Barefaced celebs and our makeup obsession

Posted on July 3, 2012


Holly Willoughby recently posted a makeup free photo of herself on Twitter. She joins the growing brigade of female celebrities publicly baring their natural faces to prove that it’s not always necessary to pile on the slap as soon as the first ray of sunlight penetrates their retinas in the morning.

There’s been a lot of heated chit chat about this. On one side you’ve got the Liz Jones’ of this world bleating on about how women that don’t wear makeup are arrogant and showing off, and ‘peddling a fantasy’ while at the other end of the beautification spectrum some argue that makeup symbolises a slap in the untouched face of Rimmel-free feminism. Admittedly, a lot of the celebs going face-naked for the cameras are indeed naturally stunning – and we can’t all afford expensive facials and an organic, super-food-stuffed diet to maintain that dewy, youthful glow. But what really riles me about all this backlash regarding how women should behave with makeup, is that it completely misses the point of what it is to be a woman, and to be a feminist. Which is to be able to do whatever you darn well like with your face.

There’s no ‘correct’ way for a lady to present herself outside the home – and if we get bogged down in dialogue that tries to decide that there is, surely we’re just as bad as the misogynistic old stiffs that told women what they could and couldn’t wear before the sexual revolution of the 60s? Surely wearing TOWIE style false eyelashes doesn’t make a woman any less a part of the sisterhood, nor a pawn of the patriarchy, just as going out without a scrap of makeup on doesn’t have to be a bold statement about equality. It’s just about choice.

Hilary Clinton certainly didn’t anticipate the ridiculous furore her publicly un-made up face was to spark back in May – ranging from nasty smears about her looking tired and withdrawn, to defence of her natural, schoolgirl-esque appearance. What people seem to have forgotten, is that as well as gifting us with the right to vote and paving the way for women to enter politics, one of the most important parts of the original feminist movement was empowering women to make their own choices. Which is about as useful as a chocolate teapot if something as benign as the choice to wear, or not wear, makeup can be scrutinised so mercilessly by those that view feminism as a prescription. Rather than actively deciding to throw off her culturally imposed Maybelline and L’Oreal chains and go viral on the internet, I’d imagine Hillary just rolled out of bed in the morning and decided she didn’t want to wear makeup that day. Fair play, Hil-dog.

Just try the nail polish or it’s going on your FACE

Personally I’m not a big makeup consumer. I’ve just never been comfortable with my reflection after heavy application of lady products and I have nightmares about wild-eyed Mac and Benefit saleswomen chasing me down the aisles of Debenhams, pinning me to the floor and smearing lipstick, rouge and kohl all over my face. Before anyone congratulates me with shrieks of “down with eye shadow!” and “fuck the patriarchy!” let me assure you I have nothing against makeup. Just because my attempts at facial decoration often tragically end with mascara in my hair and eyeliner up my nose it doesn’t mean other ladies should miss out if they want to get creative with a makeup brush.

Want being the operative word here – because plenty of women I know can also happily skip out of the house completely barefaced if they feel like it. Makeup comes down to mood, self expression and personal choice – and the only person you need to impress with how bloody amazing your cheekbones look laced with a splodge of highlighter, is yourself. But just as it’s a lady’s prerogative to wear makeup, it should still be her choice to not use the war paint. And not to be judged for doing so.

So why are we so obsessed with what famous ladies do with their faces? Are women that choose not to wear makeup necessarily turning their noses up at those that do? By forcing their ghastly natural appearance on Joe Public are they laying down a political agenda against those that dare to display a shred of vanity in slopping on some lippie? I doubt it. In a society that’s so fanatical and insidiously spiteful about the way that women look, it’s only fair for those that get it in the neck for looking constantly polished and lacquered might want to prove that they can actually leave the beauty products at home too. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look pretty, but there’s certainly something wrong with the media telling us what our prettifying (or non prettifying) habits reflect about us as human beings.

If I leave home tomorrow sporting a full face of makeup, or conversely wearing no makeup whatsoever, it won’t be because I’m subscribing to an ideal of how a self respecting, equality promoting female should or should not behave. It will be because I want to.

This article was originally published on the Huffington Post here

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