Compromising Positions

A sex ed blog with more

The Beauty Myth

I stole that title from Naomi Wolf’s book. Sorry, Naomi, and thanks! This is a bit of a rant. But, stay with me.
The value of women is derived from their appearance, so we put a lot of stock into how we look. This is what we are taught to understand as we grow. If we spend too little time on our appearance, we need to tidy up and look more professional. BUT, if we spend too much time on our appearance, we clearly don’t have enough work to do or are compensating for lack of skills to be doing the job we are doing.
I am, quite frankly, sick and tired of people who wear makeup all the time telling me that I need to wear it more often and more of it. I don’t like the pressure I feel to look professional by wearing makeup. I do feel more confident when I have armour on sometimes, protecting people from seeing the totally natural me. I also don’t like that so much makeup is bad for us, and bad for the environment. There has got be a way that we can look good without killing ourselves. I’m sure there are companies who subscribe to this idea. Know of them? Share in the comments!
I imagine explaining why we spend so much time grooming ourselves to children is difficult because parents believe children are beautiful just the way they are. We know that kids pick up on everything we say and do. Will they learn to not love themselves from us? How can we respond when they ask us why we don’t like ourselves or don’t like our bodies? This makes me wonder: if we see our parents spending little time getting ready for work in the morning or to go out in the evening, are we more or less likely to imitate this?
Now, I am all for people getting dressed up and wearing makeup when they so choose for whatever reason. And I keep seeing lots of articles, #nomakeup selfies, and TEDx talks about how wearing or not wearing makeup is basically a sham.
I grew up with a single dad who can honestly do my hair, nails, and makeup incredibly well because he put me in dance class when I was 4 and I couldn’t do it myself until I was about 12. Because of having to put on TONNES of makeup and spend an inordinate amount of time on my very thick hair to be on stage numerous times a year, I began to detest taking more than ~15 minutes to get ready.
I just saw this TEDx talk and I totally agree with Tracey Spicer’s sentiments: Why do we do this to ourselves?! We spend an AWFUL lot of time on our appearance. A survey by Mikes & Spencer shows: 3 276 hours over our lifetimes vs. 1092 that men do. She says that if we take out some of what we do to get ready each day, we could spend that time doing so many other cool things!
“For women, excess grooming time actually signals a negative worker attribute … and decreases earnings.” WHAT?! Well, it is a “non-market activity.” I’d imagine this also goes with child bearing, child rearing, and housework – all 3 of which are activities in which women spend more time than men. So, to help us all, Tracey suggests that we take small steps to reclaim some of this time:
– Take out certain unnecessary steps in our get-ready routine (be it no nail polish, no eyebrow liner, less time on hair, or whatever)
– Purchase from eco-friendly companies
– Think of what you can be doing instead of grooming: write a book, learn to surf, learn a new language, cook a sweet dinner, knit a sweater, etc.
Let’s take back the notion that we are only as valuable as our outer appearance. Let’s treat everyone with dignity and respect, even when we don’t agree. I’m trying to work hard to make my physical appearance the least interesting thing about me, though goodness knows I need to take better care of my body. Someone who has been through cancer posted this article on HuffPo about how important the controversy about selfies is, so that the No Makeup Selfie links to cancer donations and research. Let’s not forget that this is the main point.
I’d like to look critically at this article about the No Makeup Selfie campaign, which tells us that “The campaign renders make-up an essential concomitant of aesthetic acceptance. Is it not a sad society in which not wearing make-up has become a sacrifice? Are we comfortable with the implied directive that girls should always wear make-up?” I like those questions, because they caused me to think and ask other questions. But, it seems like the man who wrote the article didn’t discuss with any women what it’s like or what their motivations are for taking part in the campaign. When discussing with my friend, she stated: “the campaign is reacting to existing pressure” rather than a sudden influx of makeup wearers popping up out of nowhere. Moreover, the first question he asks in that quote really displays that men are valued for their minds while women are valued for their bodies. Seeing women empowered through vulnerability is probably uncomfortable for him due to his privilege. I suppose my questions to those taking part are: Why is it such a big deal to show the world a picture of yourself without makeup? What was it like for you? If you rarely wear makeup, what was your experience?
I guess the main points I’m trying to make are these: wear makeup if you want to, but don’t feel like you need to; spend less time on grooming so you have time for other fun things; lower unhealthy appearance standards for yourself; check out the ethics of the companies you buy from for health effects or environmental effects. Small steps can lead to big impacts. Let’s try to not destroy our health in the process of feeling good about ourselves.

Edit: Here is another INCREDIBLE article that basically articulates what I’m saying SO MUCH BETTER. Wow. Just, wow.


One comment on “The Beauty Myth

  1. Stefanie
    March 26, 2014

    Great rant, Julia. 🙂 I like it. Your title choice especially caught my attention. I started reading “The Beauty Myth” a few months ago, but I got frustrated quickly because it was very redundant. I’ll have to check out your links when I get home from work. 🙂

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