Blog post: My problem with No Makeup selfies

Click HERE for a podcast in which Rhodders debates this topic.

I find the whole “no makeup selfie” thing rather bizarre. I am all for people giving money to a fund for trying cure a horrible disease and the no makeup  selfie trend has resulted in over two million pounds being raised for Cancer Research UK within 48 hours.  Great! Surely the ends justify the means, so what’s the problem? The problem is,  it has  nothing to do with the cause. You learn nothing about cancer from this campaign.

As far as I can work out, the original “photograph of one’s face taken without wearing makeup” (I find the term “selfie” grates after a while) was taken by a Nottingham woman undergoing treatment for an aggressive cancer. The woman had lost all of her hair as a result of her treatment. The original emphasis seemed to be about the fact she took the photograph without her wig. Makeup, or the lack of it, simply does not seem to have been the key issue. Boldly baring one’s baldness publicly is a brave thing to do and could be seen to empower the silent suffering of so many cancer patients. When people ask for sponsorship to shave their hair for cancer awareness it makes sense. The act shows empathy towards cancer sufferers while raising money. How this suddenly became about makeup, I am unable to work out. This campaign apparently started organically, although usually when things happen apparently “spontaneously” on the Internet, there is usually some monolithic ad agency behind it all. However this “campaign” was started up, seems a bit misguided. It would seem that once a few people do something, the herd  that   is humanity obediently gets out their phones and follows suit. These pics might be posted with the best intension, but I find them vain and annoying. Donating to charity, broadly speaking is a kind act  but doing  it publicly with a big grin on your face is smug and needy. I am also not comfortable with the nomination aspect of the campaign, where you effectively peer pressure a friend to do likewise. I suspect many people have gone along with the campaign for fear of people thinking that not to participate would be an affront to cancer sufferers.The message of the campaign is confusing.  Many supporters of the campaign rejoice in it as “liberating women”. Hang on a minute? I thought this was about cancer? The use of make-up and the image of women in our society is an important debate but it just doesn’t seem appropriate to try and bolt it on to a cancer fundraiser. It is a separate issue.


My poor attempt at selfe humour

This is another instance of the stunt element of a campaign taking over and distracting from the original purpose. When rowing about this on Facebook, a friend supporting the  “no makeup selfie” craze made the comparison with Movember. This was a testicular and bowel cancer awareness drive where men ask for sponsorship to grow outlandish facial hair. The trouble is that there are people who are unaware of the link between Movember and cancer awareness and think it is all just done for a laugh.

I feel obliged to point out that “no makeup selfies” excludes (most) men. Last time I checked, cancer still affects men. Most men don’t wear makeup. In response there has been a spin-off fad of men posting “makeup selfies”. I think it safe to say that at this point things are getting silly. Looking down at my phone I can now see that ridiculous reactionaries are now posting pictures of themselves with rolls of Sellotape wrapped round their heads. Yes it’s called the Sellotape selfie and it doesn’t have anything to do with anything! Of course its nice that a lot of money has been raised but I think there has to be a better way to educate people about cancer then a “no makeup selfie”.


4 Replies to “Blog post: My problem with No Makeup selfies”

  1. As I see it (which also happens to be the truth), the real issue is that Cancer Research is a very ineffective charity as opposed to say, Oxfam (you did an Idle Talk on this sort of thing). And even if it weren’t, I’m uncomfortable with preferencing white people who’ve had a 40-odd years of comfortable living over, say, 3-year-old African children who are already dying from lifelong debilitating -and entirely preventable/curable- illnesses.

    “Last time I checked, cancer still affects men.” Nice pun. An uncle of mine had breast cancer, so yeah. Although the people saying about how no make up is liberating women may reply they are saying that precisely because men don’t have to wear make up (that they can take off). Also, you mixed up intention and intension, naughty philosopher!

  2. I don’t see it as silly, but take your points onboard. How I see it is that a lot of women hide behind makeup because they think they are ‘ugly’ or whatever, trying to hide something that’s too big or highlight something that’s too small. A lot of women (myself included) are terrified of people seeing what they really look like, so the thought of posing for a picture willingly is rather scary. BUT when you consider how terrifying cancer is, and how truly awful the treatment is, a bit of makeup and feeling ugly seem trivial. So I see these selfies as women saying ‘Yes this scares me, but I know it is nothing compared to what others are going through.’

    1. Thanks very much for your comment. I still don’t see how removing ones make up there is any relation to cancer.As I said shaving one’s hair bears a much more direct relation. I am going debate this topic on at 7pm tonight. Feel free to skype in or join in via the chat room.

  3. Hi Rhodri, have to agree with you 🙂 I have a couple of other niggling thoughts on this too – firstly, I and lots of other women don’t wear makeup, so what difference does that make? Most of my photos on facebook are already ‘no makeup’!

    Also I don’t know anyone who is not already aware of cancer…Granted it has raised a lot of extra money, but so does race for life and many other sponsored events. The things that people should be raising awareness of are the effects of surgery or treatment etc. Not just generally ‘cancer’.

    Many of the people taking these no-makeup selfies are using poses and angles which they would use in their ridiculous pouty ‘selfies’ anyway. If they are trying to do something for a cause, do it well!

    Wondering if you have seen the new craze – cock in a sock??

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