up free” to fight cancer makes much more sense!)
  • They advocate for less toxic and more effective treatment for breast cancer, and for the treatments that are best for the patient rather than those that best match the needs of corporations.
  • They have a strict corporate donations policy (no donations from corporations that profit from cancer) and are therefore in far greater need of donations from members of the public.

*I don’t mean to suggest that all women who wear make-up do so due to societal pressures. There are many reasons why women wear make-up. Some see it as an art form, for example. Others find it creative and fun. I should also note that I deplore the shaming of women who are seen to “wear too much slap.”

**Click here or here for advice on buying make-up and other cosmetics that aren’t going to give you cancer.


8 Responses to “#NoMakeUpSelfie”

  1. Liz Terry March 21, 2014 at 11:13 am #

    Reblogged this on Liz Terry and commented:
    An excellent post about the current social media “no make up selfie” craze.

  2. laryter March 21, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    An excellent mind and wonderful pic! “It seems to have been started on the basis that an un-made-up woman is something of an unusual freakshow” couldn’t have said it better myself…I’ve always thought the same wondering how effective such a campaign is when the underlying message involves all the items you outlined. I think, ultimately, there should never be the shock or “freakshow” reaction given when women don’t wear make-up–while some use it for artistic purposes, etc. I still think it’s important that those women feel just as comfortable in their skin as well as with a “mask” on, whatever its purpose (FYI-I’m guilty of it too, but have gotten more comfortable again with my natural self lol;)

    • NaturalWoman March 21, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

      Thanks so much Laryter for such a generous comment. And, by the way, I too am “guilty”: patriarchy effects me even if I’m aware of it (case in point, I spent £15 – £15!!!!! – on some Benefit eyeshadow the other day!) X

  3. Angela March 26, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    Thanks for this amazing article. I have read it several times and agree with every word. In fact, since reading this, I have thrown away all of makeup*, as you have inspired me so.

    Obviously my first priority was to make a donation to cruk (which I did along with my selfie), but I felt slightly un-easy from the day this first launched, with the idea that it is somehow brave or worthy of applause to be seen without makeup. So along with my selfie I also posted some information that I found online about carcinogens in cosmetics. I felt that if I didn’t make it about the preventative side (in addition to the donation) then by default I was going along with the widely-held (so it would seem) belief that women shouldn’t be seen without makeup.

    I get the feeling that a lot of my facebook friends thought that I was boo-hoo’ing the campaign entirely (donations wise, it was absolutely amazing – obvs!), or perhaps trying to be awkward. I wasn’t trying to do that – I was thinking at the preventative side (whilst my makeup was off!) IN ADDITION TO my donation. Perhaps some people saw all of those fresh faces and it triggered something in their brains that made then want to quit smoking. It’s no bad thing.

    *apart from my mascara and eye-lash curlers! But I’ve also changed my deodorant too.

    • NaturalWoman March 26, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

      Thanks so much Angela! I’m glad you identify with my views.

      I had the same feeling as you when writing this blog post: I didn’t want my friends to think I was looking down on their participation in this campaign. For this reason, I just concentrated on the no-make-up aspect of the campaign, however I do also worry about how this campaign (which wasn’t started by CRUK, so I understand) will affect donations to other cancer charities (such as Marie Curie – this month is “Marie Curie” month). I understand that the big cancer charities usually work with each other concerning the timing of their campaigns, so that they don’t overlap, thereby maximising donations for all of them, and ensuring that they can all expect, more or less, to receive the amount they need in donations at the time of year they most need it. It’s great that such a phenomenal amount of money has been raised, but I wonder if this just displaces money that people would have given any way, to other charities? Maybe I’m getting a bit too cynical now! I don’t know.

      Anyway, good for you for ditching your make up! You are inspirational 🙂 Thanks again for your kind words and interesting input.

  4. be happy with just myself May 21, 2014 at 8:51 pm #

    Finally a voice that makes sense between the millions of articles that just ask “do beauty magazines make women feel ugly” as if thats a weird question to ask.

    Beauty magazines and the beauty/ugly industry know very well what they are doing, and its ridiculous. Women emancipation for a large part is a lie. A society that makes women feel bad for just beeing themselves, for just beeing women the way we are made, and without all the plastic extras is not an emancipated society.

    Magazines present womens emancipation like emancipation is all about competing with men, having equal jobs, the freedom to wear pants, to drink, to have sex when we want it, aka lead the life that originally was a mans domain. Women who act like men are praised. And looking good doing it.

    But no positive word is spoken about women beeing themselves, women beeing women, just the way we are. Women who sacrifice their time making their man comfortable and who have time for their families are “unemancipated”. Raising the children and simply beeing a housemom is considered a second grade life, without “ambition”. Raising the next generation is not as important as raising our salary. Emotions are bad things that should be kept private.
    Womens looks are not good enough either: women should be thinner than they are, more beautiful than they are, more perfect than they are, always dressed right, a layer of make up to be good enough. We should be perfect. If we cannot be perfect we still have to look as good as we can, be as thin as we can, dressed as nicely as we can to “hide” our “flaws” wear make up to look better, we are made to feel guilty for beeing just ourselves and not competing with perfect ideals.
    “Sexy” is a very weird concept. Sexy used to be something that was for the bedroom domain of a man and a woman. Women were not supposed to look “sexy” and “seductive” all the time. It is ok for women to say no to having sex, but we still have to look “sexy” and “seductive” all the time, and be “hot” and “pretty” because women that are not that way are ugly. But no we are not doing it for the men, we are doing it for ourselves (yeah right). Magazines promote sexual freedom, sex is fun, sex without strings, because the beauty industry knows sex (half naked perfect female bodies in advertisements) and looking sexy makes them money.
    But now, even when we dont want sex, we still have to look “sexy” and “pretty” and “hot” not to be “ugly”. And if we dont want sex, we can say “no”. That is our “freedom” nowadays.

    But we should not blame most men. Most men are slaves to the media as much as we are, the word media is lead be just a few very selfish greedy men, who think only about themself, no matter what the cost for other people.

    Because the media are smart. The media know that unhappy people are people who are easy to manipulate into buying things to make them happy.
    Women who dont feel pretty will buy things to feel pretty. Women who have carreers will have more money to spend on looking pretty. Women who are taught life is all about materialistic values are women who spend.
    Women who feel bad are women who look to feel better, and the media happens to claim to just have what they need! (read all about it in womens magazines)

    People who are happy dont need unnessecary extras to feel happy. Women who feel bad about themselves are customers. Thats why they arent about families, about good marriages and loyal partners, about just showing your emotions he way they are, about looking like yourself and acting like yourself. Because those things actually make people happy and happy people are not ok.

    Womens magazines claim they are about things that interest women, but they actually are big advertisements. They promote a lifestyle that is about spending, they claim it makes you happy and fill the rest of the magazine with things that make you feel bad, so you will want their products.

    Thats what makes you a consumer (slave) to the beauty and money industry and they know it. The new slavery is about becoming consumers, even though we in the west have the material nessecities of life (enough food, a vehicle to get around and a house), we have to buy MORE so they can make MORE money, and because we dont NEED things which arent nessecary they developed a whole industry that makes us feel as if their new unnessecary products are the NEW nessecities.

    The media promotes women as “objects” because that way men will buy into it too, and judge women by their looks, which only makes women feel more inadequate and become spenders. (they have similar scemes to make men feel bad but this post is not about that)

    They promote the new media-spending-culture as if it is “modern life” which for womens means we are “free” and “emancipated”. We are “free” from beeing “controlled” by our men (as if we only had families to please our men, but the truth is most women like having families too) instead we are now slaves to the media. The new slavery is about becoming consumers, even though we have the material nessecities of life, we have to KEEP SPENDING.

    We should no longer “listen” to our men, no we should do what US WOMEN want, (but actually we should do what THEY want) aka we should feel inadequate and spend. Thats not emanicpation. Thats not freedom. That is bullshit.

    Modern emancipation which was about having simple basic rights was good (like having the right to vote etc) but most things we have been fed about “emancipation” is a lie.

    The words media for the largest part is in the hands of only 8 companies. We are their new consumer slaves. Think about it.

    (feel free to repost this anywhere you want in any way you want. feel free to edit it, take it apart, repost it in your way, explain it better etc.. women who are AWARE are women who can break free. Our men dont want this media manipulation society either. Spread the word, the first step to freedom is awareness. Most people are not aware, but they need to be.)

    english is not my first language so spelling and grammar mistakes may happen)

    • NaturalWoman May 21, 2014 at 8:58 pm #

      Wow! What a fabulous analysis of women’s magazines, capitalism and the beauty industry! You are a fabulous thinker (and by the way, your English is just great). Thank you x

  5. Rosies Hair and Beauty June 8, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    Omg you are actually great! I do love makeup and hair and all things pretty, but I must say that was the most refreshing read I have had in a while! Go You!

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