It's time to reflect on why we really wear makeup
Earlier this week, Australian news anchor Karl Stefanovic revealed he’s been wearing the same suit on television for a year to protest the different standard to which women in his industry are held — aka viewers care a lo-ot more about what the female anchors are wearing than what he is wearing. Now, another Aussie is loud and proud joining this women’s beauty standards conversation, only in a more extreme way.
In a piece on the Australian website Daily Life, Tracey Spicer, a journalist and television personality, announced she was done adhering to those standards all together. About a year ago Spicer decided to slowly begin weaning herself off what she said was a $200 per week beauty routine, in an effort to deconstruct “the beauty myth.” In the piece, Spicer appears in photos both with and without makeup to demonstrate the difference between her TV look and what she looks like when the layers of makeup are peeled back.
It all started when her 7-year-old daughter, watching her mother primping to get camera-ready, asked why women wear makeup and men don’t. Spicer couldn’t come up with a good answer, and decided to take the issue to the stage at TEDxSouthBankWomen, a TEDx event held in Australia. You can see her in the YouTube video, which has garnered over 900,000 views, wiping off her makeup, spritzing water in her straightened hair, and kicking off her heels. She collectively calls this “armor” that women use “to physically protect ourselves.” She tells the audience, “It makes me feel like I’m wearing a mask, like I can’t really be myself.”
Each month since that appearance, Spicer has taken a step toward eventually completely dismantling her beauty regimen: first it was putting an end to the spray tans and most recently she stopped shaving her armpits. “I feel sexier, strangely,” she writes on Daily Life.
Spicer isn’t the only one to go au naturel, or to say we should obsess less about the way we look.
Earlier this year the anchors on NBC’s Today Show hosted a “Love your Selfie” series and went makeup free for a day. For a week the anchors, along with celebrity guests like Jordin Sparks, Cameron Diaz, and Naomi Campbell, discussed the problem with people’s obsession with body image and how to feel more positive about the way we look naturally.
A few months later Leandra Medine took to her own fashion blog, Man Repeller, to write a piece entitled, “Why I Don’t Wear Makeup,” after receiving so much criticism about her appearance. She makes clear that the “Man Repelling” she embodies and encourages through her popular site is not meant to dissuade women from wearing makeup, it’s simply an attitude. “It is not whether you do your hair or curl your lashes, or even what you wear. It is how you approach doing those things.”
So what are we supposed to take away from all of this “love thyself” business? Tracey Spicer is going to what seems like extremes to demonstrate how we need to redefine our otherwise screwed up definition of beauty. And although I don’t personally agree that makeup is always “armor,” I do believe she raises a seriously interesting point about grooming habits for women that, if anything, should be the lesson here.
Spicer explains that the amount of time women spend on grooming themselves is actually disproportionate to their productivity in the workplace, and to their earnings. According to researchers, she says, “If a woman doubles her grooming time, her earnings are decreased on average by 3.4%.” She also says that women spend, on average, triple the amount of time men spend on grooming.
While I’m not planning on tossing my razors or tweezers, I do think this bit of information calls for a bit of introspection. If women ever want to feel less pressure from society about the way they should look, then women need to start dictating the terms of the relationship. I’m not against primping or plucking, but I do think we should be doing those things because it makes us happier and feel more beautiful, not because we think it’s what will cause others to find us more beautiful.
In contrast, just yesterday BuzzFeed released a video documenting the experience of a BuzzFeed employee, Maycie Thornton, who went a week last month wearing makeup for the first time, and it pretty much contradicts everything Spicer says. Although it took getting used to, Thornton says she actually felt good about spending some extra time on herself in the mornings, and felt a heightened sense of confidence as the week went on. She also makes it a point to say that as a non-makeup wearer, she assumed makeup would make her feel insecure, the same way people who use makeup feel about going makeup free. Thornton points out that there are more similarities between these two kinds of women, and that’s why neither should be judged.
Whether you like a little makeup or a lot of makeup or no makeup, next time you’re grooming, just ask yourself: who am I doing this for? Am I doing this for me, and only me? If the answer is a genuine “yes,” then we just might be able to open up the definition of beauty to a variety of meanings. I’m ready to be honest, are you?