I’ve been seeing this story about Tracey Spicer around the interweb for a while now but it wasn’t until I saw this link on The Current (I love you Anna Maria!) that I really decided to sit down and contemplate it. Its a new year and I always try to take a moment at the beginning of each year to reflect on my life, views and values – and this prompted me to think about beauty. Sure, this is something I think about a lot…and I mean a lot – but since its been in the media so much, I thought it would be good to really analyze stories like these.
It seems pretty straight-forward: Spicer’s message highlights the pressure of physical perfection, the result of a consumerist culture and, probably most talked about in its coverage, sexism. While I consider myself a feminist, I’m also a cosmetic formulator and beautycare professional, so how does this make me feel about my belief system in relation to my career? Furthermore, did it bother me that commenters on the Internet seem to be championing Spicer and even scorning “feminist hypocrites who wear makeup”? (in response to the last question – yes, the Internet comments are just the worst). But maybe some of you would think that I would feel uncomfortable by an anti-grooming move like this. As if it threatened my own beliefs and what I commit myself to day in and day out.
In fact, I really appreciate it. I simply hope whatever beauty and grooming choices we do decide to engage in are healthy and safe for our bodies and promote wellbeing (This of course includes emotional wellbeing). I think discussions around how we look influences how we and other see us are important because physical beauty is a very real part of our culture. If you don’t believe in this importance, just think about how titillated people get from make up-free celeb pics…its as if we stole away some of their power…and especially power of choice. I also loved the project by Kjerstin Gruys who decided not to look in mirrors for one year to see how this would impact her own self-image. But I don’t think this story is just about feminism or even vanity. I think its about the freedom of choice and the need for self-love.
The second speaker on this posted link to The Current offered excellent insights surrounding beauty and freedom for women. The freedom of choice – not being pressured to look any sort of way but instead to simply be able to express yourself however makes you feel best. The repercussions one can have in their jobs etc. that limit these freedoms and the injustice of that. I also found the last bit of her interview infectious actually as she spoke about how as an actress she loves to use her physicality as a tool of expression and even love. She spoke about this specifically for women and feminism but I believe this should be for everyone.
The pressure to be beautiful is not only for women, its also a reality for men (and of course other genders – however identify). And its only getting more common. The men’s grooming segment is booming as a result. As a skincare professional, I have read the many trend reports on male skincare as an area of growth and opportunity as well as I have seen first-hand an increasing number of men come into Pure + Simple worrying about crows feet, fine lines and wondering about skincare supports post-Botox. This concerns me as equality does not come in the form of universal insecurity. And men while maybe not specifically within the realm of cosmetics but how they and others see them, men have along with women have had their own sources of insecurity over physical attributes for as long as insecurity has been around.
I have a male friend who is quite short – and its really influences his self-esteem and makes him feel unempowered…or that others do not see him as powerful. This too plays a role in his career advancement. I’m sure those with physical disabilities can also often feel the same way. It’s not only about beauty but a lack of plain old self-love. And for some reason when I think about most problems in the world, it comes back to this. If I’m honest I struggle with many unloving feelings towards myself that drive habits that aren’t the best for my spirit. When we reduce it down, whether its makeup or some other device, its about the struggle to love ourselves in spite of everything.
So, stories like this one about Tracy Spicer are important. They help us realize that we need freedom of choice over how we decide to present ourselves to the world – but also that they are some very real barriers to overcome to be able to exert this choice. Some are systemic while others are personal – but in the end if we are to be given this choice it must start from a place of love within these arenas for ourselves and others. And isn’t that true beauty?