I just want to be clear from the start – cancer is a horrible disease that is now a permanent part of the human landscape. Many of us have lost loved ones to the horrid illness. The subject itself deserves to be taken seriously, and raising awareness and funds for treatment is hard to object to.
With that in mind I turn my attention to the amount of ‘no makeup selfies’ on my Facebook news feed of late. The idea of this campaign is for women to post photos of themselves without makeup, in an attempt to raise awareness of the plight of breast cancer sufferers.
My problem here is not with the desire to raise awareness, although let’s just have a quick look at breast cancer. No other cancer is as widely exposed in modern media as that of the breast. Despite advances in modern treatment the horrible disease still kills over 2,000 people per year in this country. It gets a lot of publicity, and it’s worthy of it.
Breast cancer is the only one that has practically trademarked a colour – pink (it’s much more flattering than the wonderful shade of ‘brown’ that comes with Movember prostate cancer awareness). This colour is used by business, sport and entertainment industries to show their support of raising awareness and money. The Sydney test has an entire ‘Jane McGrath’ day where everything turns pink and donations are made. The NRL has a similarly themed round in its regular season. Sports, seen as a wonderful representation of active patriarchy, have helped even the thickest males understand the issue.
Companies like Mt Franklin even put a pink wrapper on their bottled water and claim that funds received will be going to support breast cancer research. Awareness is so high that brands incorporate it into their marketing strategies for crying out loud! They probably wouldn’t do that for stomach cancer…
The dialogue around the issue means that, in some ways, the critical mass for breast cancer awareness has been reached. We all know about it, there are already a multitude of campaigns working on raising awareness and, in most cases they have much more of a point than this no makeup selfie nonsense. As mortality rates decrease, it seems the fight is in a much better position than it ever has been, too – although this is not a denial of the fact there is still a lot of work to do.
On official news sources the reasoning behind the idea is not just to raise awareness, but funds as well. I can almost guarantee that the majority of people who’ve joined in on this have not contributed financially. You might respond with “well how much money do you raise/donate when you grow your stupid moustache every year?” – the answer is a decent amount. At its peak I raised over $400 one campaign for prostate cancer awareness. Yay for me.
If you want to post a picture of yourself without makeup to raise breast cancer awareness without raising funds, fine. I’m not the only cynic, though – the move has been widely criticized because it wasn’t started by any charity and hasn’t raised any significant tangible funds yet.
I’m pretty sure women don’t put makeup on their breasts, and I’m also quite sure that the majority of breast cancer sufferers have no aversion to wearing makeup, in fact judging by the multitude of online guides it appears many of them want to and do. I guess this comes to the crux of my frustration.
My problem isn’t so much with the aim, but the method.
There are much better ideas this campaign could have been used for. Many makeup and other companies still engage in the abhorrent process of testing their products on animals. A no makeup selfie could be used to send a message to these companies, raise awareness and perhaps have an actual effect on the practices within the industry. This is a small idea.
I also have a big one, and it bothers me.
All over the world magazines and models are slammed by women’s groups who bemoan that the women in these photoshopped images, with far too much makeup and favourable lighting, set unreal expectations for female beauty. They lead the modern woman to feel disappointed in her own physical appearance, even though she’s beautiful. They create a society that puts pressure on a girl as young as 8 years old to doll herself up before going to school, a society where women don’t feel comfortable being themselves and are continually led to strive for an unattainable level of physical perfection from their perpetual state of insecurity, and it’s always just out of reach.
‘Natural beauty’ is a term that has less and less meaning with every magazine cover and raunchy video clip that comes out of the shit-spewing media cycle.
This ‘no makeup selfie’ nonsense perpetuates this belief.
God forbid a woman, young or old, should ever post a photo of herself without makeup. God fucking forbid. What is your daughter supposed to think when the act of putting a photo of yourself without makeup on social media becomes this amazing exception to the way society functions? With the thousands of photos that a large majority of women upload on social media in the first place this becomes even stupider.
“I’ll put saucy photos from my night out where I pretended to kiss another chick and I look absolutely wasted, but a photo without makeup? NO FUCKING WAY!”
Do you realise how stupid that sounds?
It’s barely as ‘pure and genuine’ as most people would have you believe anyway. If you’ve ever seen girls take a selfie, individually or collectively, you know that there’s normally a process of deleting and retaking based on the satisfaction of the person taking/in the photo. Multiple deletes often occur. It’s not the ‘no makeup but I finally got the good angle’ selfie, is it? Wouldn’t you know, this repeated process of harsh self-assessment is fuelled by this subconscious message being drilled in to women.
Then there are the filters, THE FILTERS! Who needs to look natural when your phone’s camera and Instagram each offer a multitude of settings that remove authenticity from the image for a slightly better shade? Kind of defeats the purpose, no? OMFG I USED NO FILTER I BETTER HASHTAG IT #NOFILTER
Cancer awareness is an important issue, but let’s face it, the majority of us are pretty well educated. The only people who now need real cancer awareness are the young people and children, and I’m pretty sure most of them would be confused by this whole idea as well. Surely there are a few out there wondering what the fuck selfies without makeup have to do with cancer. Shouldn’t they just be normal?
An equally massive problem, increasing among young women (and men’s perceptions of them), is self-image, the continual pursuit of a mythical level of beauty and its relation to happiness and success. While the no makeup selfie is a pissweak effort at helping cancer, it’s a potentially harmful message when it comes to self-confidence.
Self-confidence issues are just as prevalent among our young people. Suicide claims the lives of just as many, if not more people than breast cancer every year, and teenage females are twice as likely to attempt to do it than their young male counterparts are.
Millions of people have died from cancer, and millions more have lived to tell the tale. The struggle is being lived, fought, won and lost every day.
You just posted a photo of yourself without makeup like it was a big deal.
Take a bow.
If you want to actually do something, the National Breast Cancer Foundation is accepting donations EVERY HOUR OF EVERY DAY. Funnily enough, they don’t mention this selfie nonsense at all