5 things to do after you’ve posted your #nomakeupselfie

nomakeupselfieSo I did it. I joined the thousands of people up and down the country who have taken over your newsfeeds with their barenaked faces – all in the name of beating cancer. I knew the nominations from my friends would come eventually – especially since the ‘body image/beauty thing’ is what I spend most of my time talking about these days.

But as I watched more and more friends being ‘brave’ and bearing all on social media, a million thoughts and questions rattled through my head. Ordinarily I would have been one of the first to jump on the bandwagon and succumb to the peer pressure. I’m also a sucker for feeling involved in a ‘movement’ that’s doing good – like raising over £1 million for Cancer Research, for example.

But my questions included: what’s not wearing make-up got to do with beating cancer? Why is showing our mask-free faces seen as bravery? Why is it the norm that women should paint themselves in their attempts to chase that ever-elusive beauty standard? Why was I even hesitating when – regardless of the arbitrary links between beauty and cancer – it was doing good and could go a long way towards curing cancer for generations to come?

And then came the insecure thoughts. What if people think my face sans make-up is… well, minging? What if no one ‘likes’ it? That overwhelming need for affirmation in the beauty stakes. The crippling need that so many women feel to be seen as beautiful: loved, of value, of worth.

I’ve written in my book and blogged previously about my relationship with make-up. It’s a security blanket I’ve worn since I was 16 years old. When writing the book, I deliberately went without make-up to work on one occasion and also posted a barefaced pic of myself for an Adios Barbie campaign. I wrote about the internal struggle that preceded both of these things and the sheer fear of being seen in public bare-faced. I also wrote about that time when I arrived in Israel and realised I had forgotten my foundation. Night. Mare.

So here’s why I did a #nomakeupselfie: because – regardless of the questions, the insecurity, and not wanting to clog up people’s newsfeeds – there is good coming from it. If by doing this we become more ok with our natural bodies and faces, then that’s a good thing. If we happen to raise a lot of money towards eradicating cancer then, that’s even better.

But there is more we could do. The world’s a bit rubbish sometimes. There’s a lot of brokenness. There are causes we can support – and in so doing – we can grow as individuals and learn more about what it is to be human.

So here are just a few thoughts on what you can do after you’ve posted your #nomakeupselfie:

1)    Sign up for Race for Life

I’ve done this Cancer Research fundraising event a few times – most recently running 10k on Blackheath with lots of other women. Most of us were running in memory of loved ones who had died from cancer. It’s a spine-tinglingly amazing event to be part of. What’s running got to do with beating cancer? Not a lot – but if you have to get fit and join in solidarity with many other women to raise money towards funding research to beat it, then so be it.

Find out more about Race for Life here.

2)    Do something that seems impossible

Last night, I watched the amazing Davina McCall’s story of running, cycling and swimming from Edinburgh to London in just seven days in aid of Sport Relief. That’s 500 miles. She was following in the footsteps of celebrities including Eddie Izzard who once ran 43 marathons in 51 days, and comedian David Walliams’ 140-mile swim down the Thames for the charity. “There is not one piece of me that had ever thought I wanted to do some crazy endurance challenge,” Davina told The Guardian. “Not one… But you just say yes.” It was heartbreaking and joyous viewing. It makes you realise how much humans can achieve if they just set their minds on it.

Find out more about Sport Relief.

3)    Challenge the Beauty Myth  

This is a biggie. But increasingly there is a groundswell of rebellion against this idea that women should be judged on what they look like in a way that men have not been (although men are increasingly being objectified and we need to challenge that too). And that a woman’s highest calling in life is to be hot. Germaine Greer writes in The Whole Woman: “Every woman knows that, regardless of all her other achievements, she is a failure if she is not beautiful.” Once you start to notice how much the beauty myth pervades our society, it becomes overwhelming. But there are small changes we can make, like watching the words we say to little girls and our grown-up female friends. Sometimes talking about weight loss, make-up and beauty issues is a way in which women bond with each other. But let’s talk about changing the world too.

Here’s my list of Beauty Myth Fighters on Twitter that you might want to follow.

4)    Rethink that manicure

When we hear about human trafficking, we think: that’s awful. And then we get on with our day. But what if you come face-to-face with a woman who’s been trafficked every time you get your nails done? To think that the woman beautifying your nails could be living in a desperate situation brings it all home and reminds us of the need to fight this. In the past five years, at least 90 nail bars have employed 150 illegal immigrants and been fined almost £700,000. The government is cracking down on this through the Modern Slavery Bill currently going through parliament.

Read more about manicures and human trafficking here.

5)    Sign the No More Page 3 petition

So let’s say that in the future we’ve bared our faces, we’ve done the impossible, we’ve killed the beauty myth, we’ve ended modern slavery, we’ve raised millions for the fight against cancer… And then we pick up The Sun and see a naked young woman on page three. Really? Enough of that please. Boobs aren’t news.

Sign the No More Page 3 petition.

PS: Also, check out this hilarious parody of Beyonce’s ‘Flawless’ – “I woke up like this. I got morning face.”


7 thoughts on “5 things to do after you’ve posted your #nomakeupselfie

  1. Hi Chine,
    There has been a lot of discussion about this and it has caused all sorts of reactions. A lot of people have been anti as it did seem a bit indulgent plus posting a picture with no make up is not really what a lot of people including myself would call brave but then I don’t wear make up just moisturiser. Also what’s the message behind a non make up selfie? What does it continue to perpetrate about body image?

    I think it is great that is has taken off and raised an extra million so far and raised awareness but I am glad your post goes on to suggest more as there is a tendency for this ‘lazy activism’ the ‘ I have posted a photo that will do’ mentality and it should be only the start!

    There are plenty of other selfie campaigns now – foot selfie for count the kicks and odd socks selfie raising awareness about Downs Syndrome. I like it that we are being drawn into thinking about charity but praying it isn’t just short lived lip service.

    • Hmm I think you are quite lucky not to need make up Louise. I think it is an extremely ‘brave’ thing for lots of women to do, precisely because they’ve been conditioned to need make up as a security blanket – and to worry what people will think of them without it. I thought about this a lot before camping at Ashburnham – didn’t want people in church to see me without my make up! It’s stupid really, but it’s a huge thing for lots of us (and I really don’t wear that much make up – but I am realising my insecurities more and more as my body begins to show signs of ageing). But I was also a little wary of the campaign – it seemed like a bit of a fad. But when I was challenged to do it I chatted it through with hubby – was I going to do it out of peer pressure, or because I wanted to support the cause? I’m still very taken with something said during the preach last week – what’s your popeye moment? Find out what it is you are most passionate about, what gets your blood boiling and then become an expert and do all you can to support that cause…

      • I think my issue with the ‘brave’ comes with it supporting a cancer charity – opens up questions about what brave is (a whole new blog post there!) and it also upsets me that people feel they need to be brave not to wear make up because of conditioning. Also are we more worried about what people think of our appearance rather than our character?

        It’s an interesting one…

  2. Of course – totally agree. But actually the more I’ve thought about it the more I’ve hoped that those who are posting selfies will consider what conditioning has done to them – and possibly think about the big thing it was for them to post, but how much bigger it would be if they were the ones facing cancer. Okay so in one photo they were stripped of their make up, but what about if they were stripped of their health, their hair, all the things they usually took for granted? I’m praying it opens up far more conversations, and causes individuals to ponder this further. And also to think about what messages we are passing on to our children. The conditioning perpetuates when we take part – but it is all such a natural part of our society that we do so without thinking. Hopefully this will help us stop and think again – because, putting it into perspective, what worth has make up when held it is up against the issue of health v cancer?

  3. I love all your thinking and your very positive suggestions, as an older feminist I hoped that we wouldn’t still need to be having these discussions in 2014, but as we are, I’m really glad you shared your thoughts, thanks.

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