Photographed by Nina Westervelt.
The more we celebrate each other's natural beauty, the better. And, the current beauty climate seems to be going in that direction, with the bare face truly having a moment right now. But, as my Instagram feed gradually evolves into an endless archive of #nomakeupselfies, it's starting to feel as though the motivation for showcasing one's #wokeuplikethis face isn't as pure as it hashtags to be.
In a recent article on Slate about the rise of anti-makeup sentiments, Katy Waldman writes, "One starts to suspect that these particular statements are less about not wearing makeup than pulling off not wearing makeup." This really resonates with me. The whole "#nomakeupselfie in support of those with cancer" campaign notwithstanding, there is a certain smugness about the trend. When celebs and social-media It girls post bare-faced self-portraits, it doesn't seem like it's a poignant criticism of the beauty-industrial complex. It mostly just feels like a humble-brag.
To be clear, I'm all for criticizing the beauty industry's culture and working to free ourselves from the patriarchal forces that dictate the "right" and "wrong" ways to look like a woman. But, I also strongly feel that wearing makeup every day does not make me a victim of the patriarchy. I wear it because I love it. Approaching beauty from that angle is what Leandra Medine of the Man Repeller touched on when she wrote about her personal preference for going makeup-free, clarifying that she doesn't think the issue is whether or not one wears lipstick or eyeliner or mascara: "It is not whether you do your hair or curl your lashes," she writes. "It is how you approach doing those things."
But, when it comes to this social-media-fueled no-makeup culture, there's an uncomfortable moral superiority bubbling beneath the surface — and I'm not into it. Having the confidence to post a bare-faced selfie doesn't make someone better than someone who would never dream of doing so (cough). It almost feels like people have started policing each other's relationship to beauty. This is particularly evident in the comments sections of articles discussing the issue, where I've noticed many people remarking that they think it's sad when women feel the need to wear makeup. What's so bad about doing something you love that also makes you feel great? It's not like choosing to apply foundation is akin to suffering.
On the flip side is the reality of women who opt out of makeup not because they think they can pull it off, but because that kind of feminine signifier doesn't fit with their identity. My butch girlfriend, for example, wouldn't touch makeup with a 10-foot pole, but that doesn't make her a better feminist than me. And, it would be almost ridiculous for her to tag a selfie to indicate a lack of makeup, because that's just who she is. She's not showing off. She's just doing her.
Ultimately, we need to get back to that place — the place where "you do you" is the final word rather than this ongoing public comparison of beauty routines. Let's not draw lines in the sand about what true beauty is or how much makeup is too much. After all, at the end of the day, everyone has to live with their own face.
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