Today I came across a clip of Fox News’ Gretchen Carlson doing a segment without makeup because “girls needed to be girls.” Go ahead. Take a look. I’ll be here when you get back.
A couple things…
1) A fully grown woman who she spends the other 99% of her time in full Fox News Babe regalia took off her makeup for one segment. How exactly does that help the tween-aged girls who are totally at home watching cable news in the middle of a weekday learn to “be girls?”
2) The larger “makeupless selfie / media appearance” trend makes me go hmmmm… On the one hand, I get it. Women and girls shouldn’t need to slather themselves in tons of makeup in order to feel beautiful or worthwhile. There’s a distinctly sexist underpinning to our culture where “looking presentable” is often code for “approximating a specific standard of feminine beauty that’s attractive to men.”
If we lived in a culture where men were expected to spend two hours in the bathroom every morning plastering themselves with beauty products everyone would be like, “This is why our country is in a decline! Look at our priorities!” But women are routinely expected to factor in the all mighty male gaze.
So presumably the makeupless selfie is meant to say, “I don’t base my self-worth around ridiculous standards of attractiveness. I’m confident just being myself.”
Yet so much of this reminds me of the whole, “You guys, do I look fat in this?” thing from high school.
No, girl who’s a size 2 and constantly whining that she’s fat so people will her tell her she’s thin, you do not look fat in that. And yes, Kim Kardashian, former Miss America Gretchen Carlson, and other clearly genetically blessed individuals, you look great in that carefully orchestrated, well lit makeupless media appearance.
Everyone who takes makeupless selfies is “brave,” everyone who is making encouraging noises at them is “supportive,” and we can all feel that Progress Is Being Made.
Only the discussion still centers around a woman’s physical appearance rather than any of the other gazillion qualities that factor into feelings of self worth and empowerment. Because, Hey, Girl… ::: eyebrow waggle ::: even without makeup you are hot and desirable! You don’t have to feel bad about yourself because your appearance passes muster and that’s obviously your main priority since you’re a lady and all! Now run along and be empowered, you sexy thing! It’s all still about that all mighty male gaze.
3) I am confident that no feminist parent ever sees her daughter post a makeupless selfie and says, “She is so brave. I am so proud. My work here is done.” Beauty politics are important, to be sure, but in a culture where poverty is feminized and violence is masculinized they are a part of a much bigger picture. I hope that point doesn’t get lost amongst barefaced PR stunts.