YOUNG VOICES

#NoMakeupNominations: Why Are Students So Reluctant To Ditch The Slap?

19/03/2014 13:57 GMT | Updated 21/03/2014 09:59 GMT
Reggie Casagrande via Getty Images

Selfies of women without make-up have recently flooded social media outlets, reigniting the debate around whether make-up is empowering or demeaning.

On one hand, these self-portraits can be said to encourage a natural image - one which disregards popular impressions that cosmetics are a necessary part of women's everyday appearance. On the other, the reluctance to post such an image suggests the world hasn't accepted women without make-up, reinforcing the stigma by characterising these pictures as a rarity in society.

No make-up nominations have taken over Facebook and Twitter, compelling people to take a selfie of themselves bare-faced and beautiful for all to see. Many are posting these pictures in order to raise awareness in a wider breast cancer campaign.

One student, Katie Hodges, took a selfie to participate in the campaign, and says she didn't find taking the no make-up picture an ordeal. The University of Aberystwyth rarely wears makeup unless going out, but says she knows plenty of girls who wouldn't go out of the house or be photographed without makeup on.

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Hodges' au naturel beret selfie

Hodges thinks the "airbrushed and perfect" image of women in the media is the reason students feel pressured into wearing make-up.

"Girls who would always wear make-up are starting to see other barefaced selfies, and realise that not everyone looks perfect under their makeup," she continues.

The unrealistic expectations of beauty are widely believed to have a negative impact on body image, and make-up is just one aspect of this.

Arguably, this new trend is part of a wider women’s issue where make-up is often considered compulsory, and even an workplace issue.

Students are reluctant to remove their make-up, some finding it hard to go without for a week, with one University of Liverpool veterinary student Helen Easton admitting: "The only time I could take this natural selfie was just after, or before bed, because for the rest of the day I’m wearing make-up. I won’t leave the house without it!"

The attempt to normalise the appearance of women without make-up is a boost for promoting a positive body image, with many people congratulating females for going au naturel.

The recent bear-faced campaign, which depicted celebrities without make-up, prompted a negative response to the idea that going without cosmetics was a challenge.

The campaign faced severe backlash - with many exclaiming the campaign portrayed women without make-up as "freak shows" and "shocking", when it should be considered completely natural.

A post on discussion forum Mumsnet, in response to the question "does anyone else find the campaign deeply depressing?" read: "Specifically the way that it treats the concept of an un-made-up woman as so unusual, almost like a freak-show. Something outrageous that you do to raise money, while at the same time the women involved blather on about empowerment."

This fascination on the internet of the transformative effects of make-up has turned it into a hot topic. Is make-up really a form of self expression or a mask attempting to conform to cultural expectations of beauty?

We approached university feminist societies to get their opinion on the issue.

Becky Churchill, president of the Newcastle University Feminist Society, said: “I think that make-up can definitely be a really positive and fun thing. This might be through perfecting a technique in an artistic way, or doing something quick which puts you in a good mood. It can be an act of self-care. I think it's a feminist issue that caring about makeup is often portrayed as a quality which makes a person shallow.

“This isn't to say that there isn't a great deal of pressure placed on women's appearance, but I personally believe that when I wear make-up I do it for myself.

“It's also worth considering the difference between choosing you don't feel like wearing make-up, and posting about it on a social media platform. This conversation is about women's everyday life and is bigger than a twitter trend.”

On the one hand, any personal picture can be seen as self expression and a boost of confidence but the notion of no makeup nominations as a dare set by others has caused mixed opinions.

Ellie Slee, a HuffPost UK blogger, thinks this trend reinforces the patriarchy system as it emphasises that make-up must be worn - unless in aid of charity.

"If there is a hair it must be plucked and if there is a pimple it must be covered," she writes. "If her eyelashes are not thick enough, she can wear plastic ones, and if her lips are not big enough, she can draw around them. And if she doesn't do any of those things, there is probably something wrong with her. Unless the reason she reveals her real face is for charity. That might just be acceptable. "

Jessica McKay, another HuffPost blogger, argues the campaign can prove problematic in how we define women without cosmetic enhancement.

"A man's face, makeup-less, well that's just a face; but, apparently, a female face without its 'war-paint' on is a simulacrum of a dying person's

"The fact that men, and girls, have criticised others' 'naked' faces - said how different or ugly they look - on the networking site shows how alien they are to us. It perpetuates feelings of inferiority and inadequacy in women - rather than liberating them."

The proliferating images of women without make-up on social media can only reinforce growing awareness about body image within the media. This trend can be seen to challenge societal ideals of women’s image, but perhaps its sensationalism has highlighted the flaws in our culture - that women without makeup is considered rare and foreign.