Our Self Worth is Not Defined by Our Makeup

Written by Alice Spacey-Magean


You’ve probably seen it all over your Facebook home page: No Makeup Selfies for Cancer Awareness (#nomakeupselfie) has taken off in a big way. The campaign has already raised over £2 million for Cancer Research, so far, which is an amazing achievement! But what sort of messages are being perpetuated with a campaign, like this, that relies on the false belief that all women should be wearing makeup to begin with?

Don’t get me wrong, I do not care who does and who doesn’t wear makeup. Makeup is a tool which we can all use to enhance our appearance, making us feel good, or even better, about ourselves: whether it is a more natural look with techniques that tweak the face into a suited perfection; or blood red lips, with black eyeliner, helping us ready ourselves to conquer the day–and everything in between. Makeup is war paint. Makeup helps us empower ourselves through our appearance.

However, there are some days when you just don’t feel like putting it all on, or the idea of taking it all off again is just exhausting. Those days are good too. Then there are others who prefer not to wear makeup at all, and that’s as equally awesome. There is no competition to what looks better: natural beauty or a well made-up face. We all have good days and bad days when it comes to the relationship that we have with our appearance.  That’s fine. That’s normal. We get through it.

The real issue is that we should not be made to feel obliged to wear makeup every single day of the week unless, of course, we want to. This is where the No Makeup Selfies for Cancer Awareness campaign comes in. No campaign should encourage the assumption that women need to wear makeup to feel beautiful; especially ones which raise money for people that may have to undergo chemotherapy, or other methods, to help them beat their illness. Cancer, and the means that are used to cure it, do change the appearance of a person in ways that may make them feel less good about themselves. Unfortunately, for now, this is just how it is.

On the one hand, wearing no makeup for a selfie does encourage the idea that we’re all beautiful whether or not we wear makeup. On the other hand, it still reinforces the idea that wearing makeup is the norm, and by taking a photo of yourself without it is somehow an amazing achievement. I would agree that, for some people, in the society that we live in today it is a great achievement, and I am proud of all those who have donated money by taking part in the campaign. My point is that it shouldn’t be considered as a great achievement in the first place. This is because we should all be able to go out wearing, or not wearing, makeup without anything being made from it. We should be going out feeling comfortable and good about ourselves, regardless of gender or other issues.

Men too have been donating money to the campaign by taking photos of themselves wearing makeup. Of course this is awesome too: more money for charity; more awareness for cancer research; more people having a bit of cheeky fun with makeup. However, it is sad that the comments that I’ve seen on these photos have no always been positive. This is in the sense that men are made to feel bad for wearing makeup because “it’s meant just for girls”. This too is a problem. Men should not be made to feel bad for wearing makeup, and women should not be demeaned either if a guy does choose to wear makeup.

What is important to know is that these ideas about who should, and who shouldn’t, be wearing makeup are learnt behaviours forced upon us by society. Makeup is not innately “just for women”. Makeup is a tool for us all to use to help us express the identity that we wish to portray; an identity that does not at all have to stay the same. Therefore, whenever an assumption is made through a campaign that reinforces gender rolled assumptions they are actually contributing to an extremely large problem; a problem which it is not okay to contribute towards just because the campaign is for a good cause. The lucky thing is that learnt behaviour, regarding gender roles and assumptions, like this can eventually be unlearnt. All it takes is awareness of the problem.

So the next time there’s a charity event, or anything similar to, which requires you to do something to your appearance which you find drastically out of the ordinary, e.g. #nomakeupselfie, maybe just question what it is that you find strange about it, and whether or not it is something that should actually really matter to you.

To donate:
Text BEAT to 70099
Or Visit http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/support-us/donate

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Alice is a journalist and photographer studying at Goldsmiths University. She regularly contributes to other websites covering areas from politics, culture and lifestyle.

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