Thursday, 19 July 2012

Beauty Redefined: Makeup, Curly or Straight, and navigating the treacherous waters of female grooming

 I was browsing Facebook this morning and saw that Beauty Redefined, an organisation who I follow and think are fabulous, are starting a very interesting discussion topic:

"What is your personal stance on makeup, waxing, tanning, straightening, injecting, etc? We answered that question ourselves in this post and want to hear how you've navigated the endless beauty options for yourself!" 

It's an interesting discussion topic in my opinion, and one I've spent a fair amount of my adult, and especially my married, life pondering. 

Now let me make clear from the outset that I have nothing against makeup or beauty treatments and especially do I in no way at all consider myself superior or inferior to anyone who makes differing beauty and appearance choices to myself. I actually couldn't care less what anyone around me chooses to do with their time or their money to enhance or change their appearance. I'm far more concerned with who they are as a person. What concerns me is what I choose to do and why. Despite my best efforts to not think about it at all, we are constantly bombarded by images of "beautiful" women who are make-upped and photoshopped into a strange, distorted version of beauty which in fact just does not exist in reality. 

Here's my comment on the blog that Beauty Redefined have posted to start discussion:

"I think about these issues a lot. I don’t have a problem with makeup, hair dying, waxing and beauty treatments at all when I see other women who use them regularly, however I can’t quite get a peace about it for myself. For my wedding day I dyed my hair blonde again (I was a blonde as a child/early teenager), and I did love it – but it was hugely expensive and took 4 1/2 hours. Since then I let it grow out and have had a should I/shoudn’t I debate about hair colour since. I don’t like products or treatments that turn me into someone else. For my wedding I felt like inside I was a blonde, so I wanted to be a blonde for that day. But now, 8 years and 2.5 kids later, I don’t think that’s me anymore. I struggle with makeup because I’m not that confident in applying it. I would like to be able to do my makeup excellently to enhance who I am for a special occasion, but I think I’m kind of on the right track to stick with just a basic concealer to cover the grey bags under my eyes that being a sleep deprived mama gives me. I guess I’m lucky to have smooth skin naturally but by no means am I perfect. I just can’t quite work out whether if I made more of an “effort” with my appearance I’d be either a. Caring for myself and respecting myself, or b. Selling out to the typical and idealised versions of beauty that we are fed every day in the media.

I read an amazing blog on this recently by Jonalyn Fincher from Soulation, I highly recommend it for those debating these issues – she starts by talking about the movie “The Hunger Games”:

“In the movie, Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen hears Peeta Mellark explain that he doesn’t want the games, even the killing he may do to change who he is.
“I don’t want them to change me in there. Turn me into something I’m not . . . If I’m going to die I want to still be me.”…
We all dress up for the show.
We all have different “me’s”……”

She goes on to describe an instance where she straightened her extremely curly hair as as surprise for her husband when he arrived home from a trip, and that he walked right past her as he didn’t recognise her and he didn’t like it that much either. Here are more of her thoughts:

“To dress up to make an impression, but not to conceal the soul within. Another theory of mine is that the more we try to imitate another person’s look, the more bland we become. But, the more we look and act as we were created to be… the more one-of-a-kind unique we become. The more we’re the “only person” like us in the universe…….
For those women who are slowly learning to put the flat iron down and embrace their waves or curls or frizzy bigness, I salute you. You haven’t let the games change who you are.”

It’s worth reading the whole thing. ( I’m set on keeping my hair as it is for now, and I repeat to myself “You’re not letting the games change you.”

I’m not less feminine or less of a woman for choosing not to dye or style my hair or to wear make-up daily and remember to pluck my eyebrows. My face and body don’t define me as a woman.

This is an important discussion and good on you guys for starting it."

So in light of this, which I realise is a controversial issue, what does define us as women? What is it to be feminine? I'm sure I'm not the only person who has watched those Trinny and Susannah/Gok Wan before and after shows, and seen them "femininise" someone who ends up so far removed from who she was that we wonder, "Is that really her? Will she keep it up? Have they lost who she is with their attempts to make her more beautiful?"

Jonalyn Fincher, who I mentioned above, is one of my new favourite people and I can't recommend more highly her blog "Ruby Slippers: The Sparkly connection between Faith, Feminism, and Christian Womanhood". Be warned, she does not shy away from issues most Christians wouldn't touch with a very long pole. I LOVE IT. If you go to the very bottom of the page you can find a Podcast link at the bottom, and I highly recommend listening to her series of teachings on Femininity: "What is femininity?", "Lost in femininity" and "Coming home to my femininity". Jonalyn and her husband Dale are apologists which means they go into extreme detail to explain and research issues. Her thoughts and findings are fascinating and a huge insight into how hugely screwed up our worldly views on femininity and masculinity actually are.

Those of you that know me will know I don't wear a lot of make-up or put a huge amount of effort into styling my hair. Mainly because I'd rather read a book in the morning or sleep or talk to my husband than sit in front of the mirror. In fact, when we first moved to Wanganui we didn't have a full length mirror for about 4 years. But it doesn't mean that I have any negative opinions on people who do choose to do those things with their time, not at all! In fact one of my best friends is a make-up artist, a brilliant one, she puts time and effort into her appearance and looks fabulous. But you know what? She is passionate about make-up. She can remember down to the last detail the make-up her teacher wore when she was 12 years old. It is a love for her. It is fun, it is something she enjoys. And she will let people see her without it too, without apology, which I admire her for. I guess I think that it can be incredibly sad if we as women are so ashamed of what we look like unadorned that we won't let ourselves be seen unless we have applied products and treatments to change us. God made us all beautiful. It's the world that have told us that beauty means no pimples, no wrinkles, no blotches, no grey hairs, no lumpy bits. They have labelled those things as ugly because they are trying to make money off us by selling us products that will "fix" us.

If you are interested in joining the debate, agree or disagree, please do! But I'd encourage you to go over to Beauty Redefined and comment on their blog there, so that they can get the full story and get as much exposure as possible.

Here's to Beautiful Women, in all shapes, colours and sizes. Celebrate who you are, do things because you love them, because they give you joy and make you happy, and don't let the games change you. 

xx Sarah 


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