About a year and a half ago, I wrote a facebook status that said, ” I have decided that makeup is stupid. For a girl to think that she is not pretty unless she has a bunch of crap on her face is a tragedy.” Then I topped it off and made it worse by leaving a comment that said, “And high heels are dumb too.” People were… umm, how do I put this? Not happy. Since I have started this blog, I have been considering whether or not to revisit this topic (one of the reasons I started a blog was to talk about things that aren’t as suited for facebook). Then today I walked into a school and had to see a second grader wearing eye-shadow, lipstick, and blush (I don’t know…. Blush? Rouge? Whatever the fake red crap is called that gives your face that healthy, flushed, “I’m sexually excited” look). Anyway, this kid looked like a total tramp. It did NOT look good on him…. Obviously, I’m joking–girls are the only ones that are forced to worry about this BS.
I am no stranger to pissing people off with the things I write–I have been doing it fairly regularly on facebook for about 4 years now (speaking of which, facebook has about 750 million active users now…. Can we go ahead and call “facebook” a word so it doesn’t get underlined in red every stinking time I type it?). I am not writing this to piss anyone off, and I’m not writing this to tell anyone that they are bad person or doing anything wrong. I am writing about this issue because it is something that I am passionate about and I believe really needs to be changed. I believed this before I had two beautiful daughters, and I am even more passionate about it now. <–That being said, if you are sending your second grader to school with eye-shadow, lipstick, and blush, you are a bad person and you are doing something wrong.
First let me say this: My wife uses makeup. And I love her completely. Come to think of it, I don’t think I know ANY female who doesn’t use makeup. Zero. So if you’re reading this and you’re a woman, there’s a chance I’m alienating you a bit. I do not think that any use of makeup, in and of itself, is inherently a bad thing. Sometimes makeup looks cool–I get it. But if you can’t go out of the house without putting on makeup, then you have a problem. You have a problem like a junkie has a problem, like a bulimic has a problem, like a pack-a-day smoker has a problem. And if you actually believe that you NEED makeup–that your face is horrifying without it–you should know this. You’re wrong. You are believing a lie. It feels true, but you are totally believing a lie. Your face is beautiful without anything on it, just like your feet are beautiful in sneakers, just like your hair is beautiful even if your cut is so four years ago.
Here are a few statistics about girls, body image, and the “beauty industry”:
- One out of every four college-aged women uses unhealthy methods of weight control—including fasting, skipping meals, excessive exercise, laxative abuse, and self-induced vomiting.
- Teen girls who read magazine articles about dieting were more likely five years later to practice extreme weight-loss measures, like vomiting after eating (University of Minnesota, 2007).
- At 17, the average girl has seen more than 250,000 commercials aimed at her looks (Harris Interactive Poll, 2007).
- A Harvard University study showed that up to two thirds of underweight 12-year-old girls considered themselves to be too fat. By 13, at least 50% of girls are significantly unhappy about their appearance. By 14, focused, specific dissatisfactions have intensified, particularly concerning hips and thighs. By 17, only 3 out of 10 girls have not been on a diet – up to 8 out of 10 will be unhappy with what they see in the mirror.
- According to a 2004 study by the Dove Real Beauty campaign, 42 percent of first- to third-grade girls want to be thinner, while 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of getting fat (for an interesting article, click HERE).
- Nearly 11.7 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed in the US in 2007
- The World Health Organization estimates that around 4000 children die every day from water borne diseases. What does this have to do with make-up, you ask? Well, in 2004, Americans spent $12.4 billion on cosmetics, an amount of money that is 33% larger than the amount needed each year (in addition to current expenditures) to provide water and sanitation for all people in developing nations.
- Abercrombie & Fitch sell a padded bikini swimsuit top. For seven-year-olds.
Damn it. Seriously–Damn this to hell.
There are a lot of things swirling around in my head about this issue. There is the issue of little girls being sexualized by the beauty and fashion industries. There is the obscene amount of money that is spent on something as superficial (literally and figuratively) as cosmetics. And then there is the frustration about the acceptance of this system as one that is “fun” instead of harmful by the vast majority of otherwise intelligent women. I don’t know where I want to go with this–It’s all connected in one big mess of makeup, fashion, trends, beauty, sexuality, conformity, gender and power. I just want to yell a thunderous, echoing “THIS SUCKS!!!!! from the top of a mountain, and the closest thing I have to a mountain is this silly blog.
But this is a problem that has to be solved by women–it won’t get better because men finally get more enlightened. A lot of the things that women do to “make themselves more beautiful” are done to impress other women. Who comments on a pair of new shoes? Not guys. This is not something that men have to give women–I believe it is something that women have to take. But what do I know, I’m just a man, right?
Well, I started going bald when I was about 17. Once, while running off the basketball court during an away game in high school, a kid in the stands yelled, “Hey look! That guy’s going BALD!” Later, a junior on our team asked me, “Are you really going bald?” and I said, “Yeah, my hairline is receding.” He said, “My dad is bald–I would KILL myself if I started to go bald” (Thanks, dude…. Lucky for me, I don’t have to rely on your personality, you jack ass). Then came college. I think I became afraid that if I cut my hair I would lose it forever. The result was a stringy, windblown mess that didn’t fool anyone. One day I went in to get my hair cut and told the girl to “just take off a little bit” and, God bless her, she goes, “Sweetie, you know that if you cut your hair short it will look like you have more, right?” Finally, I was like “Who am I kidding?” and cut it short. I bought a $15 pair of clippers, made peace with my baldness, and I’ve cut my own hair ever since. Even with my new-found peace, there were still times that sucked. I once met a girl at a bar while wearing a cool winter hat. We kissed that night (very unlike me, but it was significantly harder to resist my charms when my baldness was concealed), and then later she took my hat off. She was noticeably disappointed. Things didn’t work out. Which is for the better–because who wants to end up with the kind of girl who makes out at a bar with a guy she just met?
Women wearing makeup every time they leave the house is kind of like a bald guy who can’t go anywhere without a hat.
With the wife, I waited to take my hat off until after she said, “I do.” She looked concerned when I suggested we add “For hairier or for balder” to our wedding vows, but I distracted her by asking to remove the “For richer” from “For richer or for poorer.” Anyway, she went through with it. Ironically, she got both: I am both balder AND hairier. Bonus, right?
And this isn’t the result of some vendetta I have against societal ideals of beauty because of hurt feelings over my own baldness. I promise–I got off easy compared to what girls have to go through. I have a giant beard that I can wear to work and still be taken (somewhat) seriously. In today’s society, for a girl to let go of their binds to makeup would be almost as drastic as if she showed up with a beard. I, as a man, can’t do much, but here’s what I try to do: I try not to jump on the bandwagon of praise when people are all “Whoa, where are you going–all done up?” just because extra makeup was put on (and, conversely, I probably do try to compliment more natural looks). I try to recommend movies like America The Beautiful or Chris Rock’s Good Hair as much as I can. I keep Barbies out of my girls’ hands and remind then every day that they are so beautiful–regardless of what they have on. And I try to keep yelling from whatever mountain I have about how much this sucks. If we all start yelling together, maybe we can make some noise.