Alright minions, we’re going to try something new today. I’ve always been a ‘crazy liberal’, but I try to make a point not to shove my political or social opinions on to others using the world wide web. However, over the past few months I’ve had a lot of time on my hands (weird), prompting me to read articles and posts that I normally wouldn’t have the time to stumble upon, and I’ve got to say (brace yourself…that Internet silence of mine is about to be broken): I’m loving the mark that feminism has been making. Most of these articles and videos I really identify with, and so I’ve picked out my favorites for this post to pepper in as additional commentary for my own message; don’t you fret-I’ll explain how each relates (I know you were REALLY nervous about that).
In my last post (you know…the one two months ago), I made the mention that these days I ‘refuse to leave the house without a large palate of makeup on my face’. This, for me, is because of a rather large insecurity on my part: I have had horrendous acne for over a decade, and am now really paranoid about the way people see the dark and sinking scars that this pesky little plague has left me with. Well, on my birthday this year I decided this was a silly practice and that I needed to start not hating these ‘imperfections’. And so, I’ve been trying to embrace ‘going natural’ on a more regular basis. I’ve noticed an interesting trend since making this decision. Most days, I’ve started trying to go without wearing makeup, but still fix my hair the exact same way I normally do (::cough, letting it air dry because I’m lazy and have curly hair::), and wear the same clothes as normal. Once or twice a week, though, I’ll go through my normal makeup routine once I get out of the shower, and am done singing into my hairbrush after I’ve brushed out my hair (people are still singing into hairbrushes, right?). I find it’s only these days that I receive comments along the lines of: ‘You look so good today!’/’You’re all dolled up today, what’s the occasion?’/’Well aren’t you all dressed up!’. People go out of their way to tell me that it’s on the days where I’m wearing makeup that I ‘look good’ that day. I know that these are not intentional compliments, cunningly delivered so that I’m slowly manipulated back into putting on concealer and mascara on a daily basis (side note: I’ve also been reading a lot of conspiracy theories…). There’s absolutely nothing malicious or unkind about these comments, but I find they fall directly in line with several viral videos that have been posted in recent weeks:
Since most of my 5 readers probably never watch the videos I post, I’ll summarize for you ^^ (I’m such a giver!): a Verizon ad depicts that, throughout her life, a little girl is subtly reminded through comments such as “Hi there, pretty girl!”, “You don’t want to mess with that, put it down.” and “Careful with that! Why don’t you hand that to your brother??” (when she’s handling a simple drill) that she shouldn’t be playing with dirt or tools. The brilliant message provided by the narrator at the end is that “Our words can have a huge impact. Isn’t it time we told her she was pretty brilliant, too?” in an attempt to get more girls interested in the fields which are dominated by males (according to the commercial, only 18% of engineering majors are female). Our words do have a huge impact, and though they don’t always result in unknowingly discouraging girls away from math and science, they do always leave a mark. This latest music video from Colbie Calliat (posted on my Facebook wall by one of my all-time favorite people, and is exactly perfect for this post) has been playing on repeat while I write today:
In a reverse process of the primping process, the girls in this video appear fully ‘dolled up’ for the day. As Calliat sings her powerful message ‘When you’re all alone by yourself, do you like you?’, the makeup comes off, the hair becomes natural and without product, and the smiles span ear to ear. At the very end, each woman appears completely natural, wearing only giant smiles on their faces. Because that’s how we should feel every day- we shouldn’t have to put on anything in order to make sure that ‘they like you’. If wearing makeup and straightening your hair makes you feel great about yourself, that’s amazing. If not wearing makeup and rocking natural hair makes you feel great about yourself, that’s amazing. Either way, do whatever makes YOU like you. Because at the end of the day, that’s the opinion that really counts. This is what we should be telling girls, instead of enforcing through comments (directly or indirectly) that they will be well-liked if they follow a prescribed set of rules for shallowly influencing the opinions of others.
Another viral example of how much phrasing has an impact is this ad from Always:
When younger girls, between the ages of 10 and 12, were asked if doing something ‘like a girl’ was a good thing, one of the most striking responses was that it ‘sounds like a bad thing, it sounds like you’re trying to humiliate someone.’ Always also pointed out that girls in this age range, before they go through that little gem we call puberty, are more susceptible to the powerful vehicle of speech than most other ages. When asked to complete an activity such as ‘run like a girl’, those in the older age bracket overwhelmingly ran around with arms flailing, obsessing over their hair, etc. The younger age bracket, however, when asked to complete the same activity gave it their all. One little girl even runs off camera because she’s in it to win it. Thinking that doing something ‘like a girl’ therefore isn’t instinctually derogatory-we’ve sadly molded this phrase into something to stay away from.
This next bit o’ media is my own, and it’s something that I humorously put no stock in at the time, other than the thought that advertisers are getting pretty desperate. But in the vein of this post, I think it’s most fitting. It’s a photo of a letter sent to my 87-year old grandmother earlier this spring, and it accompanied a pamphlet describing the latest scheme/scam in the endless quest for beauty. Now, I grew up in a Catholic family, so I know a guilt trip when I see one. “If you care about your appearance, please read this book.” is the ONLY persuasive statement given for why you should be interested in this product. Not “Our product is super effective, we guarantee it!” or “Jennifer Aniston loves this, and you will too!”, they’ve simply preyed upon the ever-growing quest for the perfect physical appearance. C’mon, Dr. Aleksander-you’re better than that. (Maybe…maybe not, because I didn’t read the book…I’ve gotten really good at avoiding guilt trips over the years…just ask my mother 😉 ) The fact that it was sent to my 87-year old grandmother is also telling: according to this pamphlet that neither I, nor my grandmother read (she actually thought it was so ridiculous that she threw it away. Because she’s amazing) it doesn’t matter what age you are, apparently: you should always highly care about the way you look.
SO, what’s the takeaway message of this blatantly feminist rant? Let’s start being better examples for the younger generations. Let’s stop putting so much stock into the fact that ‘looking good’ means you have to be wearing makeup. Let’s stop making girls think that science is boring, and that running like a girl is a humiliation. Let’s show them that embracing our flaws and insecurities is a giant step towards embracing our weird, random, and evolving personalities that are more important than our appearance. Like the Always ad powerfully states, “Let’s make #LikeAGirl mean amazing things.” And the first step to doing this, is using our words.