Every time I read a post about people being “brave” by virtue of not wearing make-up, or not having their make-up perfectly done, or hear about a starlet who has “bravely” gone all natural, a little part of my soul goes and smears red lipstick all over itself until it feels okay again. Wear make-up. Don’t wear make-up. Either one is fine. But can we please stop saying that choosing not to wear make-up is necessarily brave?
Because more and more, we seem to equate the idea of people appearing without cosmetics with “bravery” – when it’s actually just making a slightly less socially advantageous choice than usual.
I always feel irked by these galleries, because, by tossing around the word “brave” they never seem to take into account that if we are living in a world where the act of going without make-up qualifies as bravery, we have left Earth and stumbled into Nightmareworld. To slap the label of bravery across “not wearing make-up” seems like a disservice to, well, certainly to the men and women in the armed forces, certainly to anyone working to improve conditions in dangerous areas, certainly, in fact, to anyone who has ever risked their well being for the betterment of others. To say that a girl sacrificing her vanity for a day groups her into the same moral category as them, well that seems as irritating as a high school Freshman taking his first English comp class and claiming that he is now a poet “like Yeats”.
There are, of course different kinds of courage. Namely: physical courage is courage in the face of physical pain, hardship, death, or threat of death, while moral courage is the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, or discouragement.
Which seem to differ somewhat from skipping the cosmetics for a day. Certainly, not wearing them won’t bring shame down on you – articles seem to indicate that many men don’t like it when women wear make-up. I’m not sure I quite believe that – I always have an inkling that those men mean very badly applied make-up, based on the fact that I wear enough make-up to shroud a gerbil, and men are surprised when I tell them I’m not all-natural – but unless you wear a ridiculous amount of cosmetics to begin with, it seems unlikely that anyone will notice. It seems still more unlikely that they’ll mention it. At worst, they’re going to say “you look tired” which is not quite on par with saying “you look tired, and, side note, we’re going to burn you at the stake for being unpretty now. So, rest up for that!”
Now, admittedly, skipping make-up may well entail the kind of bravery that requires facing down your own reaction to irrational anxieties, but if that’s the case, then we also have clasify everyone who stops biting their nails as “brave.” Goodness, what a world of heros we will live in.
Because there’s no substantial risk at work when people forsake make-up. Well, I suppose there is a risk, in that, for one day, people might find you slightly less attractive. There is that. Not substantially less, unless you’re really good at make-up (like, if you start out looking like Erik Destler and end up looking like Kate Moss, that would be a fine example of being really good at makeup). But otherwise, the only thing you’re risking is that maybe people will admire you slightly less. I don’t equate risking “being slightly less admired by all” with “an actual risk.”
Because, quite honestly, when a starlet or model or anyone makes a point of the fact that they are posing without make-up, they’re not doing it because they’re really overcoming their fears. They’re doing it because it will garner them praise of a different kind. Instead of being praised for being flawlessly beautiful, they’ll be praised for being “down to earth!” or “real!” (which is always a hard compliment for the replicants among us to hear). Or else, people will comment on how naturally beautiful they are. Which is all very dandy and well calculated, but it would be quite a different matter if the people in question just casually, without fanfare, decided to pose in an all-natural fashion. But, really, what would be the point in that?
Because whether or not anyone admits it, the point of these “no make-up” galleries is always, at least in part, because the people posing hope that they’ll be praised in a new and different way. Otherwise there would be no need to point to the fact that they are wearing no make-up now!!!! Now, that may be very good for the people posing’s levels of confidence – it is nice to know that we have worth in many ways – but it does not mean that wearing make-up/not wearing make-up is linked to a character trait traditionally associated with storming into burning buildings to rescue children trapped inside. [tagbox tag=”cosmetics”]
Look, personally, I’m all for make-up. If you have the tools to make your facial features appear slightly more symmetrical, it’s completely reasonable to choose to make use of them. I think doing so is sensible, because doing so will give you certain social advantages – like people finding you slightly more attractive. But that’s not an example of bravery. That’s an example of making choices that will benefit you, personally. It’s the equivalent of a man buying a fancy car because he thinks it will get him laid more easily. By all means, use every reasource at your disposal to get laid more easily. Just don’t for a second think that forsaking those things puts you in the same class as people facing down serious threats and taking real risks for the sake of others. It doesn’t.
There are a great many times in our lives when we are going to have to be brave. I don’t think anyone makes it out of this whole “living” shtick without facing down their share of wrongdoing. We may be called on to do things that are not in the interest of our well being for the greater good. There will certainly be times, for all of us, when we have our moral fiber tested. I hope that, when those times come, we will take a moment to reapply our lipstick, and, having done so, go forth and exhibit all that which is best in the human spirit. But in order to do so, maybe it would be helpful to keep a little perspective on what’s brave and what’s “being selfish in a different/slightly lesser way than I usually am.”