If you’re on the Daily Mail website and care to cast your eyes to the right you will see a beauty check list for celebrity women. In the Daily Mail if celebrity women aren’t pouring their new curves into some designer receptacle then they are stalking the streets, a shadow of their former selves. They’ve either made the mistake of halting evidence of time on their face, or made the mistake of aging. Either way whatever they are doing they are doing it wrong, which is why, when Eva Wiseman noticed she was starting to apply the same standards on others she went on a Daily Mail fast.
When people come back from a hair appointment or nail salon I expect to notice. The idea they paid someone to paint their short nails a plain shade disappoints me and also explains why, when complimenting me on my nails I am often informed they just don’t have the time to do theirs. As if I am some sort of gorgeous layabout, forever filing my multi-coloured manicure. I think they are silly to chuck good money away for something they could have done as they sat, slack-jawed in front of the TV.
In the Guardian Charlotte Raven mourned the lost art of not looking good. In a bid to demonstrate how she wasn’t immune to the beauty myth, Raven confessed to a commitment to eyebrow threading (as with plain manicures – eyebrow threading makes me think: ‘What, you can’t pluck your own eyebrows?’). Raven notes a dearth of un-plucked women to lead the uni-browed way. Caitlin Moran describes her joy in not waxing but Raven points out: “Conveniently, she's only against depilating the bits of the body you can't see. But I still wish she'd tell us whether she feels at all self-conscious in swimming pools or other places where the decision not to wax her bikini line will make her stand out like a sore thumb.”
Expectations. I occasionally go on swimming kicks and visit my local pool twice a week, never have I entered the pool thinking, ‘I hope everyone waxed’. Perhaps Moran models an Esther Williams swimsuit and dodges the question. I’d like to think she doesn’t give a pube either way. Nobody lost an eye to a wandering bikini line.
It is not a political statement or feminist fail that I shave my armpits and legs or wear make-up. Those who show stubble or go to work bare faced are no more qualified to wave the feminist flag than I. But we love a bit of bickering within the feminist camp. So Women’s Hour invited Raven to come on the programme and discuss her make-up free life with the Daily Mail’s Liz Jones, who wears make-up and has had a facelift.
Liz Jones explained that make-up was her life and her husband never sees her bare faced, although she had allowed her paper to publish an image of her morning face (in support of an XOJane.com project). What might, if you listen to the interview, make you prick up your ears is this quote from Jones: “women who are now saying: ‘we don’t need all this artifice’, it’s quite arrogant really because most of us need it”.
Let’s ignore for a second how Jones pronounces ‘artifice’. The watchwords here are ‘need’ and ‘arrogant’. Raven’s answer to that was “you only need it [make-up] if you believe that what you look like is more important than what you are like”. This does not counter this bizarre notion of Jones that the bare-faced are arrogant. In fact it rather entertains the idea.
Of course the way you are is more important than the way you look, however the way you look – including if you smile or proffer a hand to shake on meeting somebody – contributes to their impression of you. In her article Raven writes: “Today, I pledge I will go and pick up daughter without changing out of my husband's cat-hair-covered fleece, proud to be seen as someone with something better to do than de-lint”.
Recently it could be argued we expect women to be tanned and plucked, if not we might think them lazy. However the other argument, sustained by programmes such as Snog, Marry, Avoid is that the more made up a woman is; the more insecure. They aren’t just inviting objectification but commodification.
It simply couldn’t be as easy as some women enjoy wearing make-up, some women prefer not to and some think it matters either way.
The question is not: does it go against the sisterhood to wear eyeliner? Eyeliner is neutral; it has no political sway and has yet to win the vote. The question is not even: why are we allowing image expectations to rise? What we should be pondering is: Why are we allowing people’s primping choices to top the fugging agenda?