Look at that! Not 1 makeup-free selfie! But 4! 4 of them, damn it! Cancer will be no more! Some women only posted one makeup-less photo, but I did four of them! I clearly care about cancer awareness more than anyone else in the world!
Just kidding. It’s all bullshit.
It amazes me sometimes about how no one really seems to notice how senseless and self-serving slacktivism really is. We’re supposed to feel good about ourselves when we wear a red shirt to support the LGBT community, even though it doesn’t actually do anything. We’re supposed to walk around without a bra to make people aware of all of the women who no longer have breasts due to breast cancer. And now we’re supposed to strip off our makeup and post pictures of our fresh-faced mugs online to raise money for cancer in general.
The campaign, which started in the UK, was supposed to carry with it the information to text “beat” to a number in order to donate £3 to cancer research. The gimmick was a huge success and began pulling in millions of dollars. But then problems arose. Some people were texting the word “donate” to the number, which donated the money to Unicef instead of cancer research. Then sometimes autocorrect got the better of people and they texted “bear”, leading to them adopting polar bears from the World Wildlife Fund.
Regardless of some people’s inability to follow directions, this campaign is not a good idea and the reasons why it doesn’t work are two fold. First, there’s the beauty implications that it’s giving off, and second, it’s the fact that beauty is not something that a cancer patient currently has. I’ll go over the beauty implications right now.
This campaign makes several assumptions about women. The first is that all women wear makeup and not all women do. I very rarely wear makeup and I know a lot of women who do the same. If we were to take makeup-free selfies, we just have to take a selfie. But the other assumption is that taking a picture without makeup on is something that women don’t want to do. And why not?
The natural assumption is that women are ugly without makeup on. And no woman wants to be ugly. So they all wear makeup in order to feel closer to society’s ideal for femininity. Women who did the makeup free selfies were called “brave” and “strong”. Really? Brave and strong for doing the radical act of taking a photo while looking like yourself?
The message hit hard because not only where women in their natural state considered ugly, but it was an acceptable for a woman to be ugly. Wearing makeup, we were told, was important. It was something that every woman should be doing. Not wearing makeup for a photo was a revolutionary act that women would normally never be asked to do.
My next question for this campaign would be that why are only the women being asked to tweet and post selfies? Why aren’t the men doing the same? But the answer is already apparently. Men never had a society insisting that they are ugly without makeup on and as such, don’t need to wear it in everyday life. Their beauty ideals never required them to don war paint in order to be attractive. But also, attractiveness is not the only qualifying part of a man. Men can be attractive, but the can also be talented, intelligent, thoughtful, and many other things. Women, on the other hand, need to be beautiful before they can be anything else.
Now, onto the second part. A cancer survivor in Brisbane, Australia wrote about the campaign and how it actually mocks the people that it’s supposed to be helping. Just like the women who flaunt their breasts in order to “help” women who have lost theirs, the selfies are flaunting healthy, cancer-free faces, all in the name of helping women who are sick and completely consuming with thoughts of staying alive, not looking their best.
Supporters are quick to point out that the campaign worked; it raised money. Which it did. But it did it off the cancer-free population’s narcissism and at the expense of alienating people who have survived cancer or are currently fighting it. Is there really no better way to generate interests and funds for cancer research than to exploit women’s relationships with their self image?
I think there is and I think that we all, people affected by cancer and those who haven’t been, deserve better.