Friday, 28 October 2016

The One on Beauty

I am not a fan of beauty. Let me rephrase that, I am not a fan of the concept of beauty that is being incessantly imposed on us, especially women. I am totally fine with seeing the blue sky above a snowy mountain or a fiery sunset.

Anybody who has grown up as a woman will know that peculiar feeling of insecurity generated by the concept of beauty. The feeling that your looks are incredibly important but you will never be able to look good enough.  The feeling of jealousy you feel when a beautiful woman walks in, because you can't help comparing yourself to them for the worst. The list goes on.

Although I did not think so at the time, I was lucky enough not to be allowed to watch TV as a teenager so I was spared a great deal of the brainwashing coming from ads, however, growing older and watching a great deal more TV I have developed this strange habit of actually shouting abuse at the telly when ads for beauty products come on. It's quite liberating.

As I started paying more attention to beauty ads I have noticed a worrying change taking place in the message they pass. Old school ads used to pass the underlying message of : "Buy Product X if you want to be worth anything.", which you have so many times you can easily block out. But, a couple of years ago a famous beauty brand (named after the bird of peace), started this new insidious trend. The message passed in that ad campaign was more along the lines of : "Buy Product X, because it will empower you." Now, at the time I found this incredibly dangerous. As Naomi Wolf argues in her book The Beauty Myth, the beauty industry is somewhat designed to increase women's insecurities so as to make sure we are too busy putting on make up to achieve equality. So it seems a little insulting that a brand of beauty products would use the word 'empowerment' while trying to make me feel more insecure.

But I hoped that ad campaign would be a one off. Clearly not. There is a new ad, this time from a well know pharmacy brand, which states:

"Our culture teaches us that to be taken seriously women should not care too much about their appearance, so I stopped wearing make up and became a false version of myself. But then I woke up, because make up doesn't actually mean anything, it's about how I feel when I get it right, what makes me happy when I look in the mirror, about the face I chose to show the world, and what I chose to see."

The first time I saw this ad I actually screamed at the telly. Our culture does not teach us that a woman should not care too much about her appearance to be taken seriously. Our culture teaches us the exact opposite. It teaches us that a woman should spend a lot of her energy, mental health, and money onto looking in a certain way. It teaches us that make up is what we need to be able to look in the mirror and be happy. Don't be fooled, this ad, like the previous one, is not empowering. Quite the opposite, it's designed to make you think that make up is empowering so you spend more money.

An article published on The Independent on 2014 reported that the average British woman spends £40k on hair and £100k on make-up in her life time ( And this is not counting diets, clothes, shows etc. That is £140k that the average woman could do literally anything else with. £140K is enough to send 6 children to university at £9k year, enough to put down a deposit on a house, enough to have a long series of pretty awesome nights out. Do not think that make up is what you need to feel happy when you look in the mirror, make up is what the beauty industry needs you to spend your money on. Spend that money to buy yourself a book, or put it in a saving account, or spend it on something that really makes you happy.