No Make Up Selfie

I can’t make my mind up about the #nomakeupselfie trend that has swept the internet. Is it a harmless way to raise money for charity? Or is it a social media phenomenon that is best avoided? Will someone come out and admit that it was a viral advert all along, or is it a grass roots attack on the expectation that women should always wear make-up?

I hoped that it would pass me by and I could avoid the issue, but this morning I had a little red notification on my Facebook account that could only mean one thing. I have been nominated. So I have been looking into the no make up selfie to see if I can find any evidence that it is either a good thing or bad.

Where did it start? The BBC points at many options. Was it a reaction to the selfie posed by many A-list celebs at the Oscars? Perhaps it was a backlash against the vitriol poured onto Kim Novak at the same event. An attempt to show solidarity and accept that we aren’t all perfect all the time. However it started, and part of me is still hoping that it was the originator of the neknominate campaign after they realised what a stupid idea that was, it didn’t start as a way to raise money for charity. Cancer Awareness UK have admitted that they did not start the campaign and simply saw it as an opportunity to raise money. They jumped on the band wagon, and it worked. So far they have raised over £2 million and the selfies are still flooding my news feed.

This is not the only time a charity has tried to raise money by encouraging women to go make-up free. The BearFaced campaign has run during the last two Children in Need fundraising events. Celebrities were pictured with no make-up on and a Pudsey pawprint on their cheek. It didn’t take off though. Were everyday women simply not bothered by celebrities taking off their make up? Did they just look a bit like we expected anyway? That was my thought. “Oh yes, that is a picture of Rachel Stevens with no make up on, she looks like Rachel Stevens, but less orange.” It was rather underwhelming. Escensual.com also set up a DareToBare campaign in September 2013. They wanted women to be sponsored for going without make-up to raise money for breast cancer. I hadn’t heard of it before. It simply hasn’t had the media coverage of the no make up selfie.

My question then is this: Why has it been so successful this time around? I think I have an answer – the power of peer pressure. The dangerous neknomination craze that surfaced recently saw many otherwise sensible young men try to outdo each other by downing horrific looking pints of who knows what. They were nominated publicly on social media sites and expected to post their attempts up for everyone to see. Nobody wanted to be left out. No man wanted to ‘lose face’ among his mates. The no make up selfie is having the same effect among women. With the added pressure of donating money to charity, surely no woman would want to be seen not to do this one little thing to fight cancer. Who is heartless enough that when asked by friends in public they wouldn’t post a photo for charity? It is only going without make up? Don’t you do that every day, when you wake up, or when you go to the gym?

But that is my problem. Why should not wearing make up be a brave act akin to running a marathon or swimming the channel? Many women across the world don’t wear make up every day. I sympathise with the sentiments of Yomi Adegoke who went on the Today programme to argue against the trend by saying that viewing women going without make up as brave was a poor reflection of the way that society sees women today. She is right on that one, it shouldn’t be brave. The media is flooded with images of ‘beautiful’ women. Flooding it with images of women looking beautiful and bare faced is a way of fighting back. A male friend of mine said on Facebook that he was yet to see a no make up selfie where he felt the woman would look better with her make up on. This should be the norm.

In conclusion, writing this blog has changed my mind. At first I thought that I would decide the no make up selfie wasn’t worth signing up to. It is an example of social media pressure forcing people to do something that they wouldn’t otherwise have done. It is charities jumping on the back of something they didn’t start. It is glamourising something that should be taken for granted. For this last reason I will take part. Women aren’t born wearing make up. We don’t wake up with make up on. We can’t hide our make-up-less faces from our partners. Why are we so often scared of being in public without our masks? This is a social media storm that is trying to do something for the greater good for once.

So here is a photo of me looking like I always look on a Sunday. No make-up, no hair straightened, no jewellery.

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