Women across the world are coming clean and putting photos of themselves online without make-up, and unlike Katy Perry, this time it’s voluntary. If you really want to get under the skin of modern thinking, try watching this makeup tutorial and listening attentively to the different voices inside you. Whether or not you like it, you will hear a voice say: “Ohhhh, that’s how you do it!”
There’s a chance you’ll hear another voice too. That’s the one that impelled you to show that time-lapse video to the daughters and nieces in your life, because you don’t want them to grow up hating themselves if they don’t look like unattainable airbrushed products.
Shhh… Don’t worry, it’s ok – it’s not Photoshop! It’s only makeup J Now look at this link about this man who uses makeup alone to make women beautiful – isn’t that amazing? Yeah, right? I know! I mean, bless them, some of those women must have just needed a confidence boost, right? And look at this link about the woman who lost weight to surprise her husband – good for her!
Three minutes into the how-to-make-my-face-look-more-skeletal video my brain can no longer hide from the visual in front of me. “What the fuck is that?” it screams. I can only imagine what men who watch this video must think. I shrink in embarrassment at how our gender lets itself be demeaned, not only by others, but by each other and by ourselves every single morning so that, for the love of God, we can all be more like Kim Kardashian.
Yes, deep down, this #nomakeupselfie trend is more psychologically blotchy than your cousin’s newly-revealed forehead. When I saw it, those voices started cat-fighting inside me again. Yes, like this HuffPost journo I was kind and courteous to my friends who posted their pictures, I mean, bless them, they’re beautiful people, but let’s be honest here people, those static smiles look like it took you a while to get the angle and lighting just right…
The facade of “social” media is bullshit anyway. After being ‘nominated’ twice, I started realising my nominators can’t possibly even know me. Is there not a tiny part of them that thinks, hmm, Nicola goes on about women a lot, maybe she won’t appreciate this anti-feminist need-for-validation bullshit? Half the pictures I saw didn’t even mention the charity donation link that it was apparently all in aid of. (Text BEAT to 70099 – or adopt a bear if you’re too busy looking in the mirror to spell correctly.) The whole thing screams pathetic self-serving Slacktivism as much as that Fuck Poverty video that George Clooney let himself down with.
But there’s something more under the surface. In stripping away the layers of make-up, my friends had somehow let themselves believe they were doing something courageous. When the Hungarian singer Csemer Boglarka did a music video showing Photoshop in motion, the language framed around this was what a “brave brunette” she was. Brave? I suppose since women spend so much time and money preening ourselves and branding ourselves and sending representatives of ourselves on dates, that to suddenly give all that up, forfeit all that effort and surrender yourself to the beasts and trolls of the world wild web, I mean, wow, really? That’s just so sacrificial.
Look, if anyone is going to understand the need for courage, it’s me. I get it. Physical barriers aren’t the problem, it’s the emotional ones. So hats (and makeup) off to my brave buddies for putting down their war paint. Talking of emotional barriers, there’s a male version of this, did you know that? It’s called #cockinasock Yeah, you read right. These modern media warriors have magnanimously laid down their arms and said: “Hey guys, today I’m not gonna put a inspirational quote over a photo of me during gym leg day, no, I’m gonna bare it all for you”. How noble. I wonder how long it took them to find socks baggy enough to hide the width of their manhood… and I mean, dude, hockey socks? You’re not fooling anyone.
The real danger is that trends like #nomakeupselfie and #nofilter (cringe) lead people into believing that by physically stripping away the marks of their modern consumerist branding, i.e. clothes and makeup, they have genuinely exposed some deep part of their own humanity. Is this what is takes to connect in modern life? Physically strip or humiliate ourselves in some way? Is that why there is this need to connect by ‘nominating’ people to do things aimlessly like the stupid NekNominate modern chainmail?
Of course, there will always be a small voyeur in me that loves all the before and after online photos. Like the never-good-enough Betas in Brave New World I think, hey, I can do my best but I’ll never look like an Alpha (read ‘Kim Kardashian’) – I mean, look, here’s proof how much work it takes! But it’s one thing googling stupid images alone with secret popcorn. It’s another when the whole thing becomes a public bravery test – it’s the worst kind of playground peer pressure. How old do we have to be before we stop just following “Hey, look what they’re doing….” with “…let’s do it too!” and just try “…that’s funny… anyway how are you doing… I mean, within yourself?”