THE BLOG

Beautiful Vanity: The #nomakeupselfie

24/03/2014 12:56 GMT | Updated 22/05/2014 10:59 BST

Narcissism. Isn't it awful? Isn't it just the worst? You open your newsfeed and you see Instagram galore, "look how amazing my life is xoxo", and accidentally EXTREMELY CAREFULLY LIT stunningly beautiful superhuman selfies, as far as the eye can see.

A few days ago, you might have started to notice those selfies looked a bit different. The girls you know didn't look quite the same, they were posing a little harder, a little more warily, a little more on edge with the cameras they were directing at themselves.

Oh well, you thought, BLOODY NARCISSISTS, and moved onto the next cat buzzfeed. Maybe a few hours later once you'd exhausted your supply of Cats Taking Selfies, you strayed back onto your newsfeed to check up on the human ones. Still a little weird, still all these women's faces a little different - perhaps a little lighter, with maybe shorter lashes or paler eyebrows than you remembered. No one looks like they heard a really embarrassing joke being told about them, or a little bit overly frowny anymore. And they're all trying to disguise their blatant vanity under the pretence of raising money for Cancer Research!

Disdainers of this "narcissism", do you know why these girls are being vain about how good they look with no makeup on? Do you know why they are posting these beautiful photos in a slightly flustered, chuffed gush of statuses?

Because they are SURPRISED. They are stunned that they look good. Genuinely, seriously, completely and utterly baffled.

Since the ancient Egyptians, society has told women they look better with makeup ON. Unlike other areas of feminism, younger women will not talk to older women in their family and reminisce about the good old days when these expectations didn't exist. Truth be told, there are few (if any) women alive in the UK now who haven't lived in a time when the general consensus was that a bit of lippie or a pinch of the cheeks didn't make one look a mighty sight better than before.

And herein the problem lies. Many people have criticised the #nomakeupselfie movement for its implication that seeing a woman without makeup is something shocking and newsworthy, and that the selfies promote this idea. They would be correct, the idea that seeing a woman without makeup on is shocking and newsworthy is indeed a sad state of affairs. But to align that with the movement itself, and even to suggest that that movement is to blame for that fact, is completely bonkers.

Sorry chaps, but that is the way the world is. We live in a world where that is shocking. We created that state of affairs ourself, and it is nothing new.

Blaming the #nomakeupselfie for unfair expectations on women to wear makeup is like blaming Mary Berry and the latest season of Bake Off for Britain's ongoing obesity problem. Too little, too late, and too completely misdirected.

These au natural supporters, these freedom fighters for women to show their true colours of skintone/eyelash have of course been ominously labelled "The Feminists". "Some feminists" have criticised the movement, "Some Feminists" say it's making women without makeup on feel ugly, "Some Feminists" won't join in the fun. I'm not sure who these Feminists are, but I've sure not been invited to their party, and not to blow my own horn, but I'm a pretty big ol' Feminist myself. It smacks slightly of ye olde Blame The Feminists game some people like to play when they hear an argument they want to undermine, if you ask me. Many feminists don't think that at all. I myself am sitting here from an Oops-I've-Accidentally-Dedicated-My-Life-To-Feminism standpoint, and I think women taking photos of themselves with no makeup on is overwhelmingly fantastic.

Yes, it's a shame we feel like showing our Facebook feed our barefaced photos is an all-round pretty crazy thing to do of an afternoon, and yes, it's sad that we feel we have to preface it with "ok guys I KNOW you're going to vomit when you see this". But it is what it is; we do and we will, even if we shouldn't.

It will have taken a lot of women a lot of brain-wracking and nerve-shredding to post a picture of themselves to several hundred "friends" without the daily spread of slap. And when they took that photo, capturing on their smartphones what has never before been documented, venturing where they imagine no woman has ever gone before, they would have been overwhelmed to see that they actually looked ok. Amazed to see they might not scare any small children after all. And if my Facebook feed is smattered with photos of girls realising they're beautiful just the way they are, then who am I to complain about that?

Finally, as if it needed mentioning, this campaign has already raised over £2 million. The majority of women are not overlooking the point of the exercise, and are posting their screenshotted donations alongside their barefaced beauty. Their friends are then doing the same. And together their feeling fab about their faces has raised two MILLION pounds. Before you criticise them for being vain, think a little about what you did to help others today.

For every one woman's selfie, she will probably nominate between one and four friends to do their selfies next. So let's say an average of two friends per woman. For every two friends, they nominate two more friends. That's already £21 raised by one girl's selfie (using the £3 text donation amount), without taking the chain infinitely further as we could.

To those who criticise I say, put your money where your mouth is and give away some of your own hard-earned cash to a charity of your choice. And give £21 because I'm guessing you can't persuade six friends to randomly make the same donation. Stop moaning and make a difference.

If these selfies are vanity, then it is the most beautiful form of vanity I have ever seen. Women risking what they see as public humiliation for a good cause. Women realising it's not actually public humiliation after all. Women feeling beautiful barefaced for the first time in years. Men seeing the women in their lives barefaced at all.

Women shouting out to their nans, their uncles, their colleagues who fought cancer. Women feeling good about themselves and about their actions. Women sticking two fingers up to The Man AND making the world a less cancer-ridden place, all at the same time. And that, to me, is beautiful.