15 May 2009

The Beauty Myth Exposed - embrace ugliness!

As I sat upon my porcelain loo this morning, I was amused to read a feature in G2 concerning women and that terrible word, make up. A fellow feminist, Julie Blindel, had written an article about whether make up, when applied to feminism, masked our hypocrisy like a burkini, or merely slipped off like so much water on oil. Should feminists be allowed to use make up? Should they refuse in principle? Is personal choice part of what feminism was about in the first place? The Guardian featured this story, and were so astonished at the various responses of their surprisingly literate readers (They used punctuation! They can spell!) that they thought they'd glorify them in print by publishing a selection of letters.

The range of opinions through up no surprises: Make-up-attracts-men=bad; make-up-express-self=good; I-have-a-rash-need-make-up-look-terrible etc. What fascinated me was the angle of argumentation concerning the 'beauty myth', and the pressures women are under to look good. See the excerpts below.

We all know the truth of this; most of us have experienced the different reactions when we're dressed up and when we slob out. No one has said that succumbing to the endless pressure to "look good" is a betrayal of feminism. However, I would say that we owe it to ourselves to be honest enough to acknowledge those pressures.

I think the personal choice argument [regarding makeup] doesn't entirely take account of the difficulties involved in not wearing it.

Now, I quite agree that young women are under pressure to look beautiful, and that unobtainable body shapes are thrust in our faces on a daily basis to such an extent that I really sometimes forget that I'm a woman at all. But this isn't the point, is it? The point is that women who go around without make up on are, allegedly, made to feel like pariahs. Perhaps this is the case, but as a woman who doesn't wear make up at all, ever, through sheer forgetfulness rather than to make a 'point', I really can't say I've noticed the slightest bit of difference in the way I am treated, compared to women who wear make up.

And I have yet to see the evidence to prove that this 'truth universally acknowledged', that women encounter 'difficulties' through not wearing make up, makes any difference as to how people actually dress. We may all hate ourselves for our rubbish hair and our un-made up faces, but we go out like that everyday just the same.

Honestly, I haven't seen a person who didn't look absolutely terrible for weeks. I must see one genuinely well dressed, well taken care of individual perhaps once a month, and that's not to say anything about their innate physical attractiveness to start with. Because whatever feminists say, and I say this as a feminist, there is no 'difficulty' concerned with personal appearance that cannot be overcome by simply not giving a sh*t. Now, it may sound drastic, but rather than take on a) the self-censoring media, b) cosmetic manufacturers; and c) global capitalism, worthy targets of our scorn though they may be, it really might be best just this once to accept that looking like crap really is the price you pay for choosing not to look good.

I say this as one of you, a badly dressed and blotchy faced woman, whose only accessory is a cigarette and who hasn't worn make-up since I got my face painted like a zebra at Lovebox. There is no way of getting round the fact that 9 times out of 10 your face will not look like it has make-up on it if it doesn't have make-up on it, just as there is no way of ignoring the fact that 9 times out 10 no one cares if you have make up or you don't.
If you're not that attractive to start with, putting some make-up on is not going to stop traffic, and leaving it off is not going to cause hoards of school children to follow you down the road screaming 'witch' until someone tosses you in a pond just to see if you float: everyone is used to seeing people looking haggard, exhausted and, well, a bit rubbish. One more make-upless face is just one more person to ignore in your meaningless flaneusette wandering around your alienating city in your empty life. Embrace it!


  1. Posie,

    If a person feels either ill or devalued it will be obvious that there is something wrong as soon as that person takes their 'state' into the outside world. If people are devalued by 'culture' it is because we humans tend to dwell too much on things. Appearances, being manufactured to the extent that they are, put stresses on people to look good (ie fashionably good) & will always generate a struggle between falsely coordinated valued & naturally coordinated ones. "Not giving a shit" is a commendable attitude against (& I say this as a man)the bollocks of a sexually frustrated (repressed) 'culture'(which also happens to be male),which sells sex (out) & gives women a real hard time in doing so. Is make-up a kind of sexual body language reproduced by the machine???

    A scenario (if I may): once the male-oriented 'culture'(surely on its way out ...)has exhausted itself with the manufactured woman, it will turn on itself with a narcissistic homosexuality that will repulse its very own cold sexless machinery. This will cause the machine to break down so that it can no longer manufacture a repressed & devaluating agenda. It breaks down because it was built around power over others rather than power over itself.

    Kindest regards

  2. Oh I do hope so! Sounds oh so much like a Michael Moorcock book I once read where everyone slept with their mothers. I wonder though, what gives you cause to hope that the male oriented 'culture' is 'surely on its way out'? I'm sad to say I see it reproducing itself and reinscribing the female body on a daily, nay hourly basis. If the entire hideous charade were to spiral-wank itself out of control like a catherine-wheel, I would be the first to light a Marlie on its dying embers. But sadly I don't see that happening anytime soon. Please tell me if you've received another message or, god bless, see sparks!

  3. well, i'm reading moorcock's rituals of infinity at the moment. alternative universes are always interesting ... before i go on one i should point out that i am not ashamed of my masculinity; i am ashamed, & have been for a long time now, of the fiasco that parades itself as 'culture' on everyone's behalf. i am also prone to a bit of male anger & make no apologies for that ... i try to turn this (negative?) energy back on the machine (positive?) rather than turning the machine on with it (definitely negative: the latter, i believe, happens in times of war ... propaganda campaigns ... & advertising = the same shit). turning against the machine is what the scenario in the last post is about: looking at what, as i understand it, the machine is unable to cope with. i believe our culture to be so highly repressed that even tho it appears to be 'getting it' - it is depriving itself of honest sexual 'substance'(W. Reich?) by arming itself with IMAGE. I believe this IMAGE-WORSHIP (i'm not a xtian or anything ...) to be self-destructive in the sense of putting the machine into overload, an overload that it is too stupid to comprehend. it would happily wank itself to death, but unfortunately if it does this it takes everyone else with it. hence the appropriate masturbatory metaphors that i am about to employ (in extension of your own acute observations). the image-creating circus that we see every day - this degeneracy, this pitbull consciousness that wants to take a bite out of everything, this greedy, hyperaggressive supercapitalistic 'system', is either deliberately stupid, like the 'knife crime' mantra of the british media - or it is so dumb that it is blind to the damage it is causing (did you allude to oedipus?)& invites more of the same (switching to conservative for labour, as an example). maybe it is a mixture of the two. i'm not sure. it takes more than one brain to work it out ... but what we are seeing in this 'apocalyptic' age is an agenda of brutalistic snarls, perhaps themselves the products of a dumbed-down masculine interest in POWER OVER THE THINGS OF THIS WORLD BY TURNING EVERYTHING & EVERYONE INTO THINGS AS WELL AS TURNING THE THINGNESS OF POSSESSING THINGS INTO THINGS (ad infinitum perhaps ...).our longings & desires are supposed to be the same as the longings & desires of the machine ... & that's the masturbatory spiral, the post-everything, fear-driven jerk-off towards the final ejaculation - if it ever gets there (god forbid). it might(god also forbid) go on spiral-wanking forever. however, rubbing intelligent humans up the wrong way, as this machine is prone to do, is putting itself in grave danger ... if anyone can prove to me that the world's wicked ways are not dominated by masculine 'traits' (brutish, aggressive, war-&-profit-motivated, teeth-kicking careerism, the 'masses' dumbed-down (or up) like a bathful of rugby players) ... if anyone is able to prove that the 'industrial revolution', for example, was a feminine construct ... what i'm saying, i suppose, is that because everyone is suffering under this brutishness, everyone is sucked into the masturbatory vortex. try stopping a man from shooting his load once he reaches the tickly bit. that is what the brink of war must feel like to a rocket-launcher. once the images of destruction no longer support the erectile tissue, the wanking party is over. to cut it to the bone: if humans can effect any change towards a more positive way of life, so much the better. i said what i did, posie (bless you), conscious, like most people with at least one eye open, that the way we live now is unsustainable. this is both frightening & welcome. adaptability & creativity, as always, are crucial in this struggle. the firm hand of the machine is certainly losing its grip. as the world marches 'forward' in exponential technological leaps, we must take advantage of every moment to create a decent future for our children. i don't want to see a future where the masturbatory fist turns to iron. then the sparks will be the wrong kind (as railway companies might have it ...).

    best wishes

  4. I intend to become object-like myself as I transform from a woman into a tree, Daphne-esq., to escape the ravages of this predatory system. Interesting how at this zenith of futurity we revert to myth. And yet the tree thing has always been confounded as a) it's alive in its passivity (compared to running around Daphne; b) it's escape through ontological self-harm, in self-transformation; c)Ms D, though content in her maiden frolics, is yet destroyed by combined patriachs Cupid and Apollo; d) in her respite she's plucked and made to sit atop the head of Caesar (nice work Ovid!). So even this tale of revolutionary feminine negation (refusing Apollo, no less!) is compromised by coercion, violence, de-naturing, recuperation. I suppose my point is that this nexus of doom you vividly portray is determined by both its mechanics and its myth, and attempts to overcome it might involve the not-to-make-a-point wearing of make-uo (ontological self-harm par excellence if the category of Woman is so defined, at least to Guardian readers) or the throwing of a gossamer spanner into the works (perhaps it is only 'femininity', as you infer, that can interrupt these 'masculine'processes, or, following the masturbatory metaphor, to have one's mother 'walk-in' unexpectedly (I think I am referencing Oedipus)). I feel though that we must needs be gentle in our extraction of the salvageable organic matter from the machine, lest we realise that they have become as one or, god forbid, we never wholly divisible. As Apollo sees Daphne nod her laurel head in agreement, so the firm hand of the machine may be more inculcated in the flesh, or composite of the flesh, that we expected. Of course I do hope not!


  5. I feel though that we must needs be gentle in our extraction of the salvageable organic matter from the machine, lest we realise that they have become as one or, god forbid, we never wholly divisible. As Apollo sees Daphne nod her laurel head in agreement, so the firm hand of the machine may be more inculcated in the flesh, or composite of the flesh, that we expected. Of course I do hope not!:D

    Well this is a refreshing change from usual feminist blog comment threads. Do carry on!

  6. sure thing. yes, i am saying that gentleness is necessary. it is more subtle than the rumble of the machine. flesh cannot but help react to these rumbles & vibrations. the body doesn't have to morph if it's able to hold its own. as for ovid: empires don't last; trees do.

    blessings xxx

  7. if i may add: i think that flexibility & integrity are the best qualities that can be brought to bear on most situations. i also rate the intuitive over the intellectual. i enjoy your blog & the flow that you bring to it in the face of all the rumbles; & i hope that you will not see too much of the mean fist of machine in my own exaggerated & somewhat reckless method of communicating.