On the juicy details and the feminist label.
New to this series? Please check out The Naked Face Project website and my introduction to TNFP to get a complete understanding of the intention behind the Project. Other bloggers and readers are joining the project, too. Check out our Gallery of Naked Faces.
The first few weeks of The Naked Face Project were rather serious. First, I discussed my ‘beauty legacy,’ or how my upbringing – and my mother’s upbringing – as well as my hometown, influenced what beauty habits I engaged in.
Then, I discussed how I believe in a pattern of continuing and overlapping Self-Esteem Evolutions.
This week, I wanted to discuss two smaller topics – my mind is all over the place with The Naked Face Project! There are so many threads in my thought process right now, but very few have neatly come together to form any significant conclusions. I’m definitely still in a space of ‘feeling out’ what it really means to me to go without things like makeup and shaving (and, again, as you can read in the other posts, it’s not that I think these things are inherently bad, the purpose of the Project is to discover my intention behind my beauty actions).
Thread #1: The Juicy Details
I know that when Molly Barker and I first announced The Naked Face Project, many people thought – and feared – that our weekly posts would be superficial “Eww! Look how hairy my pits are!” photo montages. Hopefully, we have proven that the Project is about more than that! But at the same time, I know lots of you are curious to know the juicy details. Hah!
First of all, my leg hair grows a lot slower than I thought it did. Second of all, my armpit hair grows a lot faster than I thought it did. I haven’t been making any wardrobe modifications because of The Naked Face Project, so my hairy pits have been in full display at the gym or during prenatal yoga. And you know what? I’ve realized that I simply do not care what other people think of me. After all, it’s just hair.
Lots of people really questioned Molly’s and my decision to give up deodorant. The deciding factor in the decision for us was whether deodorant was a beauty product or a hygiene product. We thought it was a beauty product, so we eliminated it from our regimens. Molly has since decided that she smells more than she thought she did, so she’s brought it back. However, daily sniff tests have revealed that I really don’t smell, although I do get sweatier thanks to the extra hair. I’m still deodorant-free, and I have to say that it’s quite nice to discover that I don’t have to use the product year-around (I am 100% sure that summer will be a different story).
Other people have asked for an update on the Husband’s reaction to the Project. While I know he prefers smooth legs, I don’t think the extra hair has really been that big of a deal – it’s not preventing other activities, if you know what I mean. I asked him this morning if he’s noticed that I’m wearing less makeup, and he says he hadn’t really registered a big difference. I found this to be extremely interesting because I perceive a huge and noticeable difference between my makeup and naked faces.
Makeup v. Naked
The Husband’s reaction to my naked face has brought up all sorts of interesting thoughts. Do I think that wearing makeup imparts some extra quality onto me, like confidence? Have I just been tricked into thinking that makeup me is the ‘better’ version of myself? Can other women tell a difference more easily than other men? What does that say about who I wear makeup for – is it for myself, other women, or men? Does the Husband not notice a difference because he loves me? Would he have noticed a difference nine years ago when we were still just casually dating?
Also – and this is another incomplete thought, but I just wanted to throw it out there to the universe to see what I get back – I have noticed that I am trying to ‘shine’ in other ways now that I am naked faced. For example, when I go out with friends, I am making an even greater effort than normal to be a good listener and ask a lot of questions. I’m not sure if I am subconsciously looking for another way to validate myself to others or if I feel that there is less between me and others – literally and metaphorically – so I am even more willing to be open and caring. It might be a little of both! Like I said, this is an early observation of the Project, but I’m interested to see where it takes me.
Thread #2: What’s in a Label?
I am currently reading The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf. I just started the book and hope to have a complete review of it in the next few weeks, but so far, it is rather interesting. The Beauty Myth’s basic theory that is that as women have gained “increased social power and prominence, expected adherence to standards of physical beauty has grown stronger,” mainly as a way to undermine women psychologically and politically (source).
Basically, if we’re spending all this time obsessed with our appearance and feeling not good enough because we don’t look a certain way or can’t afford certain clothing, we’re distracted from larger, more important issues. Who’s doing the distracting? According to Wolf, it’s a patriarchal society that cannot function if equality is truly valued, as well as powerful industries (cosmetics, plastic surgery, fashion) that stand to make billions of dollars off the beauty myth. Obviously, The Beauty Myth is a very polarizing and opinionated book, and while I’m not sure I agree with everything in it, it’s definitely given me a lot to think about – it’s always intriguing to think about my actions in a larger societal sense.
The Beauty Myth is clearly a feminist manifesto. The Naked Face Project’s mission statement clearly states that we are not trying to make a larger feminist statement through the Project or observations about other people’s behaviors; this is really just an opportunity for us to explore our intentions behind our own actions. I am, quite honestly, not educated enough in the feminist movement and philosophy to make larger statements about being naked faced relates to feminists, anyway. But by participating in the Project and through reading books like The Beauty Myth, I have begun to question my own personal feminist beliefs.
Because I like to write about women’s issues on the blog, people usually assume that I am a feminist. But when people ask me if I call myself a feminist, I hesitate (or my answer varies greatly depending on the day). I am slightly ashamed to say that I am a little afraid to wear the feminist label. The Beauty Myth says that this is because society has brainwashed me into thinking that being a feminist is a bad – or unattractive thing – by setting up ‘butch’ or ‘man-hater’ connotations. I think, for me, this explanation is at least partially true. And when I think about it, that’s really sad.
Another reason why I hesitate to call myself a feminist is because the few times I have had what other people perceive as an ‘anti-feminist’ thought or emotion, I get called out for not being a ‘good enough’ feminist. I understand that some feminists sometimes feel the need to educate and talk to other women about how they may be subconsciously undermining larger feminist goals. I totally respect that, and I very often end up learning a lot from such discussions. But more often than not, being called out for not being a ‘good enough’ feminist makes me feel guilty, terrible, and on the defensive. I don’t feel like we’re all part of one team. As a result, I hesitate to call myself a feminist because then I can’t be shunned for not being a perfect one.
I see this happen a lot in the world of vegetarian bloggers. A vegetarian blogger will eat soup with fish sauce or carry a leather purse, and others will jump on them, telling them that they aren’t a ‘real vegetarian.’ I think this is sad because I support anyone making an effort to eat less animal products, and I don’t believe the way to get others to ‘join our side’ is by making them feel guilty or stupid.
Interestingly enough, I am a vegetarian who has a personal ‘gray area,’ and I’m quite comfortable to call myself a vegetarian and do certain things that I know other vegetarians frown on. I have my own definition of vegetarianism, I make it work in my life, and I truthfully don’t care if that makes me a bad vegetarian. But I hesitate to proudly wear the label of Feminist. And that, to me, is extremely sad because feminism is simply a movement aimed at “defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women” – and I totally agree with those goals! (Source)
So although The Naked Face Project is not about larger feminist issues, participating it the Project and thinking more about women’s issues is helping me to become more comfortable with my own views – labeled or not. I do hope that by the end of the Project, I will be confident and comfortable enough with myself to say, “Yes, I am a feminist!” loud and proud.
Quite the verbal vomit post today! I’m sorry if my thoughts were scattered, but I wanted to write openly about the things that had been rolling around in my head all week (and, truth be told, it is very often difficult to be honest). I am excited and curious to hear your thoughts and feedback about your own experiences with the issues that I touched on – especially with the feminist label and labels in general.
For more The Naked Face Project, be sure to check out Molly Barker’s musings.
Great post Caitlin! The Beauty Myth is one of my favorite books 🙂