Saturday, 22 March 2014

Why I'm taking part in the 'No Make up Selfie'...

Sometimes I struggle to come up with things to write on this blog but then there are other times when things to write about present themselves so perfectly, almost gift wrapped and hand delivered to my door. This week was such an example.

It began on Wednesday when I woke up to find I'd been 'nominated' on Facebook to post a 'selfie' of myself without make-up on to raise 'awareness for breast cancer'. I groaned. Not a chance. After the mass annoyance of the ridiculous 'neck nominations' I could only imagine how annoying this trend would become. It appeared nothing more than a form of narcissism and I questioned how spreading photographs of women without make-up on could possibly help raise awareness of breast cancer, not least because I didn't notice any donations attached to the pictures. I'm ashamed of my initial reaction.

Then something changed. People started to really use the trend to drive some positives from it, donations started flooding in and as of today some £2m has been raised for cancer research. I started to see photographs of women sharing their masectomy scars, of bare faced friends who talked about mothers, sisters and others close to them who had suffered from the disease and I began to understand that people weren't just exposing their face but something much deeper and that something, which perhaps hadn't been started with the truest of intentions, had become important. An honest to god, grassroots social media movement which demonstrated the compassion of people and has shown just how many people are touched by this illness. My faith in society, shaken after the 'neck nomination' incidents is somewhat restored as I sit here and write this today.

And when I think about it at a personal level, I understand the relevance of the no makeup selfie to cancer awareness. My gran passed away in 2010 as a result of lung cancer. She was a woman who was always well dressed, hair always done and generally looked pretty slick. One of the things about the illness is its ability to rob people of their identity, their ability to do their face or hair, to shower, or even to get out of bed. The inability to put on an 'outside' face makes people vulnerable because in our society we are valuable only if we are 'together' and in control. This isn't only the case for those whose cancer takes them from us, but for those who recover too as the chemotherapy and medication used to treat cancer can take a toll on people's appearances while they're undergoing treatment.

And there are some who will say, 'but surely if you have cancer then you shouldn't be worried about your appearance?' A point which I will, to some extent accept, because there are indeed more important things in life than appearance. However, who we believe ourselves to be is so inextricably intertwined with what we look like, that we are to a large extent defined by that. To lose, so rapidly, what you look like, is to lose a small part of yourself. In this context, the no make up selfie is an act of solidarity with those who have lost that part of themselves at some point.

In addition to all of these reasons, the little feminist in me takes a bit of pleasure in the trend because I've approved of women showing themselves without make up and therefore without some of the gender constructions our society places upon us. Men are now covering themselves in make-up and posting pictures as part of a new trend, the irony of which isn't lost on me and I hope that those taking part realise that they're poking fun at something very serious indeed. The fact that society tells us it's normal for women to hide their real face under make-up but that it's ridiculous for men to do so.

So here it no make up selfie. Don't have too many nightmares

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