Maybe it's because I live in Berkeley, where the no-makeup, flowing-skirt, long-and-unkempt hair look is as prominent as spray tans and fake breasts in L.A. (sorry, L.A.). Maybe it's because I'm lucky enough to have a boyfriend who claims he finds me more beautiful sans makeup than with it (though I don't entirely believe him). Or maybe it's just because I'm a card-carrying liberal feminist (remember that Berkeley fact?)
Whatever the reason, I've never particularly been into the whole makeup thing. Foundation and mascara from the local Walgreens when I go out or to the office? Sure. But there are plenty of days when I eschew the stuff altogether.
When you get right down to it, the whole concept of makeup is pretty barbaric, even animalistic. Redder lips, flusher cheeks, unblemished skin—all signal health and youth (even faux arousal!) which implies more fertility, which means more men will want to bed you so as you will further their precious gene pool. Hence, women have been slathering goop on their faces for centuries.
Plautus, an ancient Roman philosopher, even had this to say in one of the earliest moments of no-makeup-shaming:
A woman without paint is like food without salt.
Of course, this doesn't tell the whole story of makeup. It can also be a true art form, with makeup artists working wonders using their bag of tricks and a supple wrist. For us regular folk who aren't (usually) in the market for a palpable "look," we typically use it as a valuable confidence boost for a variety of totally legit reasons. (Who likes traipsing into a first date with an un-doctored fat, red pimple?)
This is all well and good. What's downright disturbing however is the current trend of shaming women when they don't wear makeup . . . as if not painting stuff on your face was the weird thing to do.
Newsflash: Women Can Be Beautiful Sans Makeup!
Over the weekend, the San Francisco Globe posted a series of photos highlighting how awful women looked without makeup, vs. how stunning they looked with it. Sure, the story also asked us to question the need for makeup to begin with, but the "before" and "after" pics were clearly designed to make everyone coo over the ugly duckling transformations.
A story from last year about porn stars was even more explicit in its no-makeup bashing. Its charming tagline? "Some of them are downright scary without makeup."
Worse yet? The vitriol spewed in the comment threads. Take these gems from the porn story:
some of these chicks dont look half bad without their make-up.......aaanndd some of them shouldnt come outside in the daytime without it
Scary whores! Some of those jizzbags actually look fairly nice, once they get hosed off and painted up.
There are also comments about "meth faces" and acne and . . . well, you get the picture.
The real wonder is that in both pieces, the women look pretty damn great without makeup. Perfectly polished? No. But without all the powders and creams and shadows, stunning nuances appear, from freckles to lovely natural lip colors to (yes) interesting blemishes.
One problem with so much makeup is that it obscures what makes women different. When everyone has red lips, pink cheeks and "smoky eyes," the subtleties of feminine beauty are lost. And that's to say nothing of the fact that women are generally the gender expected to mask their face for the attention of others.
What kind of message does it send when women are told that, unless they do something to "fix" themselves, they look like meth-faced horror shows who don't deserve to see the light of day?
Women can of course be beautiful with makeup. But they can be equally beautiful—in a different and perhaps more powerful way—without it. So instead of bashing the bare-faced, let's celebrate those who stun all on their own.