makeup-tools

“To be yourself is all that you can do, yeah

to be yourself is all that you can do”

-Audioslave, Be Yourself

Take off all your makeup. Right now. Seriously, stop reading, get out your makeup remover (that you surely have with you at this very moment) and remove all of your makeup. What… you don’t want to? Why? You got a problem with natural? Are you insecure with how you look? C’mon, it’s 2014, you’re an adult. Surely you possess enough self-confidence to be able to forgo these products marketed to women by large, greedy corporations. Surely you don’t buy into the pressure from media and society to conform to beauty standards? What’s that? You don’t want to bare it all?

Coward.

That is me being sarcastic. What, you may ask, has me posing a paragraph full of smart ass questions? It’s the makeup free trend that appears to be taking hold. I don’t get it. Maybe I’m twisted and vain. Maybe I’m too insecure. But the whole thing kinda rubs me the wrong way. It’s not that I have a problem with makeup free, I have a problem with it becoming a campaign, a movement. I know that some of the efforts to go make-up free, like the Dove Beauty campaign, have goals of empowering women. I’m all for that. “Yay!” for empowerment. But it’s starting to evolve into something that feels more like pressure. Everyone’s doing it. Like, everyone. Teens, moms, young singles, celebs, news anchors. They’re posting it on social media with #nomakeupselfie. It’s the cool thing to do. And if you’re really confident, if you’re really secure in yourself, you’ll do it too… right?

Yeah, not me. I won’t be posting any barefaced pics on the interwebs. I love the natural look. I think it’s beautiful. But that “natural” look is harder to achieve than a Guns N Roses reunion. There are makeup lines marketed as “The Natural Look”, there are tutorials on YouTube on how to achieve that glowy dewy skin one has after having sex or working out.

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That’s all there is to it…

I like makeup. I don’t wear a ton of it, but what I do wear I’ve grown real attached to. I need concealer. Without it my eyes look like that creepy dude from Lord of the Rings.

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You’ll never be able to un-see this…

And I like to wear eye makeup, I’m addicted to mascara. This is not to say that I won’t leave the house without makeup. I do carpool line, run to the store, etc,  without makeup. Hell, I was even interviewed on the local news sans makeup as I was leaving the grocery store. But I’m not making a statement with my pale, jaundiced looking face. I’m doing it out of convenience or laziness- it depends on the day. I don’t really want to think that anything I do with my clothes, my hair or my makeup is in any way making any kind of statement. I want to do what feels comfortable to me, what fits my mood.

There has been a rash of women taking off their makeup live on tv or in front of live audiences. There’s a whole thing called Makeup Free Monday. In February the cast of the Today Show went on air without makeup. After one segment, the entire cast put all their makeup back on. Local news anchors have been taking their makeup off. Last week Mika Brzezinski took her makeup off on stage during the Women In The World Conference. She said that makeup shouldn’t own you as she spent 20 minutes wiping off her carefully applied makeup.

Not awkward at all
Not awkward at all

I’m not disagreeing with the ideas or the intentions behind these “acts”. I definitely don’t think makeup should “own” anyone. I’m just not sure where this message is taking us, where it’s landing and what it’s supposed to do. Seeing the pictures and watching these makeup free stunts on t.v., they just illustrate how uncomfortable this act is. Anyone under the spotlights is going to feel vulnerable without makeup on. Watching the bare-faced on-air personalities squirm uncomfortably is supposed to convey a positive message. But it seems to demonstrate a level of self consciousness that makes me want to look away. It certainly doesn’t have me reaching for my makeup remover and camera.

And the selfies. I’ve got nothing against selfies. Sexy selfies, makeup free selfies, go for it. Do what makes you feel good, do what you want to do. Flaunt your awesomeness all over social media. But let’s not start pressuring women to post makeup free selfies. Let’s not pressure women to do anything. Beyonce posted a beautiful makeup free selfie. Gwyneth, Cameron, Bethany Frankel. All makeup free on Twitter and Instagram. That’s totally cool. But when campaigns are started to show how “brave” women are to go makeup free, isn’t that somewhat contradictory? If makeup shouldn’t be that important, can we all agree that going makeup free doesn’t count as brave? Going makeup free should be a choice, like which shoes to wear today. Not an act of bravery or freedom or an act of anything.

Some people apparently feel “owned” by their makeup, feel true anxiety about going makeup free. If that’s the case, then maybe this is something that could empower them. But I know a lot of women. And every single one of them goes without makeup from time to time. At the gym, at the playground. I know some women who never wear makeup. I know some women who wear it more often than not. But I think I can safely say that I have seen every single one of my friends and neighbors without makeup on a fairly regular basis. I think this is the norm. Let’s not create an issue where there is none. We don’t all have to do a Kardashian smokey eye to leave the house, but there’s nothing wrong with enjoying your makeup, with liking the way eyeliner accentuates your eyes or lipsticks make your lips stand out. If it makes you feel good DO IT.

I’m not against raising money for good causes, starting conversations about empowerment. Those are all noble things. I just have a problem with pressuring women to do something. I mean, if we’re really going to break free of all the shackles of beauty that society imposes, why stop at going makeup free? We could stop shaving. Our legs, our armpits, everywhere.  Let’s all stop washing our hair. And let’s throw away those tweezers. Lets bring back the Frida Kahlo look. Let’s stop plucking errant chin hairs. No more waxing our lips. I mean, c’mon ladies, let’s be brave here. Not wearing makeup? Pffftt… that’s no biggie. But when I see Beyonce sporting some hairy pits on her yacht or Diane Sawyer joining the No Poo movement or Gwyneth Paltrow stroking her ‘stache on Instagram, then I’ll sit up and take notice.

(photo: thedailymustache.com)
(photo: thedailymustache.com)

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“Stand up like a man, You better learn to shake hands, You better look me in the eye now, Treat me like your mother.  Come on look me in the eye, You wanna try to tell a lie?  You can’t, you know why?  I’m dressed like your mother.”

-The Dead Weather, Treat Me Like Your Mother

When women are being called names, something’s not right.  When women are being harassed, something’s wrong.  When women are being threatened with rape and death, something’s got to change.  Right?  Most of us can agree on that.  But what if these things are happening online?  Is the fallout any different because the words showed up on a screen rather than in the mailbox or on a voicemail?  Is the emotional toll and the fear any less because it was done electronically?  Does the vehicle by which a threat was issued even matter?  Is a threat not a threat?

Journalist Amanda Hess wrote an article titled,“Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet”.  She goes into great detail about the vile comments she has received over the years.  She has an active presence online as a writer and has endured angry rants, threats of rape and threats of death.  She has had one individual in particular stalk her online.

Lauren Mayberry of the indie band Chvrches wrote an op-ed that appeared in The Guardian.  She wanted to shed light on the misogyny that she has been subjected to on-line.  Her band gained notoriety and acclaim after posting some of their songs on a music blog.  The internet has been a crucial part of their success.  For this reason they find it important to keep communication going between their fans online.  Among the gushing fan postings were some hostile comments.  Name calling.  Threats of rape.  Details of lewd acts.

These two women are not alone.  They unfortunately are in good company.  There are writers, singers, actors, business women, students, executives, and kids who have all experienced the same thing.  They are mostly women.  And they are considered targets by some simply because they have the audacity to log on to the internet.  They are told to shrug it off, laugh it off, don’t engage, move on.  In other words, suck it up.   Good girls stay quiet, don’t make a fuss.  Just smile and don’t make anyone uncomfortable.  It’s a response that women have heard for ages.  Don’t make a fuss about voting, just try to sweetly influence your husband’s vote.  Don’t complain about your boss grabbing your ass, just be grateful you have a job.  Don’t bother reporting that rape, everyone will just think that you did something to encourage it.

There has been talk of taking the anonymity out of sites like Twitter.  Sure.  Being anonymous makes it easier for these perpetrators to be more brazen.  There have been questions asked concerning who should be tasked with investigating these threats….  the police?  The companies that own these websites like Twitter, Facebook and AskFM?  Sure.  An avenue for women to report these assaults could give them a way to fight back.  While these things could be helpful, they are merely the tourniquet on a bleeding wound.  The only way to truly change the dynamic that is festering online is to find the source of the bleeding.

Where is all of this coming from?  Is it the continual and persistent objectification of women in all parts of the media?  Is it the rampant disregard for other’s feelings?  Is it a culture that views women as easy targets, the weaker sex? All of the above?

More than ever before, women are portrayed in a sexualized way.  Pop singers wear less and dance like someone should be throwing dollar bills at them.  Magazine covers show more skin, more suggestive poses, more sensuality in general.  And don’t even get me started on music videos, especially hip hop videos.  I am not opposed to someone expressing their more sensual side, but it does seem that it has become the norm, the expected.  Boys see this.  Girls see this.  At a young age they absorb all of this.  It plays into their perception of things, of people.  They don’t see men being represented in the same way.  They don’t see George Clooney draped in a bed sheet.  They don’t see Jay Z with his ass sticking out and a pouty look on his face.  They don’t see male celebrities portrayed in a come-hither-I’ve been a bad boy-don’t you want me kind of way.  When men show skin it is usually done with a very macho tough-guy feel.  They pick up on this, the kids.  They see women being treated and portrayed differently in the media.  It seeps into their subconscious and sometimes may result in them seeing women as commodities.  Not living, breathing, feeling, real people.

Then there’s the lack of empathy.  Recent studies have shown a decline in empathy in our youth.  This disturbing trend is not just some factoid for psychologists and behavioral specialists to be concerned with.  We should all be worried.  As parents, it’s our job to teach these skills to our children.  I believe it is the most important thing we teach them.  Socialize them at a young age.  Set an example of compassion.  Talk to your children about social issues that demonstrate the need for caring and understanding.  If kids don’t learn these lessons, they may be more likely to bully.  They could see a sexual assault of a drunk girl at a party and take a video of it instead of trying to stop the crime.  They may be the person who sees such a video and posts it to social media.  Without any apparent remorse or concern for the victim.  These kids will laugh.  They will ridicule .  They obviously don’t view the girl who has been violated as a living, breathing, feeling, real person.

There’s the detachment that is part of the online world.  Typing a message on Twitter is a little easier to do than screaming it in the person’s face.  Harassing someone on Facebook takes a little less nerve than doing it in person.  Behind the  keyboard, a person is likely to feel more bold.  Some people feel that the lack of physicality gives them a license to be a little meaner, a little more cruel, a little more threatening.  They are able to act out from the safety of their home, they can say things they may never say in person.  The scary fact that for the person on the receiving end of these kinds of messages is that they have no way of knowing when or if the perpetrator is going to take it to the next level.

Does it matter that these threats are online?  No.  The threat is no less real.  The only difference is it is easier to hurl a lewd comment or convey violent intentions over the internet.  It takes less effort than the more traditional means of harassment or stalking.     But the result is the same.  A woman is belittled.  A girl is shamed.  Their safety is threatened.  They feel violated.

The world we live in has changed dramatically over the last 20 years.  The internet is an integral part of all of our lives.  It is a part of our work, our education, our entertainment, our socializing.  We have more access to more information.  We can reach more people with a keystroke.  While all of this access to information and people affords us all kinds of benefits, we can’t ignore the risks.  We can’t enjoy the fruits of the digital world and turn a blind eye to the uglier side of what is taking place.  Social media has become a way for journalists and artists and business people to promote their craft. But it has also become a breeding ground for abuse.

It’s time for us to come to a collective reckoning.  These things need to be addressed, scrutinized, understood.  We need to understand that the person we see on the computer, tablet or phone screen is a real person.  A living, breathing, feeling, real person.  They are not a character in a video game.  They are not a “virtual” anything.  They are women, they are girls.  They are Amanda Hess and Lauren Mayberry.  They are your mother, your sister, your friend, your daughter.  And they deserve to be treated as such.  They are trying to bring this issue to light, they are starting the conversation.  It’s our job to continue it.

This blog post  by a mom of teen boys has stirred something in a lot of people.  Some people are praising the message of modesty while others see disturbing ideals lurking beneath a mother’s warning.  I see a little of both sides and have my own thoughts on this mother’s tactics.

I understand her plea for modesty.  We all raise our daughters with the intention of producing confident strong women who don’t have to trade or rely on their looks to make it in this world.  I want my daughters to celebrate their intellect and humor and creativity.  I also recognize, however, that everyone has a little vanity.  Even those who proclaim complete humility and modesty surely secretly celebrate something about themselves that is completely superficial or cosmetic.  Maybe it’s a nice smile, graceful hands or shiny hair.  There’s no need to be ashamed of celebrating something about yourself that is god-given, purely the lottery of genetics.  Just because you didn’t earn it and were graced with it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear it proudly.  This is coming from someone who suffered through the longest awkward period known to adolescence and had to wear a horrific looking back brace for many years.  On top of that I was a dorky teen girl struggling with confidence.  During that time I learned to focus on other features that I thought were appealing and avoided looking in the mirror at anything below my neck.  This tactic got me through those years without feeling depressed or sorry for myself.  At the end of it all when I was brace-free and back to looking like a normal 13 year old do you know what I took from that experience?  That I’m tough, that I got through something extremely painful and humiliating and came away stronger.  So, you see, that little bit of vanity helped me get to the end of an otherwise difficult process.  My point is that while I don’t necessarily want to see my daughters preening for selfies with a pout on their face and their back arched, I realize that some of this is a normal part of growing up in today’s world.  I will certainly educate them on the perils of posting any pictures of themselves on the internet, but I am not naive enough to think that some of that will happen without my knowledge.

Other responses have referred to the comments that perpetuate the “rape culture” that sadly still exists in our society.  A girl posing in her p.j.’s without a bra on or in a bikini shouldn’t mean that this mom’s teen sons (or anyone for that matter) can never see her in any other way, “that once a male sees you in a state of undress that he can’t quickly un-see it”.  She goes on to admonish the girl saying “You don’t want our boys to only think of you in this sexual way, do you?”  That’s a disturbing comment on many levels.  First, I give my son more credit than that.  I’m trying to raise a gentleman who will respect women and can handle seeing his friends in cute bikinis and not view them as sexual objects forever after.  Yes, I know he will take notice and at some point ( a LOOOOONG time from now!) find it arousing on occasion.  But I trust that he will also be able to see girls at school or the mall and not just look at them in a state of mental undress.  Second, the notion that a girl should be responsible for how a boy responds to her appearance is insane.  It makes my blood boil.  I don’t care if she is posing like a Victoria’s Secret model, or wearing a mini skirt, that should not put upon her the actions or thoughts of others.  There is a culture that subscribes to the notion that women should not provoke men with their physical appearance, that men can not be expected to control themselves if the women is any way exposed.  Those cultures usually require women to wear burkas….

Finally, this whole method of parenting, of sitting around the dinner table with your teens perusing their friends’ Facebook Pages, struck me as counter-productive.  If I could teach one thing to my kids, it’s to trust their gut, their instincts, their inner compass…. whatever you want to call it.  I try to teach them how to recognize when your gut is telling you something’s not right.  If they can learn this they will avoid (hopefully) danger, poor choices, unsavory friends and multi-level marketing schemes.  I can explain this to them all I want, but at some point all they hear is “Wah wah wah” (insert Charlie Brown teacher voice here).  The only way they’re going to truly get it is by trial and error, by experiencing the pain of ignoring that little voice in your head warning you.  I think this may be the hardest part of parenting.  We spend so much time and energy wanting to protect them from everything, so it’s so incredibly difficult to cut the cord and let them try to navigate things on their own.  As they are going through their adolescent years, this is the crucial time for them to learn these lessons.  They may become friends with someone who’s a bad influence.  They may date someone who is unseemly, they may see things about their friends on the internet that are cause for concern.  Well, as much as each scenario scares me into wanting to move to Amish country, better that they encounter some of these things now and learn how to spot the bad seeds and how to extricate yourself from bad situations.  I would rather my kids confront these things while they are under my roof, with curfews and limitations that I set.  Better than learning the hard way when they go off to college and the consequences can be much more dire.  Better than when they are an adult and marry the wrong person who makes their life hell.  It’s going to royally suck to see my kids go through any such situations, but if they do I will be here to guide them, to comfort them and support them so they can learn from each situation and come out of it with more knowledge and self assurance.  I know this isn’t fool proof, and it is the scariest part of loving these people that we are responsible for raising, but I whole heartedly believe that insulating them and holding their hand on every little thing, including their Facebook viewing, will not lead them into adulthood with the worldliness and knowledge they will surely need.  Just my thoughts…..