Unless you’ve been in a cave these last few days you will no doubt be aware of the #nomakeupselfie campaign which has exploded on Facebook and so far raised over one million pounds for Breast Cancer Research. That’s over ONE MILLION POUNDS people in little more than 24 hours.
Of course, some areas of the media have chosen to criticize it, to brand it as narcissistic and generally belittle the whole thing entirely. It bewilders me to think we can live in a world that can even contemplate being negative about something which is simply a force for good. Full stop. With so many awful things happening around the globe can we not instead celebrate the good? Can we not take a second to think about what it’s really all about and what is driving so many females to take part. I for one truly believe that if you took everyone’s no make up selfie and lined them up in a huge art gallery, the faces staring back would say so much.
I’ll be honest, before I knew much about it, when I saw the first few pictures of women staring out at me, bare faced, I was initially a bit cynical myself. Was this just an excuse to post yet another selfie, only this time have people comment on how pretty they were without slap? Apparently some were posting pictures but not donating, so what was the point?
But the pictures kept on coming and slowly it dawned upon me what an incredible thing this was. School friends I haven’t seen for years, women I’ve worked with, best mates, there they were, unadorned, staring quite intently down the lens. Some were smiling, some looked embarrassed and self conscious, some were defiant and grim faced. Some of the images were quite shocking. Some really were quite raw. We are so used to seeing our fellow females with their ‘faces’ on that the pictures really do make an impact. But there is also something really beautiful about each and everyone of them. They’re so intimate and it occurred to me then that what I was looking at, these pictures were of faces that only those really close to us ever get to see, husbands, boyfriends, children, our relatives. They’re the only people who see us first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Everyday we get dressed for work, or for the school run, choosing how to present ourselves to the world. It’s a small handful of people who see us tired after a long day, hair tied back, comfy clothes on, make up off.
People were saying that some hadn’t got the point. That people were posting selfies but not donating, but as far as I could see the vast majority of these women had got the point entirely. Post a make up free selfie and text BEAT to 70099 thus donating £3 to the charity who are trying to fight this disgusting, hideous disease which sadly will affect, if it hasn’t already, someone we know, or indeed ourselves.
I decided to do it and in doing so got to experience what everyone else has felt. The nerves! Did I really want to expose myself like this? I don’t think men will ever understand how much we rely on make up. It’s our armour! To me, applying eyeliner and mascara is as much of a part of my routine as putting on shoes or knickers. Without it I feel weird and look a bit like a rat if I’m honest. And it doesn’t just stop there. Foundation, blusher, lippy, they’re all my friends and what’s more they come out with me in the day, stowed into my handbag along with my phone, keys etc. Do I ever leave the house bare faced? Of course I do. Anyone who’s seen me on the school run will attest to that but I don’t feel great. And besides, in reality, I’ve probably got plenty of yesterday’s mascara still clinging on for dear life anyway.
Still, doing it ultimately felt quite empowering (although note that I did not do it in harsh morning light so have not been as brave as some). Was I really so vain that I’d only let people see me looking like the most glamorous version of me, made up and in photos which I have ‘allowed’ to be seen? Only the other week my sister and I were at the Baftas, both doled up to the nines. We spent ages trying to get the best possible photo of ourselves which we could then post on Facebook, to the point where we were laughing our heads off. As we deleted our nine hundredth attempt to both look half decent at the same time, we joked that perhaps next time we should just be done with it and bring a professional photographer with us.
We all do it though! We artfully cultivate how we want to appear on our Facebook and twitter. We present an image of ourselves as funny, busy people, carefully selecting the bits we want people to know about. Which is why this is so cool. Once that had dawned upon me, I was overcome with love and admiration for all the brilliant females who have been brave enough to take part. Brave enough to look down the lens and say, alright this is me, and this cause is so important that I’m prepared to reveal my naked self to everyone, even including any ex boyfriends who might be lurking.
This campaign is an ‘up yours’ not only to cancer but to a world where we are perpetually bombarded with airbrushed, unrealistic images of women who are plastered in make up and look unrealistically beautiful in a wholly unachievable and unnatural way. We instagram, we filter, we crop, airbrush and present images of ourselves which simply aren’t real and in part are an attempt to compete with what we see in the magazines the whole time. Perhaps this campaign will also lead us to question what our idea of beauty really is?
So, to anyone who’s still not convinced I urge you to go back to your Facebook and to really read what women have posted alongside their photos and then hopefully join in. The language is so revealing. Up Yours Cancer. F@#k you Cancer, Let’s BEAT this awful disease. It’s fighting talk. One of my best friend’s mother has had cancer, somebody else’s sister, somebody else’s best friend. These are the girls who look defiant, they are the ones who are particularly aggressive in their language because they know that beating cancer is a very serious battle. A photo then a text. It’s simple.
And it’s not just the girls who are getting involved. Plenty of men have commented that they love their women make up free and every ‘like’ is a show of encouragement and a bit of reinforcement that actually we haven’t terrified the life out of them.
And for the cynics out there, to the miserable bleeders moaning that their timelines are being ‘cluttered up’ by these pictures, then I say, get a grip. This campaign won’t last forever and then it will be business as usual and we can return to being whimsical and amusing, to promoting ourselves and posting plates of food, stupid videos and edited selfies. In the meantime,who knows what the final figure will be for money raised and, looking at the bigger picture, maybe, just maybe, this is the start of a backlash which is surely on it’s way. Wouldn’t it be nice just to look like us and know that that’s ok?