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

IMG_6352 IMG_6917

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).

the beauty myth

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.



  • Annie@stronghealthyfit February 16, 2012, 3:50 pm

    Great post Caitlin! The Beauty Myth is one of my favorite books 🙂

  • Alycia February 16, 2012, 3:53 pm

    I love reading the Naked Face Project posts because your feelings resonate so deeply with me. I would also hesitate to call myself a feminist because I sometimes think that the term can have negative connotations to people!

    I like that this project isn’t about saying that makeup is bad, but understanding our own feelings behind it. I am 24 and rarely ever used makeup until recently. My mother barely ever put on makeup, even though she owned some, so I didn’t really think about it, or know how to use it! Now that I’m learning more about it I find myself wearing makeup because it’s fun. I know you said you don’t fall into that category, but I certainly do. However, I think it’s really important to look at your reasoning behind wearing makeup thoughtfully and to really understand it, I’m proud of your project, keep up the good work!

  • poptartyogini February 16, 2012, 3:54 pm

    i find labels to be too stressful. i only want to be labeled as me. a girl who loves her husband and family, practices a little yoga and eats poptarts for breakfast. if you’re labeled, it is too hard to keep ’em guessing!

  • Gabby @ Gabby's Gluten-Free February 16, 2012, 4:10 pm

    I wish feminist wasn’t such a dirty word. After all, being a feminist just means that you believe and support the notion that women should be equals.

    • j February 16, 2012, 9:39 pm

      Feminism is about equality all, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. etc.

      • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:09 pm

        Here, here!

  • Jen February 16, 2012, 4:11 pm

    I rarely wear makeup because I choose not to, though plenty of my friends do. On special occasions I will put some on, but for some reason I don’t feel the need daily. Though I know I certainly know I could not go without shaving, it’s a must for me not for vanity necessarily but to be comfortable- or at least that’s how I see it.

  • Silvia @ skinny jeans food February 16, 2012, 4:11 pm

    A feminist only means that someone is convinced that women are of equal value and have equal rights (compared to men).

    That was not always the case — 100 years ago women were not even allowed to vote or when married would not have their own passport.

    One can be a feminist and still be feminine…. You just have to stand up for that women are of equal value and should be treated are accordingly.

  • Kate February 16, 2012, 4:12 pm

    I think it’s sad that society views feminists as men-hating, butch-y radicals. Feminism is about equal opportunities for both sexes- not placing women above men or vice versa. I sincerely hope that everyone learns the true definition, because so many women are afraid to call themselves feminists because you’re right- it has a negative connotation. I’m a proud feminist and I have male friends that are feminists as well. The label isn’t reserved for women- anyone that believes all sexes should have the same opportunities is a feminist!

    • Emily February 16, 2012, 10:51 pm

      I think it’s sad that Caitlin is buying into this definition and spreading it all over the blogosphere.

      • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:09 pm

        Emily – It sounds like you misread or misunderstood my post because I definitely didn’t say that I think this definition is right or true; I said that I think society has associated a negative connotation with feminism for a very specific reason (to hold feminism back) and I partially fear being associated with this connotation, like many women have.

        I end the post by saying I want to be a confident feminist and I want to reclaim what feminism means to me. I just wanted to clarify this so there is no confusion.

  • Kristen February 16, 2012, 4:17 pm

    For my entire life, I have defined a feminist as one who believes in equal rights for women. Maybe Kate and I have the same dictionary…

  • Silvia @ skinny jeans food February 16, 2012, 4:18 pm

    And, oh yes, I agree with Naomi and the Beauty Myth — it says that women are kept absorbed in pursuing the latest fashion, worrying about their looks (and made feel insecure), loosing weight, and running endless marathons (these days) instead of keep their eye open to where real power and accomplishment is — like how about setting your goals on being the next president, running that next Apple company, being an influential head at the EPA?

    just a thought. You can still do it in good shoes, of course and with make-up 😉

  • Kimberly February 16, 2012, 4:20 pm

    I think all women should be proud to declare themselves feminists. It is about looking out for the rights and interests of women. As women, how could we ever say we aren’t for that? You can be a feminist whether you are a working woman who never shaves or wears make up or a stay at home mom who wears a full face of makeup and heels every day. Or anything in between! We should celebrate that we have the choice to be how we want! Okay this is getting a little sappy now…I’ll stop!

    • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:10 pm

      Yay for sap!

  • Jen February 16, 2012, 4:24 pm

    I think my original comment was deleted (and I mean it got sucked up by the Internet, not by Caitlin) so I’m going to post again.

    This isn’t directed at anyone in particular – REALLY – but I find it disturbing when women hesitate to refer to themselves as feminists.

    Do you agree with this way of thinking?:

      [fem-uh-nist] Show IPA
    adjective Sometimes, fem·i·nis·tic .
    advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.

    Or this:

    Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women.[1][2] In addition, feminism seeks to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. – Wikipedia

    Feminist is not a scary or shameful label. Feminism truly is just the belief in equality of the sexes. Control over our bodies, our minds. Respect. Equal pay for equal work. The women who came before us fought for these (simple, vital) freedoms.

    Their message is too important to be lost, and I truly believe if people (men AND women) would wear the ‘feminist’ label proudly, it would diffuse a lot of the shame and fear.

    • Kate February 16, 2012, 4:36 pm

      Totally! Men can be feminists too! And are! By definition my husband is a feminist, my male friends are feminists, my brothers are feminists!

      The fact that women feel hesitant or ashamed to call themselves feminists demonstrates to me that we have a long way to go to make this a truly equal world. I can’t believe as females we have bought into the shame around being a feminist. That makes me very sad.

      • Mary @ stylefyles February 16, 2012, 4:46 pm

        Back in the day, I had a college professor ask the class the class to raise our hands if we were feminists.

        No one did.

        Then she asked us to raise our hands if we thought women should make the same amount as men for performing the same job. We all raised our hands.

        She then told us we were all feminists.

        That forever changed my view on feminism.

        But it does have a lot of bad connotations (man-haters, etc). At the end of the day, I don’t like the thought that all feminists HAVE to believe in the same thing. In fact, in my opinion, a feminist that shuns another feminist for not believing all the “right” things is, in my opinion, a deterrent to the concept of the idea.

        I think like many things in life, a Kinsey-type scaling system is reflective of feminism.

        • allison @ thesundayflog February 16, 2012, 7:16 pm

          i was going to comment something very similar. a teacher asked us the same thing and said that anyone who thinks women should have equal wages, rights, etc. as men should be proud to consider themselves a feminist, although i completely agree about stigmas regarding labels. what i DONT understand is people saying, “oh hell no! im not a feminist!” (when in reality, you are!…

          • Chrissy (The New Me) February 16, 2012, 8:42 pm

            Feminism has a bad name *because* certain people in power (cough*men*cough) don’t want women to rise up against them. It’s called the patriarchy.

        • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:10 pm

          Mary – You had a smart professor. I love this story.

  • Sarah February 16, 2012, 4:26 pm

    I really think women are the ones who undermine other women for not wearing the right labels/makeup/hair. The men in my life (friends, family, coworkers) certainly expect a level of grooming associated with me being female, but I think at least some of that is because it’s what I have always put forth.

    It is when I go out with girlfriends that I spend the most time fretting that I don’t look right. Women are the ones who have made me feel self-conscious or upset because of my appearance.

    • Mary @ stylefyles February 16, 2012, 5:58 pm

      The first time I ever felt self-conscious regarding my appearance was when I was 10, at a soccer game. I was playing up a couple age groups, and a male parent (probably annoyed at how good I was) made a comment that I needed to shave my legs.

      That night I went home and shaved for the first time.

      Probably an isolated incident, but still.

      I know women do it too, but I think it’s not a woman-only phenomenon. It’s societal training that both boys and girls learn from a young age, and carry on throughout their lives, unless they take the time to evaluate and dismiss that training.

      • Melissa February 19, 2012, 10:00 am

        I started shaving when I was at a sleepover in 6th grade, and all the other girls were talking about how disgusting it would be if someone our age didn’t shave yet. I don’t think they knew that I didn’t shave…it was winter, so long pants and all.

    • Dana February 16, 2012, 9:41 pm

      Mary – me too. I first started shaving when a boy in my class called me out.

      And a guy I dated a few years ago said he thought it was ‘disgusting’ when a woman didn’t paint her toenails. Ditched him. 🙂

    • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:11 pm

      Interesting observations, Sarah.

      • HTPDad February 17, 2012, 9:32 am

        your last comment – right move.

  • Kathy February 16, 2012, 4:26 pm

    Well first off, let me say your legs look like mine do most of the time. I HATE shaving my legs and rarely do it unless I have a doctor appt. Secondly, you look great without makeup. I personally can’t tell a difference between the two photos. I think when I was younger I dressed to impress. Today, if I dress up, its because I enjoy it. It makes ME feel pretty. I rarely care what others think about how I look. Beauty is definitely inside.

  • Heather February 16, 2012, 4:29 pm

    just as you say “it’s just hair” in the mention of not caring what others are saying about you, I encourage you to think about the “Feminist label” in the same way.

    Guess what – it is JUST a label. And what Feminist means to you, is probably very different than what it means to others.

    The truth is that you do believe in supporting equality where there is normally a social divide based on gender. That, alone, seems “right” to a lot of people. [others, however, may not see it as “right” – but that’s a-whole-nother topic, right?]

    Remember in the hotel room at HLS when we were talking about the panel and such? One of the things we all agreed on, is that as long as our MOTIVES & INTENTIONS are good, and we are doing what we can to with a clear conscious and a pure heart, [and to some extent – for the greater good] then it didn’t matter what anyone said about how/why/what we do on the internet.

    The same thought process can [and in my opinion, should] be used in terms of the feminist label. Your intentions are good, your motives are good – you believe what you believe because it’s in your heart and soul – it doesn’t matter WHAT other people think of you when you declare yourself a Feminist, because if they box you into a corner of definition of what it means to be feminist, you are not to blame.

    It’s the same way with any stereotype, really?

    Thanks to our many discussions in the past, I believe that you, like me, are an advocate for embracing diversity in any and all communities, rather than isolate and divide based on differences. I want to plead here, that you have the power to embrace the fact that there are SEVERAL “types” of feminists, just as much as there are several “types” of every classification. Of course classifications and labels have some things in common, and often times we like to pick on these things and make light and fun of them [things insert classification group here say videos, I’m looking at you!] and even celebrate them, as well [“you should date a blogger/reader/runner” posts of the past, I’m looking at you!] – but the truth is that the DIVERSITY behind the labels are what make them oh-so-special. It makes the world beautiful. [oh, hi! Hippie Heather, here. Reporting for duty.]

    All that to say – embrace what you feel is truly YOU. even if people disagree or question or debate or yell or make an ugly-“oh no she didn’t” face and roll their eyes.
    I know it’s hard. But I also know you can do it. There is no one else out there exactly like you.

    This has been a public service announcement from THS Headquarters, apparently. The more you know. [ding!]

    • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:11 pm

      Haha I love you.

  • Kate February 16, 2012, 4:31 pm

    Do you find the general public treats you differently without makeup?
    I do. If I go to the grocery store made up, wearing nice clothes and looking “pretty”, I find I get treated better. People will go out of their way to assist me.
    On the other hand, if I go in sweats and no make up, I am “invisible” and do not get the same treatment.

    • Laura February 16, 2012, 4:59 pm

      I notice the difference too, but I also notice that I act differently. When I’m dressed up, I feel polished and classy whereas if I’m at the store in sweats I’m just in a rush. Maybe if I’m dressed up I subconsiously want the attention so I act different? Not sure yet…

      • loreejo February 16, 2012, 9:17 pm

        Like Laura, I noticed I acted differently when I went on errands without makeup and/or dressed down. Once I purposed to make eye contact and smile at other people, they replied in kind. No one turned and ran for the hills at seeing me without makeup! Now, I just try to be my same confident self when I don’t wear makeup and find myself wearing it less, comfortably.

    • Rebecca February 16, 2012, 6:17 pm

      People shouldn’t be treated differently because of their appearance. I used to work at a drug store, and we would get all kinds of people–the dental hygienists from down the hall in scrubs, the people coming in on their lunch break or on their way home from work, the people in sweatpants, the kids straight from school in jeans and t-shirts–and I’m pretty sure I didn’t care what they were wearing. It was my job to be cordial and assist them if they asked, not judge them on their appearance and treat them differently depending on what they were wearing. If I did, it was probably done subconsciously.
      I’ve never noticed a difference in the way I’m treated depending on how I dress. Whether I’m in sweatpants or “dressed up,” most people don’t seem to care. Wouldn’t know on the makeup front–I don’t wear it. And no one ever comments on it, except for one customer who thought I was wearing blush when really my face is just naturally kind of red.

    • Jennie (in Wonderland) February 17, 2012, 9:39 pm

      I totally see this — in fact, I’ll go one step further, when I lost about 20-30 pounds about two years ago, I remember going to the airport without my fiance and I was treating just *beautifully* by the staff. It was above and beyond, and I suddenly realized what I was missing out on. I felt confident, pretty, *thin*. It was shocking.

  • Sneakers2Sandals February 16, 2012, 4:35 pm

    I think I need to write a blog post in response to your blog post because I have so much to say! Mostly this impacted me:

    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.

    I know my response has nothing to do with the naked face project, but for awhile now I’ve been afraid to call myself a vegetarian because I don’t want to be judged as one when I eat the wrong thing or wear the wrong thing. I just call myself an almost there, still occasionally eats meat vegetarian. It’s crazy how critical society can be.

    In response to other comments you made. I think that it totally makes sense that you would accentuate other aspects of yourself to compensate for lack of makeup. Think about men. Men do this ALL.THE.TIME. Have you ever been at a party where a man just monopolizes everyone’s attention or is being a jerkhead for no reason? He’s probably compensating for something, let’s be honest. So, as a response, I think if wearing no makeup brings out the BETTER qualities of you, which it seems it does, I think that’s awesome.

  • Shauna February 16, 2012, 4:36 pm

    I found the comparison between feminists and vegetarians very interesting, and quite applicable in terms of what you were saying. I’m a vegetarian, and a feminist. While I don’t think there’s really much of a reason to fear the “feminist” label (most people, it seems, fear it because they think they’d then be perceived as bra-burning, man-hating women, which is ridiculous), I do understand where you’re coming from, as putting yourself out there in the way that you do would certainly mean you’d be prone to others pointing out potentially “unfeminist” things you may say without considering the implications. I know some people took issue with you saying “titty tantrum” at some point (I only remember because I’d never heard that phrase before and looked it up, haha), but I believe stuff like that shouldn’t be a reason for you to disregard the feminist label. It’s a learning process, just like you have your vegetarian gray area, I’m sure there are some gender things you don’t personally take issue with either, and that’s okay.

    Great post! Very insightful and thought-provoking.

  • Sarah February 16, 2012, 4:41 pm

    To be “mean” someone on the yearbook commitee in my high school made up a senior quote for me in which I say something about being a “tree-hugger” and that I am a feminist.
    I thought it was so strange to try to insult me by making up a quote about standing up for the environment and equal rights.

    PS. I read somewhere that armpit hair grows faster than leg hair due to blood flow 🙂

    PPS. I love these posts. They’re very thought provoking.

    • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:12 pm

      Ew those damn tree huggers… Trying to save the planet and all 🙂 What an insult! LOL

      Thank you for reading!

  • Heather February 16, 2012, 4:42 pm

    side note:

    two years ago, I felt a bit of shame anytime I said “I’m a blogger” outloud.

    I felt there was this stigma about blogging. [mostly due to HIMYM & a twix commerical.] And I didn’t want to be associated with THAT stigma.

    In the past two years, of course, a lot has changed. I often tell bloggers who ask for advice on “coming out of the blogging closet” [so to speak] – that the more times you say “I’m a blogger” or “I have a blog” or hand out your business card – the easier it gets. [just like ANYTHING we need to “get used to the feeling” of it until it becomes more natural for us.]

    Something tells me that if you feel you are a feminist, over time it will become easier to say, feel, believe, and declare.

    It begins when we step out of our comfort zone and ‘just do it’ until it becomes our comfort zone.

  • Laura February 16, 2012, 4:46 pm

    This might be slightly off topic but your post made me think about it –

    I was having a discussion with my coworker about women’s fitness magazines and how each section tells us how to be our best in different areas of our lives. While that doesn’t sound bad, she brought up how we as women are expected to be successful at work, have a clean house, be a chef, raise children, be excellent lovers, know everything, be fashionistas, be makeup artists and hair stylists, and then have a bangin’ body to go with it.

    Why do we have to be everything? We can’t honestly be everything. I know that I currently do about 1.5 of those things on that list above and even that is too much. (feel free to speculate about the 1.5 I’m talking about.)

    Where does that pressure come from? Society? Men? Women? Magazine editors? Ourselves?

    • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:13 pm

      I think it comes from the companies that stand to profit off your insecurity with not being good enough at everything (you need to buy products to be awesome at everything, after all…)

  • Victoria (District Chocoholic) February 16, 2012, 4:51 pm

    Ah, yes, the F word.

    Feminism is the radical notion that women are people. Period. Don’t hide from it.

    • Stephanie C February 16, 2012, 8:45 pm

      I love that quote! That’s how I’ve always defined Feminism and personally have no problem identifying as such. It doesn’t mean I’m perfect or I’ve read the “right” books!

  • Kristin February 16, 2012, 4:51 pm

    I didn’t realize you weren’t shaving your armpits?! I could definetly do the no make up thing but no shave armpits…..thats a whole other topic. I couldn’t do it for sure eww and i know i definetly need deaodorant:)

  • K February 16, 2012, 4:52 pm

    Oooh, I love Naomi Wolf and The Beauty Myth is a POWERFUL book! I hope all of the young ladies in my life read it at some point. I read when I was snooping through my sister’s bookshelf in high school and was so amazed by it!

  • Rene February 16, 2012, 4:57 pm

    I’ve been reading your blog for over a year now and this post has forced me out of my cosy lurker hole 🙂
    I simply had to let you know that you should not be afraid to wear the feminist label. Perhaps you are worried to align yourself with it because you don’t like what you perceive it to stand for, but really, all I ever thought it meant was that women and men deserve to be treated equally. That’s all. And how could anyone be ashamed or frightened by that statement?
    Admittedly I didn’t used to go shouting it from the rooftops – “I am a feminist!” – but as the years go by (I am 37, ancient right??? ha ha) I care less and less when people judge my opinions and life choices.
    You’re being so adventurous in ways I would have never thought to question with the Naked Face Project. If you can say “take me as I am world!” with your hairy legs then a little equality shouldn’t be too hard.
    Thanks for providing such a balanced and thoughtful blog, it’s a regular part of my day now!

    • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:13 pm

      Thank you Rene!

  • Brigitte February 16, 2012, 4:59 pm

    I think everyone (men & women) should consider themselves feminists. Because like you said it stands for: “defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women” . We should ALL believe in equality for women. Not just women.

  • Heather February 16, 2012, 5:11 pm

    Interestingly, I don’t notice a big difference between your “made-up” face and your “naked” face.

    • loreejo February 16, 2012, 9:24 pm

      Recently a co-worked came to work and about midday she professed that she’d forgotten to put on mascara (GASP) and I wasn’t sure whether or not I should tell her I hadn’t noticed? She looked just as nice as always, but it makes me think we get a certain level of comfort and confidence just by knowing we put what’s “normal” to us.

  • Tanya February 16, 2012, 5:11 pm

    Great post today. Lots of interesting things to read. It would be easy to write a response novel, but instead I’ll just say:
    1. I think your husband is right. You don’t look very different without makeup.
    2. My 18 year old son has a tshirt that says ‘This is what a feminist looks like’. I’m very proud of him when he wears it.

    • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:14 pm

      Your son is awesome.

  • Liz February 16, 2012, 5:12 pm

    If you believe that women should be treated as equals to men, you are a feminist. Clean and simple. There is no other definition.

  • Hillary February 16, 2012, 5:26 pm

    My boyfriend is a PhD student, and he’s actually more of a feminist than I am—which leads to some really interesting (and often times heated!) conversations. I do consider myself feminist in a lot of ways, but like you, I’m hesitant to take on the label because I’m not a “perfect” one—then again, what am I perfect at? I love that my boyfriend has the views he does—he challenges me to think about my prejudices, routines, etc., things that I’d never think of otherwise.

  • Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife February 16, 2012, 5:27 pm

    Quite interesting read and thoughts! I too can’t believe when my husband says he likes me BETTER with no makeup on. SO interesting. I like a little mascara and eyeliner so I don’t look so tired, but whatever!

  • Leanne W. February 16, 2012, 5:35 pm

    I think it is awesome that you are doing this. Today after work, as my fiance and I were on our way to check out a wedding venue, he turns to me surprised and say “you have make up on!” I work in a hospital so I normally am bare faced. Then the kicker…”you look different, in a good way, but I like you without it.” And that’s why I am marrying the guy haha. Aside, beauty is skin deep.

  • Jen February 16, 2012, 5:37 pm

    I have no qualms about calling myself a feminist because I see feminism as the right to define myself, for myself, not to see myself only in the mirror of other’s views of me.

    • Jen February 16, 2012, 5:38 pm

      And that includes other feminists as well. There is no monolithic “Feminism” but a multiplicity of feminisms.

      • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:14 pm

        Love this comment, Jen.

  • Lauren February 16, 2012, 5:40 pm

    That book sounds really interesting!
    My husband feels the same about makeup, I mean if I’m all dressed up and have a little extra on he notices – but on a daily basis, not so much. He always encourages me to do/wear what makes ME comfortable.
    I’m not a big fan of the feminist label, or any labels in general. What I am a fan of “defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for…” everyone. Also, part of me thinks – at least a little bit – that the feminist label kind of furthers the idea of women as “other”.

  • Verna February 16, 2012, 5:41 pm

    My husband perfers me not to wear make up. Which works out perfect since I hardly ever wear it. I never really have worn it regularly. I can’t really see a difference between your make-up picture and your naked face picture. I think you look beautiful either way!

  • Elizabeth February 16, 2012, 5:44 pm

    You desperately need to read this essay about feminism and calling yourself a feminist: http://tomatonation.com/culture-and-criticism/yes-you-are/

    • Emily February 16, 2012, 6:28 pm

      I totally back this comment. I love that article! Also, if you become more interested in feminist literature, I urge you to read “Feminism is for Everybody” by bell hooks.

    • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:15 pm

      Great links, thanks for sharing.

  • Samantha @ Mama Notes February 16, 2012, 5:53 pm

    I can hardly notice a difference in the two pictures. The lighting is a little different in each but besides that I can’t even tellw hich picture you are wearing mascara or blush or whatever.

    This is interesting. I feel like there is a huge difference in myself too, and I don’t even wear a lot of makeup when I do. But when I put on powder & mascara, I think I look a lot better/different. I wonder if other people notice it or if it’s just me?

    I dont think my husband notices at all!

  • Samantha @ Mama Notes February 16, 2012, 5:59 pm

    I just looked at the gallery you have of women with their “naked face.” I think all of them are pretty and not one of them did I think, “Oh she needs to be wearing makeup!!” This has really got me thinking though, because I can’t even tell in the pictures if they are or aren’t wearing mascara or any other makeup. I wonder if that’s the same way in real life? I feel like I look so much more awake and “put together” when I have mascara and eyeliner on.

    • Chrissy (The New Me) February 16, 2012, 8:49 pm

      But what if one of those women were not conventionally pretty, with or without makeup? Not everyone is beautiful, at least by modern USA standards. Are those the woman that “should” be wearing makeup? Or are we all free to be as natural looking as we like, whether or not we fit into conventional beauty standards?

      • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:15 pm

        Who defines what is conventionally pretty? And who places value on it? And does that really matter until we place additional value on what other people perceive as valuable? These are my current thoughts!

  • Amanda @ AmandaRunsNY February 16, 2012, 6:00 pm

    I don’t get why feminism has to be such a black and white term.

    I do feel weird calling myself that at times because I don’t want to stir the pot. But it’s just a label and whether or not we actually stick that label on ourselves, it doesn’t mean that we don’t believe in those ideals or practice those rights. If you don’t want to call yourself a feminist, than don’t. I won’t judge you.

  • Laura Jane @ Recovering Chocoholic February 16, 2012, 6:07 pm

    I just started reading your blog a few days ago, so I missed the beginning of your project, but I think it’s an interesting idea. Personally, I hate the time/money I have to spend on beauty things, and I wear less beauty products than average. The time and expense adds up, plus I like the way my face feels without products on it. That said, I still wear at least foundation daily.
    As far as the feminist idea, I don’t call myself a feminist because I think that in some cases people consider the idea of men and women being “equal” to mean they should be and be treated the “same,” and I don’t agree with that. I do very strongly believe that men and women are of equal worth, but I still think they are different!

  • Trisha February 16, 2012, 6:13 pm

    Thank you so much for doing this project! We really do spend so much time obsessing about our appearance… time that is being taken away from things MUCH more important in life. I have a lot of work to do on accepting myself how I am and being confident in my own skin. I just got your operation beautiful book and I am about to read it! Can’t wait for your new one to come out in May 🙂

  • CD February 16, 2012, 6:24 pm

    This comment thread is a good example of how the culturally taught feminine value of pleasing others/making sure everyone gets along/not causing trouble is used against women. As many people have already commented, feminism is simply the theory of social equality of the sexes. Yet as soon as feminism is re-cast as something different, and negative–angry, aggressive, anti-men, etc.–many women become afraid to call themselves feminists because they don’t want to “stir the pot” or use something that has a “negative connotation.” Do you see how easy it is to keep women from standing up for themselves? Value yourself and never let fear keep you from advocating for you!

    • Rebecca February 16, 2012, 9:37 pm

      Agree. I really don’t understand the fear. In the post, Caitlin, you say that you don’t care what other people think about your hair. Great! Why the heck would you care of some ignorant people think you’re a “manhater”?

      I see a lot of comments that are disheartening, and I hear a lot of this kind of thing in the real world as well. First of all, many people seem to have a very surface view of feminism. To live in this society and think that gender issues do NOT affect you is naive at best. To look around the world and still remain neutral and under-educated on gender issues is irresponsible.

      Mainly, I worry about women who consider what men will think of them when they proclaim themselves a feminist. This kind of thinking is just really sad to see. Who the HELL cares if a man judges you? I think you would be surprised at the number of men who A) are feminists, and/or B)will respect you for your views. If they don’t, you have many other problems on your hands.

      • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:17 pm

        I don’t think any of these comments are disheartening! I think they are honest and open. Like the self-esteem evolution post, I think it takes many us a while to get to a point where we can say “I am comfortable with this and that.” Some of us take a while to get there… it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it – as long as we are moving forward, right?

        Agree re: Rebecca’s last paragraph on men who don’t respect feminists.

  • Rebecca February 16, 2012, 6:25 pm

    I guess it hadn’t *really* sunk in for me until today that you’re not shaving your armpits. That’s something I would have trouble with… But yesterday was the first time I’d shaved my legs in a long time. It was weird, but kind of fun. I don’t shave them much–I pretty much always wear jeans. It’s kind of fun to have smooth legs, but it’s not a priority most days. Only when I’m sick of the hair…
    A friend of mine said she waxed her legs over the summer and she found that the hair doesn’t grow back as quickly or as thickly (lol, rhyme) versus with shaving. Thought that was interesting.

  • Emily February 16, 2012, 6:26 pm

    It’s a shame that society has conditioned you (and many others) to think that feminism is a “dirty” word.
    There is not one “type” of feminism nor is there one decided and definite mission. To me, I define feminism as a movement to end all oppression and a movement striving for all individuals no matter their sex, gender, social class, ability, race, whatever.
    I most certainly own the label; I’m a proud feminist. I’m glad that you have at least reflected on why you choose not to call yourself a feminist, but I question those that would call you out for not being a “perfect” feminist.
    In my mind, feminism is going against perfection. I feel any feminist effort is great, if more people would make small efforts, this world can could change.
    I urge you to reconsider calling yourself a feminist. By refusing to apply the label, you are perpetuating the notion that feminism IS dirty and bad. How can a movement calling for equal opportunity for everyone be bad?

    • Emily February 16, 2012, 6:34 pm

      And apparently I can’t make up my mind between can/could. Oops.
      Also, I read the other comments and I’m LOVING this discussion.

  • Jen February 16, 2012, 6:29 pm

    To me, being a feminist means that I support all other women to make the choices that they want to make in life, without finding them at fault for whatever those choices may be (excluding things like breaking the law, sleeping with a friend’s husband, etc). It also means that I believe women should get paid the same amount as men and should have the same opportunities and representation in legislative bodies as they do in the general population. However, I don’t find that I label myself as a feminist. I think this is mostly because I believe that all humans – across sexual, racial, and national boundaries – deserve these respects. I guess I would technically be a humanist.

    • Charise February 17, 2012, 8:32 am

      This is exactly what I was going to say with regards to choices. I think some actions that could be seen as “anti-feminist” are really things that are just fine as long as you have thought about it and made an intentional CHOICE to do so rather than “having to because you’re a woman”. This applies to things like staying home with kids, doing the majority of the cooking/cleaning, wearing makeup/dressing up, etc.

  • Alex @ Raw Recovery February 16, 2012, 6:32 pm

    I really liked this post because I have a lot to say about it. The first thing most people wonder when I tell them I go to an all-women’s college is if I’m gay or bisexual. They also most often presume I’m a feminist. My transition from a pretty conservative, “straight” Republican high school to a VERY liberal, liberal arts college was a big one for me, especially when it came to issues of sexuality and feminism. I thought feminists tended to have more powerful (yet intimidating) voices and never shaved. It’s funny that looking back as a senior I see how things have changed. Sexuality isn’t as black and white as I once thought it would be (and this is something I cannot discuss with my family or even some friends who knew my high school self) and neither is feminism. I’m now pretty firmly a feminist and at times have no trouble or qualms making that explicitly clear. There is however, as for all things I believe, a time and place about when it is really appropriate to push the boundaries and people around you. Sometimes your message or beliefs fall on deaf ears or at other times are met with such controversy and objection that the conversation can’t really be pushed forward in any sort of healthy or productive way. Is there such a thing as a “bad” feminist? I’m not so sure. Is every woman at my school a feminist just because they chose an all-women’s college? Absolutely not. I know women who don’t want to be associated with feminism because of those preconceptions and stereotypes surrounding it, or just because they simply don’t adhere to it. I’m proud to be a woman and a feminist and happy to use the word vagina when the time is right. Sometimes I wear makeup, sometimes I don’t. I’m learning I’m beautiful either way because a “pretty face” doesn’t equate to having a pretty heart. Having a beautiful spirit is so much more attractive and inviting to me than having makeup on and looking perfect. Just me three (because it was so long) cents.

  • Sarah @ The Strength of Faith February 16, 2012, 6:37 pm

    The part about labels is really interesting, Caitlin, especially because I am a woman in the ministry, a role men have typically had (although that is changing a lot now!). I was in seminary when I got married and got a little bit of slack for taking my husband’s name when I got married. It was like because I didn’t want to hold onto my identity (which I’m not sure how keeping my father’s name did that) I wasn’t worthy of being a woman in a male-dominated profession.

    I hesitate to use the term feminist when I talk about myself because there are certain things that I do that would give me the label “bad feminist”. I wear makeup when I have meetings or worship, changed my name, do our laundry, my husband does car-stuff, etc. etc. But we honestly split out roles by our strengths and our weaknesses – and there are ways that we have broken the traditional molds in how we split roles in our life and marriage.

    In the end, I think feminism is about having choices and making informed decisions. You should wear make up, not wear make up, stay at home, work outside the home, pay the bills, let your husband pay the bills, clean by yourself, clean together, change your name, not change your name, etc. etc. because you have the ability to choose, not because society is dictating something. I’d hate to think that we have come so far only to tear each other down for the choices we are making.

  • ML February 16, 2012, 6:42 pm

    Caitlin, I hardly ever comment but feel compelled to because I feel fairly strongly about this. Like many commenters above, I really don’t understand why someone would shy away from calling him/her self a feminist. Feminism means that you believe in gender equality. I know some people in the world don’t, but to me, that’s really a hard statement to argue with. As someone said above, many women are afraid to be seen as feminists because they don’t want to “stir the pot.” This is so silly! It’s not “stirring the pot” to say you believe in gender equality! It’s the person who CANNOT say she’s a feminist who should be ashamed, IMO. Or should at least think long and hard about why she doesn’t believe women deserve equality with men. Belief in equality is never something to be ashamed of.

    You may remember that movie that came out a few years ago “the other boleyn girl”, with natalie portman and scarlett johansen. I watched an interview of the two stars, and one of the questions was whether, given that the movie featured strong female leads, they considered themselves feminists. they both said no! I was honestly really shocked. I can’t even remember their reasons, but I thought it was sad.

    • ML February 16, 2012, 6:46 pm

      Oh, and I feel no hesitation to call myself a feminist despite shaving my legs, wearing make up and skirts, and engaging in other gender-stereotypical activities (although I think it’s great to question why we do these things– as you’re doing!). Being a feminist does not mean behaving in a “gender-neutral” manner at all times, whatever that means. It means, among other things, recognizing that what we perceive as “gender-neutral” or “gender stereotypical” are merely social constructs.

      • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:18 pm

        Interesting points about gender neutral being a social construct – some of this stuff hurts me to wrap my brain around but you are so right!!!!

  • yvonne February 16, 2012, 6:47 pm

    I call myself a feminist out of respect to those women who fought so hard to give me the rights I have today. Every time I refer to myself as one, I am reminded that if it was not for those women, I would be in a very different situation today. It’s a reminder to be grateful, but also to remember that I have a duty to make sure that the women after me not only share my freedoms, but also hopefully have more advantages and freedoms than I do. I could care less about whether someone chooses to wear makeup or not, but I want to protect that woman’s (or man’s) right to do so.

    • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:18 pm

      Amen, Yvonne!

  • Dana @ the Big Fat Skinny February 16, 2012, 6:53 pm

    Thanks for filling us in on the juicy details too — its definitely been a question floating around in my mind.

    Onto the deeper things though — I also hesitate to put labels on myself. Yes, I am a vegeterian, but rarely like to qualify myself that way to others because like you, I know that some people may say that I am not a “perfect” one, and so, it’s just easier to qualify myself as the one thing that I am perfect at being – ME. I think that goes for anything – feminist, vegeterian, liberal, republican, democrat, etc. I RARELY put myself into ANY of these boxes because I think that I take a little bit from everything I learn, and form my own opinions and beliefs, and some may not fit perfectly into any textbook definition.

    I’m taking a parent workshop right now, and this week we discussed putting our children into boxes by labeling them in certain ways – shy, princess, terrible-two, teenager, etc. To me, I never thought of using “shy” when describing my daughter as being limiting, but when you think of it, maybe it can be. She may hear me apologizing for her not wanting to say hello to a stranger by saying, “oh, she’s a little shy”. This may (A) give her an excuse in the future (a crutch) to not engage with people, “I can’t talk to them, I’m too shy”. Or, (B), it may make her fearful of becoming outgoing if she feels so inclined because I’ve already qualified her as being shy. I know that that doesn’t have to particularly do with feminism, but I think it can definitely relate — You can certainly believe in women, and support all of the goals that the Feminist agenda proposes, or you can be a Vegeterian, but to qualify yourself as a Feminist or any other label FIRST I think is kind of limiting. I think at our best we’re always learning and evolving, and simply being the best version of ourselves is good enough. 🙂

    As always, I’m inspired by the project — really cool, good for you!

  • Lauren @ Sassy Molassy February 16, 2012, 7:06 pm

    It depends, sometimes if I feel like I look blah, I want to talk less, but other times I do feel like I have something to prove. Funny how a little tinted moisturizer, bronzer and mascara can change things.

  • Emma February 16, 2012, 7:08 pm

    Hi Caitlin,

    I’m 23 years old and personally have no problem with calling myself a feminist, though I know many women my age and younger who are apprehensive to use the label. I think that this is very common with young because of the man-hating, confrontational stereotype that you alluded to in your post.

    My comfort with the term feminist, in large part, stems from the way that a professor once explained feminism to our class. Feminism, she said, was about choice. It is about making it possible for women (and all peoples) to have the opportunity to make their own choices, without gender, social, economic, etc. barriers getting in the way.

    To apply this definition to the Naked Face Project, one can say that the pressures women feel to alter their appearance in order to look a certain way work to inhibit their freedom the choose how they want to look.

    I love this definition because at the heart of it is inclusiveness. It rejects exclusion and judgement. Fundamentally, feminism is about respecting the choices women make and supporting their right make them.

    Nearly all women who call themselves feminists believe in this, even the “angry” ones. And it is for this reason that the “angry” feminist stereotype doesn’t scare me away from the word.


    • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:19 pm

      Thanks Emma for this comment!

  • Britt @ The Busy Bee Writes February 16, 2012, 7:35 pm

    Great post!! I am very interested in your project and I was considering my own personal little version of it. I’d have to make up my own rules, because I can’t give up shaving. It isn’t an “eeww gross hair!” thing. But more of a “wow, that really itches” thing.

    I also felt compelled to say two (somewhat contradictory) things about labels. On the one hand, I completely understand the problem with defining oneself as *insert label here*. There are certain social stigmas and even negative connotations associated with being a feminist. On the other hand, there is no such thing as a perfect feminist. I was a Women’s Studies major and worked with many different organizations throughout the past 8 years that were dedicated to female empowerment (mostly through ending gendered violence, but also many orgs directed at positive self image and intersected identities). I’ve worked with my fair share of women who identify as a feminist. Some married men, wore make-up, and stayed at home to raise kids. Others married women, shaved their heads, and dedicated their time to their careers rather than children. And these are just two of the countless traits that I saw feminists take on. At the end of the day, feminists are men and women who see the genders as being equal. Part of the equality is the choice. The choice to have children or not. The choice to stay at home or not. The choice to love chick flicks and wear dresses and be pro-life and Christian and…

    So, I’m certainly not trying to persuade you either way. I completely understand where you are coming from. Just remember that no feminist is perfect, most especially those who seek to tear others down.

  • Lee February 16, 2012, 7:40 pm

    It’s really interesting that you are afraid to call yourself a feminist because you worry that you’re not a good enough one. Mainly because I do that with a lot of areas in my life. People say that I’m a runner, a photographer, a writer and I quickly try to correct them even though I am those things, calling myself them might imply that I’m great at them, which I am not. However, in order to be something, you don’t have to be 100% dedicated to it, I’ve found.

    Also, I never really would have noticed that you didn’t have makeup on in the second picture if you hadn’t brought it to my attention. Although I knew you were doing this project, I honestly really never thought about you looking any different when you post pictures of yourself.

    • Amanda @ Diary of a Semi-Health Nut February 16, 2012, 8:08 pm

      I feel the same way in those areas too! It’s so interesting to actually think about it.
      “Are you a runnner?”
      “Well, er, kinda, but not really..I just run a couple of times a week.”
      The correct response should be, “Yes!”

      • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:19 pm

        I think this issue does extend to a lot of labels… good enough wife, mom, runner, vegetarian, christian, whatever.

  • Angie All The Way February 16, 2012, 7:48 pm

    The last thing I think about your post is “scattered” because I think it is so beautifully thought out and written! Bravo!

    I share your same hesitance to commit myself as a “feminist”. Partly it is, like you mentioned, that I’m not educated enough to have a well-rounded opinion on all of the issues it encompasses. I’ve taken my fair share of women’s studies and philosophy classes as electives in my education, but not enough to confidently “debate” points of view. With that said, my eyes were opened to an entirely new perspective taking those classes when I moved to the city from a very small town. At 18, I hadn’t even heard of women’s studies and before I knew it, my sheltered young mind was blown and changed forever, in a very good way. Having said all of that, I can say that I kind of feel like you do about making your own vegetarian lifestyle that suits you – I feel like I am ok with not being a 100% devout feminist and any woman who tries to make me feel inadequate for that is really kind of being a hypocrite, aren’t they?

    • Charise February 17, 2012, 8:40 am

      I don’t think you have to be super well-educated and opinionated on all the issues to call yourself a feminist! I think part of the misconception is that “feminist” means politically active in trying to improve equality, which isn’t true. As many commenters have said, believing in equal rights/opportunities/choices for ALL people makes you a feminist – you don’t have to be a debater!

      • Angie All The Way February 17, 2012, 9:50 am

        I 100% agree. However, I think it is partly a respect for knowing I’m not as knowledgeable in the area as some others (doesn’t mean I don’t think my opinion has less value), and also I think the hesitance comes from the reluctance for confrontation. This is true for almost any topic people feel passionately about – there are people who are all up in your face if you’re not 100% with things – veganism, vegetarianism, feminism etc. Not saying all “active” feminists ARE, but I happen to know a few people who are all up in your face about it ALL the time. I think it’s just a part of their personality (these particular people, not “feminist” people in general) – a love for confrontation & debate.

  • Lauren February 16, 2012, 8:05 pm

    Such beautiful posts!!! I’m in complete awe of your strength and humility. Amazing girl!

  • Misti February 16, 2012, 8:10 pm

    I went backpacking on the Appalachian Trail for 5 months and coming back home to the onslaught of beauty products was overwhelming for me. I had already been eschewing makeup for awhile and felt most comfortable not wearing it. But coming back to magazines and all the things we have to buy, buy, buy—wow.

    Now when I wear makeup it is more about being a special thing for a night out or an event. It’s not an every day thing.

    But…I do like shaving my pits again! 😉

  • Amanda @ Diary of a Semi-Health Nut February 16, 2012, 8:13 pm

    I love the idea of this. Plus I hate shaving. But honestly I am not sure I have the confidence to dive head-first into it like you two are.

    I have been going bare-faced…as in I will only wear mascara, which is a triumph for me because I have always been a little embarrassed by my skin!

    And isn’t it funny the things that guys notice (or don’t notice)? I painted my nails BRIGHT red because I thought it was sexy and I never paint my nails, but BF didn’t notice it until I told him two days later.

    I guess sometimes we do those things for ourselves or to impress other…girls? The ones who notice? 😉

  • stefanie February 16, 2012, 8:19 pm

    Caitlin, I really appreciate the direction your blog has been going lately.
    I stopped shaving and wearing any make-up or fragrances 2 years ago and I feel so much more in touch with my body. I’ve noticed I relate to people differently since cutting all that out, meaning without the “distraction” of perfume, hair products, and make-up it is easier for me to be real with myself and others. Plus my skin, hair, and body in general feel so much better without the added layers of paint, polish, and fragrance.
    While I agree with you in that shaving and perfume aren’t inherently bad, I have definitely become so much more aware of how I perceive and carry myself with and without them. I really love the sense of freedom I get from not primping or spending so much time in front of the mirror prepping myself for the day. I feel beautiful and healthy, my skin glows and I want it to show.

    Self-titled feminist or not, I think women are powerful, strong, smart, and quite often undervalued. We are, after all, still operating under the same constitution written by WHITE, SLAVE-OWNING MALES. So yes, I think the “system” is set up to the advantage of folks that fit that description. I speak up when male voices are the only ones I hear, but I think the liberation of one social group is inherently bound to that of every other. Meaning, there will be no end to patriarchy until there is an end to racism.

    • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:20 pm

      hi, i want to be your friend in real life!

  • Emily February 16, 2012, 8:22 pm

    As a post grad politics student feminism means something differrent to me. In political analysis feminism is the idea that gender explains things. That what happens in the world is because of patriarchal power plays. So its not just about saying women are equal: its about seeing gender issues in everything. Whereas other people see other identities (class, religion, ethnicity, etc) as better explaining what happens in the world. In a conflict situation a feminist would focus on the women wjo are oppressed, when it might be more insightful to look at an ethnic group. When analysing a legislature a feminist bemoans the lack of women, but the general public frequently feels lack of class representation is more important.

    This is one reason someone like me may believe in equal gender rights but not call themselves a feminist. Feminism is not just about equality. Feminism has an analysis and an agenda to go with it.

    • briana February 17, 2012, 8:21 am

      I’m a history graduate student, and I have to say this narrow definition just doesn’t ring true for me. The academic feminist theorists I’m aware of all see “intersectionality” as a key component of their analysis–intersectionality basically being the theory that our various axes of identity (gender, race, class, sexuality, etc.) and thus the various systems of oppressions (patriarchy, racism, socioeconomic inequality, homophobia, etc.) are inextricably connected. They co-constitute and reaffirm one another and thus must be analyzed in tandem.

      • Stacy February 17, 2012, 12:18 pm

        Briana, I agree with you. What Emily is describing is activism.

  • Jamie @ Don't Forget the Cinnamon February 16, 2012, 8:24 pm

    I find the stigma surrounding the word feminist really interesting! The term has definitely gotten a bad connotation! I have a friend who’s really really into feminism and women’s rights issues and she’s always reminding those around her that any woman or man who agrees to any extent with the statement that woman and men deserve equal rights is in fact a feminist…meaning (hopefully) a majority of our country consists of feminists!

  • JenRD February 16, 2012, 8:45 pm

    Great topics for thought! I find it very interesting how you noticed that you try to shine in other ways when you are with friends, sans makeup. I myself do the same thing with my friends or husband when I feel guilty about something, that I was not being a good friend or wife, so I try to make up for it in other ways. Not that you should feel guilty whatsoever, but I wonder if guilt plays a role?
    As far as your hsuband’s reaction, I remember learning in a sociology class years ago that when a couple is together a while, they tend to see more of a blurry, less focused image of the other, and are not tuned into the details as much; rather they recognize the familiar scent, voice, gait, profile, etc. That is why a new haircut often goes unnoticed for both parties.
    The second thread you discussed is also very interesting. I read a book a while ago, “The Body Project,” which goes into that a bit from a historical perspective. http://www.thebodyproject.com/book.cfm
    I bet you never would have predicted where this project has taken you so far!


  • Aylin February 16, 2012, 8:54 pm

    I have always considered myself a feminist. But I think it can be a divisive word, since women vary so much amongst themselves, and also it can alienate men pretty easily with all the easy anger towards generations of patriarchy. Obviously, there is still a huge lack of equality between men and women here and across the globe, yet it’s important to remember that as much as I am a feminist, I also believe in human rights period. I think sadly a lot of women treat men not as human beings like themselves, but as some sort of “other.” I think society does this to women by objectifying them left and right, but it still makes me sad when women do it right back to men, and then suffer in their unhealthy relationships.

  • Jennifer February 16, 2012, 8:57 pm

    Whenever I’m met with surprise at my declaration of being a feminist (“Really, you’re a feminist?”), my favorite response is, “Of course I am, aren’t you?”

    I agree with the definition you found of feminism, and I absolutely refuse to let others dirty the word for me.

  • Kadye February 16, 2012, 9:21 pm

    It’s really fun to keep up with the Naked Face Project. I’d probably keep using deodorant. While I may not mind so much how I look, I do mind if I smell. And I’ve forgotten deodorant before, so I know I wouldn’t be able to. Has their been a difference in facial hair?

    • Kadye February 16, 2012, 9:21 pm

      *there, not their. I know the difference, I promise. I is educated.

      • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:21 pm

        Facial hair? Like mine? I don’t have any!

        • Laura February 17, 2012, 12:43 am

          Well, most people at least have eyebrows. 😀

        • Vikki February 17, 2012, 11:42 am

          You’re super lucky. I have to pluck, tweeze, and trim my chin and upper lip. I couldn’t imagine letting that go for sixty days. I know a lot of people with the same issue.

  • Sig February 16, 2012, 9:24 pm

    Hi Caitlin,

    Huge fan of the blog and long time reader 🙂 I think this whole project is really interesting and has definitely made me think hard about some of the things we do without realising the deeper meaning behind it. I’d LOVE to not wear makeup, but feel there’s an invisible fear that if I step outside of my home without my ‘shield’ as such – people won’t really like who I really am. Although, totally comfortable makeupless, unshaved pits/legs with the husband at home 😛

    In terms of labels – I’d consider myself a feminist without a second thought. But, what I am realising as well that within feminism there can be such a huge range of choices and thoughts that sometimes we forget that we’re all on the same side.

    Another blogger/writer I read has some great articles on the fear of labels and the beauty myth:




    • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:21 pm

      Thanks for these links – awesome. And thanks for reading!

  • Dana February 16, 2012, 9:25 pm

    I also used to feel that the term ‘feminist’ had negative connotations, until I realized that being a feminist means believing in women, being a woman, and being comfortable in this female role. For me, being a feminist is being my self.

    Love the post, and love the project. I grew up in the woods of Maine, and was never into makeup and only shaved in the summer. After moving to Southern CA and then Atlanta, I ramped up the beauty routine quite a bit. A few months ago, I reassessed what I was doing to myself (making myself crazy), and brought myself back to earth and reclaimed my inner Dana.

    I wear foundation to cover my rosacea and shave about once a week. I wear clothes that are comfortable and that make me feel confident. I believe that is when a woman shines – when she feels comfy cozy in her own skin. For some that is dressing to the nines and wearing a lot of makeup. For others it is a naked face and no shaving. A confident, comfortable woman is a beautiful woman.

    Thanks again for your thoughts!

    • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:21 pm

      LOVE —> “For me, being a feminist is being my self.”

  • Ellen February 16, 2012, 9:29 pm

    I really admire you for doing the Naked Face Project…it really puts things into perspective. I have to say, I am WAY too hard on myself and always wanting to be better. (Living in NYC can do that to ya!) But, I’m really trying hard to be happy in the now and where I’m at in my journey, and this was a good reminder 🙂

  • KParker February 16, 2012, 9:32 pm

    Just wanted to say that I definitely do not see any measurable difference between your made-up and un-made-up face. You are JUST lovely. It’s amazing how many of these perceptions are in our own heads, isn’t it?

  • KParker February 16, 2012, 9:39 pm

    I’d like to add that I once (ONCE.) met a young girl around 25 or so who staunchly considered herself NOT a feminist. I was literally left speechless. It just made me shockingly aware just how bastardized and politicized the meaning of the word has become. But what I heard from this young girl was that she didn’t value herself or put herself as a human being on the same level with other human beings. She considered herself LESS THAN, accepted her diminished role and her place in the shadows, and even felt some measure of pride in it. I can think of few things more mentally ill. All I can hope is that she truly didn’t understand the concept, and that she’d bought into an agenda that feminists are all unattractive, loud-mouthed, man-hating lesbians. (I’m from the South, and I can attest to the fact that there are many people there who do believe this to be the very definition of feminism.)

    It’s just stupifying on several levels!

  • Kristin February 16, 2012, 11:02 pm

    I think you are incredible. I look forward to reading your blog every day. I feel the same way about feminism. I am working on a master’s degree in sociology and last semester I discovered there are many different types of feminism (at least over 20). I actually wrote a paper on socialist feminism. Since doing the research, I have become better at articulating my thoughts when it comes to women’s issues. My boyfriend thinks sociology has made me a feminist, but the truth is the feelings were always there-I just didn’t know how to express my feelings in a sophisticated manner until learning more on the subject-and my knowledge still doesn’t even scratch the surface 🙂

    • Caitlin February 16, 2012, 11:23 pm

      YES! I agree. It’s amazing how when you actually sit down to really think and explore topics, to read and discuss them with others, you have all these understandings and revealations! Honestly, I think this is something that adults should do more often – it kind of temporarily stopped for me after college. It’s fun to get that sense of self-exploration back.

  • Jess February 16, 2012, 11:36 pm

    So glad you’re enjoying “The Beauty Myth”! I also recommend Naomi Wolf’s “Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood.” I’m reading it now and it’s very eye-opening for me, as I’m TTC. I imagine you’ll feel similarly since you’re pregnant.

  • Anj February 16, 2012, 11:42 pm

    I think its wonderful that you’re able to be open and genuine that you feel uncomfortable saying you’re a feminist. There is definitely a double bind for people if they identify as anything (like your example of vegetarians being called out for things). I know I get flack for being a feminist and wearing makeup or putting together outfits that are cute. I think there is something called reverse discrimination that people do unknowingly when they’re so caught up in advocating for a specific belief set. It is unfortunate but I don’t let it stop me from being a proud feminist (although it was a developmental process getting here).

  • Juliette @ Finish Your Broccoli February 16, 2012, 11:53 pm

    As a Women’s Studies major in college, I took a lot of heat from friends and family who had their own preconceived ideas of what that meant – lesbian, uber liberal, man hater, take your pick. I chose to major in this field because I’m fascinated by the neverending intersections that gender plays in everyday life. I wanted to learn and read and write as much as possible about each of the different philosophies, perspective, methods, etc. so that I could have that lens from which to view and analyze the world around me. I consider myself a feminist because at the end of the day, the notion of women being respected and equal is of the utmost importance to me. I know my version of feminism is different from others, but when we argue about whose version is right or more perfect is when conflict arises. I doubt that the definition of feminism will ever be perfectly complete and unanimous for all. But I’m still proud to call myself a feminist and stand up for what I believe that means for me.

  • Jen February 17, 2012, 1:37 am

    You are so lucky! My legs would look like that in three days, tops (I wish I were kidding). Also, I am pretty sure that I would “smell” without the deo. Not to mention, you look fantastic without makeup!

    That said, I truly respect and admire you for carrying this out! I do have all the respect in the world for women who embrace this as a lifestyle, but still think that it takes a lot of courage – especially for someone accustomed to all of the “girly” rituals/routines. 🙂

    • Jen February 17, 2012, 1:47 am

      Oh! And, regarding the feminist label, I totally understand what you mean. Obviously, I support women’s rights and equality, but the word does have so many negative connotations…and that, I agree, is a shame.

  • Laura Ann February 17, 2012, 2:01 am

    I totally get where you’re coming from b/c it seems like you have to constantly defend yourself on here! I’m loving reading these thought-provoking posts!

  • Lisa February 17, 2012, 2:03 am

    I don’t have a formal education in women’s studies but I do have my life experience over the past 27 years. I don’t know if my thoughts play into societal labels, but I do think that feminine routines/feminine beauty standards effects more areas of life than one tends to realize.
    It’s taken me a long time to realize that I was affected as much as I was, let alone begin to change my thought processes. I know as a woman I have consciously avoided activities or experiences because my beauty regime would be altered. How many times did I not go for a swim because I had just spent 30 minutes on my hair (and didn’t want to have to re-do it)? How many times did I think my routine would be interrupted by traveling (but how will I shave my legs if I’m backpacking?)? How many times have I pushed down my emotions because I didn’t want my mascara to smear?
    The funny thing is I have always been the least “girly” girl I know and I still have these hang-ups that I fight on a regular basis. I’m only beginning to understand these things and why I may or may not do them…thank you for sharing your experience with us – I look forward to your NFP updates every week.

  • Nora February 17, 2012, 2:47 am

    I usually don’t comment on blogs (this is my first time), but as a longtime reader and a social worker specializing in sexual assault therapy, I felt compelled to respond to this post. I think it’s really great that you’re encouraging dialogue around the feminist label and honestly sharing your personal thought process. There are definitely many different types of feminism, and each person will have their own beliefs about what fits for them; but a true feminist is someone who believes in equality and social justice. Some shave, some don’t; some work, some don’t; some follow Naomi Wolf avidly, some criticize her work. All forms of oppression are linked, so you can even still be a feminist while primarily focusing on issues around racism, classism, heterosexism, ableism, etc. The part of society which benefits from being on the privileged end of the privilege/oppression system will do what it can to keep its power, which means that the label has been fragmented so that it makes it harder for women and others to organize on a unified front, so it’s understandable that people have qualms about it.

    In the US, 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime and 1 in 3 will be in an abusive partner relationship. Rape culture that minimizes and excuses this is scarily embedded in our society. This is a pretty heavy reality to be up against, and there are days when I feel like I don’t want to be a feminist, and I just want to see a movie without having to think about the controlling male lead or the lack of women of color in solid lead roles and eat my popcorn in peace. Even after being active in social justice and awareness campaigns for years, I still feel like the shroud is still only slowly being lifted for me, and that’s okay – education, compassion and openness are what counts, and the people who are worth learning from will share knowledge kindly. For me, feminism is about community and learning, and about creating a better world where all people can be safe, be healthy, be themselves and thrive. For all of the hard stuff behind the label, I personally have found an amazing sisterhood and community in it, a ton of education and a new way of seeing the world, and a whole new sense of empowerment; and I wish that for others as well whether they adopt the label or not. Thanks for bringing this important discussion up so that all of your readers have the space to talk about what it means to them!

    • Caitlin February 17, 2012, 9:57 am

      I wish you lived in Charlotte so we could be friends in real life and have all sorts of interesting discussions about this very topic!!!

  • AmandaonMaui February 17, 2012, 6:23 am

    Were you using deodorant before, or were you using anti-persparant? The former is a better idea, and there are many natural deodorant options including my favorite (and my mechanic dad’s favorite) crystal deodorant. Anti-persperants contain aluminum, which can be absorbed into your skin and may cause health problems. Also, when I used to use A-P I would get sweat bumps because my body was unable to release the toxins it was holding. Sweating is a wonderful thing, and you’ve written about it.

    If you, or Molly, find yourselves smelly then there may be something in what you’re eating that is being released in your sweat. It may also be a sign that you’re ill. If it’s just general stink then try deodorant instead.

    • Caitlin February 17, 2012, 9:57 am

      I used Liquid Rock from Kiss my Face – I dont know if its a deo or AP. It’s a good one though!

      I’ve also heard that vegetarians’ body fluids smell less because they don’t eat meat. I don’t know if that is true.

  • AmandaonMaui February 17, 2012, 6:28 am

    If you want a great starter book on feminism check out bell hook’s book “Feminism is for Everybody.” You’ll never hesitate again to say that you’re a feminist, if you are.

  • Erin February 17, 2012, 6:44 am

    I think the Naked Face Project is a good personal experiment. What you mentioned about how your Mom influenced your beauty habits/routines I found very interesting, as I on the contrary, was influenced by my father. I suppose it has to do with who you are closest with growing up? My mom wore make up but not much, but my Dad was totally anti-make up and beauty regimens in general. I, being a total Daddy’s girl, went all natural and was embarassed at the concept of wearing make up. Now however, I don’t generally wear make up, I do hair removal but only around once a month, and I don’t wear deodorant (I wash, I see no need) and luckily my husband gets me and has no problem with any of this. One thing which is interesting for me as a women in now occasionally experimenting with make up and not feeling “embarased to be wearing it. Maybe I should do the “Painted Face Project” instead? Haha…

  • Emily February 17, 2012, 7:34 am

    This is quite simply a brilliant post! I find makeup to be quite an inconvenience at times. In summer I shave my pits regularly but in winter I just do it once a week. As for my legs, I don’t show them off often so why bother? I couldn’t live without deoderant because I am admittedly a very self-conscious person about odour and unfortunately I haven’t gained the gift to not care what people think . . . though it is a skill that would be invaluable to me.

    As for vegetarianism, I’ve tried but I don’t know enough about satisfying foods without animal products.

    Where I live, at my age – 20 – girls are made to feel ashamed if we’re still virgins which I think is REALLY sad and something I stand for in a small act of feminism. Virginity is a gift, not a burden.

    I wish you all the best in the rest of the journey:)

    • Emily February 17, 2012, 7:34 am

      stand against*

    • Caitlin February 17, 2012, 9:56 am

      The virginity thing is interesting to me because 30 years ago, virginity was a ‘good’ thing and now it’s something to get rid of. I’d like to read more about this topic – I wonder if it’s covered in later chapters of the Beauty Myth.

  • Sarah@The Flying ONION February 17, 2012, 8:19 am

    This was so well written, Caitlyn, and I’m so intrigued by this whole process!

    I’m not married, nor am I currently dating anyone, so the hairy leg thing isn’t that big a deal for me (it’s actually kind of semi-normal in the winter…haha…here’s to honesty!)

    But no makeup? I’m the type of girl who has to at least put mascara and blush on before going to the SUPERMARKET. And now you have me asking why. This is so intriguing, so insightful, and goes right along with Operation Beautiful. Keep it up, Caitlyn! You are making women THINK!

  • Susan February 17, 2012, 8:50 am

    Even though there is lots to comment on this post, I really just want to put my two cents in about the hair. As you know, I just finished 6 months of chemotherapy and lost almost all the hair on my body. I actually missed it while it was gone and I am now celebrating that my leg and armpit hair is sprouting back. It REALLY bugs me when other women will say “Eewww, leg hair is gross!” As you said, it’s just hair. What in our lives have taught us that a little hair on our shins is gross? I can think of a lot more things that are “gross.” That’s not to say I’ll never shave again, but for now I wear my hair with pride, thankful to have any to begin with 🙂

    • Caitlin February 17, 2012, 9:55 am

      Perspective is a powerful thing 🙂 I’m so happy you are cancer free!!!

  • Amy February 17, 2012, 9:18 am

    I just wanted to briefly comment and say that you are an inspiring young lady and I truly enjoy following your blog and “watching” you progress through life. You are going to make one hell of a mother. You have a lot to offer. Thanks for sharing it with the world.

    • Caitlin February 17, 2012, 9:54 am

      Thank you Amy 😉

  • Sara February 17, 2012, 9:19 am

    According to guy friends/my brother/guys I’ve dated, men really can’t tell the difference between no makeup and a little makeup (the amount you’d probably wear to go to work). They DO notice when you have a ton of makeup on for evening…and they don’t really like it! Women dress for each other, not for men.

  • Erin February 17, 2012, 9:34 am

    I read “The Beauty Myth” last year, and agree with you when you say it is a polarizing and opionated book. With that said, it made me question why I do certain things, what they mean, etc. It helped me to make certain positive changes in my life, like buying fashion magazines for the sole purpose of comparing myself to the images on the glossy pages and putting myself down for not being “good enough.”
    It also made me more of a feminist. I use the term differently, though, than others might use it. I’m not extreme, as in wanting a matriarchal society, but I am very vocal about more equality, more social power, and being taken seriously in politics instead of marginalized.

    However, I don’t like using labels in general because as soon as you put a label on something or someone, you create barriers. And we have too many barriers in the world today, too many lines and borders that take our focus away from things that deserve more attention. So when I am in company that uses labels, I call myself a feminist, in general the term is not something I feel a need to write on myself or necessarily share with everyone I meet, unless the conversation steers in that direction. I hope this makes sense.

    Something else you might like is the documentary called, “Miss Representation.” It’s phenominal and amazing and everyone should watch it.

    • Caitlin February 17, 2012, 9:53 am

      I agree re: labels creating barriers. They can be helpful or hurtful.

  • Stephanie February 17, 2012, 9:35 am

    I love your recaps of the naked face project! I’m (kind of) motivated to try it for a week or two.

  • Audrey February 17, 2012, 9:46 am

    Being a feminist means you believe that you should be able to make the choice to wear make-up or not, to shave or not, to wear deodorant or not, to work or not… basically to live your life in the way you want to and NOT have society look down on you or treat you differently than men for your choices.

    I also had a hard time seeing myself as a feminist for the same reasons you did and because of a view I had of feminists after taking a women’s studies course. (AWFUL CLASS!). Then I just went to a book talk by Meg of apracticalwedding.com that forever changed my views.

  • Sara February 17, 2012, 10:00 am

    I had a similar moment when I first started dating who is now my husband. He said “you don’t wear makeup do you?” And it made me rethink my makeup routine. I think it just made me think “ya know what? He must love me for me and not pay a whole lot of attention to this or that about my outward appearance. He loves me for me!” And I have since used less and less makeup and beauty products. Simple makes me happy. And that’s the real reason I don’t wear a lot of makeup and don’t shave if I don’t feel like it. But my husband’s comments helped spawn that. I think it gave me a a self-esteem boost and I decided heck with everyone else–I’ll do what feels right to me and it was nice knowing the guy I loved didn’t care either. To be honest, I think the only thing I really notice between your makeup vs. non-makeup face is under your eyes. That’s all! Otherwise you can’t tell and your skin is glowing and beautiful! I have terrible allergy eyes and get huge dark circles under them so maybe that’s why I noticed. Your husband is a keeper, Caitlin! And this is a very interesting topic (and I was curious about the leg hair, etc. Interesting to see!)

  • HTPDad February 17, 2012, 10:06 am

    I’ve really enjoyed reading these comments, and I’d like to make a few points.
    Human rights = civil rights for all, and it’s indicative of how deep the world wide, cultural problem is that it’s even regarded as necessary to include women, under the label of feminism, as though they weren’t part of the human race.
    Ragging on anyone for their life choices, as long as they are not infringing on yours (birth control, how much you earn, choice, marriage equality) is counter productive. Fight the people that are holding YOU back from what YOU want, not the people that want something different.

    And while I’m at it, what’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding?

  • KT February 17, 2012, 10:11 am


    Thanks so much to you and Molly for this amazing project. It’s changed me already, and I have been thinking alot about my own personal beauty-related habits, and why I do them every.single.day. I now view commercials and magazines differently, and now when I’m in a grocery store or drugstore, I am much more aware of how much space is taken over by beuaty products…most of which are chock full of chemicals that we shouldn’t be exposed to anyways!! Have you seen the Environmental Working Group’s “skin deep” database? (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/) It’s truly shocking how much potentially harmful crap is in those products that we love and trust. I look forward to reading more about you and Molly’s project 🙂

  • Angharad February 17, 2012, 11:07 am

    I struggle with identifying as a feminist too although I certainly do wear that badge proudly now.
    I agree that there are such negative connotations associated with feminism though – the one that bothers me most is feminists as angry/aggressive.

    I’d recommend Caitlin Moran’s book “How to be a Woman”. It’s a HILARIOUS, light hearted feminist piece/memoir and talks a lot about what being a feminist means to her. Some of it frustrates me because I don’t feel like she follows through on all her theories with good explanations, etc. but it’s def worth reading.

  • Julia February 17, 2012, 11:19 am

    Good for you. I stopped wearing make up when I was 16 years old. I honestly don’t remember why I made the decision, I just grew out of it I guess. I am now 27 and I haven’t worn make up in over 10 years. I forget that it seems like such a big deal to many women because it is not a part of my life, but I am very happy without it. Just think of the time and money I save. I am no beauty queen either… I’d say average looking, I have mild acne (that I can’t get rid of, and can’t stand!!) and still, I have never had issues with guys. In fact, I seem to get positive attention from guys about it, because it’s different and it conveys a message of confidence. I like hearing when other women have realized that you don’t need to put on a mask every day to feel beautiful!

  • Emily February 17, 2012, 11:34 am

    Once, a college professor of mine was asked by a student if he was a feminist. He gave the student the most incredulous, dumbfounded look, as if he couldn’t believe what he was being asked and then said, “Yes, I am a feminist. I am a feminist because women shouldn’t be beaten or abused verbally or mentally by the men in their lives, husbands, boyfriends, whatever. I am a feminist because I believe that women should be paid the same as men for the same job. I am a feminist because I believe that women have an equal place, and an equal voice. That’s all that feminism is, it’s the knowledge that everyone deserves the same treatment as everyone else. And if you don’t believe that, you can get the f*ck out of my classroom.” This always stuck with me. I don’t believe that it’s possible or necessary to be a ‘perfect’ feminist, but I still wear the feminist label proudly. 🙂

    • Sara February 17, 2012, 9:05 pm

      That’s amazing!

  • Katie February 17, 2012, 11:36 am

    Caitlin- I struggle with this issue of labeling, particularly with the feminist label. I agree that it often carries the connotation that women are angry, aggressive and anti-men. I am none of these things! I just think that women should not be defined by her looks and deserve equal treatment as men. I particularly struggle with this in the Christian community that my husband and I are a part of. Our faith is very important to us but many people in a lot of churches have very strict views on male and female roles. They often don’t realize that there are “alternative” (Biblically supported) views that differ from their own and it can be quite the controversy starter. As a result I often just keep my mouth shut unless directly asked about my views. I think this is unfortunate but I had a bad experience being teased for my “pro-woman” thoughts in my teen years and don’t care to repeat it.

    And I think people should give you a break about the vegetarian thing! Geesh. To each his own! 🙂

  • Courtney February 17, 2012, 1:30 pm

    I realize this comment is a day behind, but you might want to check out the posts on Gender & Feminism over at A Practical Wedding. They’re not a bunch of angry women – they are women who are trying to navigate life’s choices in a way that is meaningful to them (be it conservative, liberal, straight, gay, whatever). It’s a more modern, positive interpretation of feminism.


  • Brigid February 17, 2012, 1:51 pm

    I’m glad you’re reading The Beauty Myth! I think I mentioned it in one of my comments before. I haven’t read it since I was 19; I should pick it up again. I remember it having a major impact on my perception of the health and beauty (and diet) industry at the time.

    That said, I have been proudly identifying as a feminist since I was 5. 🙂 Labels are what they are, but I consider Feminist to be one of the most defining aspects of my personality.

  • Claire Zulkey February 17, 2012, 1:52 pm

    Caitlin, you are a feminist! So am I and I think 95% of the people commenting on this site. I agree that a lot of women hesitate when using that word because we fear it’s going to make us sound joyless but we just need to get OVER that, because there really isn’t more to it than believing we deserve the same rights/pay as men. We can still enjoy our differences and have fun and love being women while still being feminists. Also? I am pretty sure your husband is a feminist, too 🙂

    re: makeup, I suspect most women wear it for each other than for other men. I don’t think men really notice that much, and if anything, get turned off by too much makeup.

    Sorry for the novel! Good thought-provoking post.

  • Diana @ frontyardfoodie February 17, 2012, 1:57 pm

    I seriously don’t consider myself anti-feminist but I do think that the more extremists have tainted the whole point of feminism.

    My general view on the roles of men and women are that they are equal but very different. I don’t want to be the same as a man…I love that I can bear children, I love that I can celebrate my beauty, I love being set apart from masculinity. However, as far as the professional world goes, I definitely think we should be paid the same, as far as political rights, I feel they should be the same and also human rights. I just don’t want women to lose sight of their value as DIFFERENT than men. Not below men, just different.

    • Claire Zulkey February 17, 2012, 2:02 pm

      “I definitely think we should be paid the same, as far as political rights.”

      Then you ARE a feminist! I personally don’t know any feminists who think men and women are the same–I think that’s just one of the negative connotations that gets thrown around to scare women out of declaring themselves as such. Feminism does not mean “I want to be a man.”

      • Sara February 17, 2012, 9:03 pm

        Agree, Claire! Totally agree.

  • Stacy February 17, 2012, 2:16 pm

    Caitlin — I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading your post and how much I’m enjoying reading all the comments! One of the reasons I love reading your blog is because of discussions like this. I have so many thoughts swimming around in my head that I hope I don’t end up rambling.

    The concept of feminism has changed so much in the last century. I think one of the problematic aspects of third wave feminism is that it is comparatively unfocused when taken in the context of first and second wave feminism. Third wave feminism is really more about taking the concept of “the personal is political” and deconstructing it, maybe even reversing it. Even though as a society we still aren’t exactly equal (see recent comments regarding women in the military fighting on the front lines and the debate regarding contraception insurance coverage), we seem to have arrived at a point where we are “equal enough” to prompt many women to refocus the concept of feminism inwardly. Some people might interpret this as being a negative reaction to second wave feminism and I can see that argument, but I also think that it allows for broader definitions of feminism and for people to “own” the term in different ways.

    For my part, I definitely consider myself to be a feminist and I, too, grew up with a mother who constantly encouraged me to wear more blush because I was “too pale” or to shave my legs because I was “too hairy.” I know that my attachment to an arsenal of beauty products and an extensive morning beauty routine is a direct result of this, probably more than any other outside influence, although I’m not naive enough to believe that I haven’t been influenced by how the beauty industry defines “pretty.”

    I guess the point of sharing this about myself is if we drill down deeply enough we can make a case for my contributing to our society’s continuing objectification of women because I dump a crap-ton of money into the beauty industry every year and that probably makes me a “bad” feminist by some standards. I think, however, that while those criticisms probably mostly come from a place of real concern, ultimately I believe that they stem from a misunderstanding of the concept of the personal as political — that our individual choices aren’t inherently political, but rather the lack of choices we have or the difficulties we experience because of our gender (or race or religion or sexual preference, etc.) are a direct result of the society we live in marginalizing us BECAUSE of our gender (or race or religion or sexual preference, etc.). We have the right to choose to work outside the home and make a living wage (hopefully) or to work inside the home rearing our children because feminists insisted that it should be our choice. We have the right to decide whether or not we want to have children and have access to birth control because feminists insisted it should be our choice.

    I think that choosing to adopt a label like “feminist” is also a choice. You are still a wonderful example of what it means to be a confident, independent woman who cares deeply about helping other women to feel confident too.

  • Rachel February 17, 2012, 2:36 pm

    As always interesting post. I want to jump on the second thread of thought about feminism. I think the word ‘feminist’ is kind of like ‘PETA’. Both are seen as extreme. I support many of PETA’s missions, but I’m not sure I support PETA. Feminism is a little bit looser of a definition, since its not one organization, but it has the same kind of extremism attached to it. I believe in equality of the sexes but the word ‘feminist’ has the connotation that you are pro-woman at the detriment of men. Maybe it is time we redefine what feminism is, and take away the bra-burning, male-bashing stereotype???

  • Laura February 17, 2012, 2:57 pm

    You know what? I LOVE calling myself a feminist. For me feminism is about equality, plain and simple. Do I like some of the negative connotations that arise in people’s minds when I self identify as feminist? No. But by living my life without discrediting or questioning my thoughts or emotions bc of my gender & by advocating for gender equality & by sharing the stories of oppressed women I am teaching people what it means when I say I am a feminist.

  • Amber K February 17, 2012, 3:20 pm

    Your comment section is always fascinating. It usually takes me forever to comment on posts like this because I’m too busy reading what everyone has to say!

    I have to say that I’ve been truly educated about feminism. I never would have considered myself a feminist until I read the comments about what it truly means to people. I never thought about it in that light! I had apparently bought in to the stereotypes that society had convinced me of.

    While I enjoy wearing makeup and can’t stand it when my legs get hairy, if I ever feel like I “have” to do it in order to be a better version of myself, I’ll know that it has gone too far.

    • Caitlin February 17, 2012, 9:42 pm

      You are right! I love reading all these comments. The ones that agree, the ones that disagree, the ones who point out other perspectives. It is all so very interesting and thought provoking, and I really love how people can share their thoughts in a warm and loving way.

  • Samantha Angela February 17, 2012, 3:52 pm

    I wrote a post a while back when I did a make-up free challenge about whether men notice women without make-up.


    I personally didn’t find going make-up free to be a big deal since I only wear it on the weekends (and only for fun). I guess it wasn’t much of a challenge, per se.

    My husband hardly notices when I have make-up on which I find odd. This week sampled a new mascara on one eye and asked if he could tell the difference between the two eyes, and it took him a long time to figure it out.

    According to the Daily Mail: one in five men wish their partner would tone down make-up while one in ten said they liked women who wear no make-up whatsoever.

  • katherine February 17, 2012, 6:52 pm

    I think a lot of the blow back that you’re experiencing surrounding feminism stems from the fact that you post things like this. You seem to take up feminist sounding causes and then don’t fully take on the label (you may contest that you ACTUALLY do this but it frequently comes off this way from the perspective of a casual reader).

    Feminists are not a monolith. They all have different experiences and perspectives. Sometimes when I read your blog I feel like you post about an “essentialized” feminist experience. By essentialized I mean that the label of “feminist” is boiled down to a simplified definition (i.e.: feminists believe this or act generally in this manner). Again, like I said, feminists are NOT a monolith. For example, many women of color don’t identify with feminism because the feminist movement (especially the one of the 1960’s and 70’s) was largely a white upper middle class movement (and largely benefitted white upper middle class women). Many women do not think about the broad definition of feminism. They say that feminist is associated with “angry” and thus they don’t want to adapt the label even though they really ARE feminists. This is an unsophisticated analysis.

    I think you would get less blow back if you further educated yourself on feminism in general. Reading the Beauty Myth is certainly a start. Read more, from various feminist experiences. Read about intersectionality. Read books by bell hooks, Melissa Harris-Perry, Kimberle Crenshaw, Catherine MacKinnon and hell even Phillis Schlafly. Push back on what you think, the assumptions your opinions rest on and challenge the authors you read. And please, please stop sourcing to wikipedia. I know it’s easy and quick and accessible but linking to it undermines what you’re saying in your posts.

    • Caitlin February 17, 2012, 9:35 pm

      Thanks for these book recommendations. I would appreciate any other recs!

  • Jenn February 17, 2012, 8:52 pm

    I have been a reader of your blog for several years and after reading this post I have decided to stop. The fact that you pride yourself on a career empowering young girls to rise above criticism and have the opportunity and platform to do so much good for the feminist community but you are… “afraid” to associate as one is seriously worrying. Feminism is about equality for us women- banding together and building each other up so we can be treated with the same respect that men are by default. I think you need to educate yourself and revisit this in a future post. When you aren’t embarrassed to identify as a feminist (I’m sure the reason is because you are worried what other uniformed people will think of you) I will consider reading your blog again.

    • Caitlin February 17, 2012, 9:32 pm

      Jenn – don’t you think you response to my post is exactly mimicking the behavior that I said make women afraid of saying they are feminists? Judging, banishing, and threatening for not being a “good enough” feminist? Obviously I believe in feminism and equality; my post is about the label. You are, of course, entitled to your opinion and can read or not, but I really just wanted to point out this behavior.

      • Tally February 18, 2012, 7:38 am

        I love Caitlin’s honesty and humanity! That’s what makes this a good blog.

        Also, I just made your Santa Fe casserole, so I’m all excited about lunch. 🙂

        • CaitlinHTP February 18, 2012, 8:45 am

          Tally – OHHHH Send some over here! I hope you enjoy it.

  • Sara February 17, 2012, 8:58 pm

    Every time I hear a woman say she wouldn’t label herself a feminist, it honestly makes me sad. I would like to think that most women want to be considered equal in worth to men, and that’s all feminism truly boils down to at its core. However, the fact that many women shy away from the label is emblematic of something very troubling that I can’t quite put my finger on. In college my roommate once said she thought she couldn’t possibly be a feminist because she wanted to be a mom someday, which was just awful to hear-my mom was a stay at home mom and she taught me everything I needed to know about being a strong woman just leading by example, so saying one can’t be both a mom and a femist is just untrue. Just my .02.

  • Aimee February 17, 2012, 9:37 pm

    Your make up photo and naked face photo don’t look different to me at all! Pretty either way.

  • Amykinz @ Foodie 4 Healing February 17, 2012, 9:47 pm

    I absolutely love the idea for The Naked Face Project! In fact, be watching for my entry on the website soon. (I’m hoping to get to it tomorrow). And might I just say how truly beautiful that photo is of you? (The up close, naked faced, revealing only 1 eye). Love it!

  • Emma February 17, 2012, 10:08 pm

    This post is amazing! Girl power!!

  • Anne February 18, 2012, 2:40 pm

    Feminism is a big subject/large movement, complicated. You should maybe consider it in an historical perspective first. So much spheres of knowledge were touched by it (art, litterature, theory, politics). I already said it in the past, but you should read Judith Butler, Gender trouble, it’s more “feminism theory”, but, you know, if you want to attack that kind of subject with rigor…

    • Anne February 18, 2012, 2:42 pm

      cause feminism have nothing to do with wearing mascara… or not.

  • Meredith February 18, 2012, 7:52 pm

    You should read “The F Word” by Kristin-Rowe-Finkbeiner. It’s unfortunate that the religious and political right have made so many women afraid of calling themselves feminists. Feminism is simply the belief in social, political, and economic equality for everyone. Not all feminists are lesbians who burn their bras and don’t shave their legs, just like not all Christians go around blowing up abortion clinics. If everyone who actually believed in equality would stand up and admit they are a “feminist,” maybe the right would stop using it as an insult to shut women (and men) up. “feminist” is not a dirty word. It would be inspiring for you to create a movement (like Ms Magazine) where readers sent in photos with a sign saying “this is what a feminist looks like.” There is no shame in it.

    • Caitlin February 18, 2012, 7:55 pm

      Oh I am going to check out that Ms Magazine concept!

      • Caitlin February 18, 2012, 7:56 pm

        Do you have a link? I did some Googling and couldn’t find it.

  • JenATX February 18, 2012, 11:56 pm

    Caitlin, I have so much respect for your blog content. I think its awesome that you put out real issues that inspire conversations like these. Its great 🙂 I hope other young women do the same 🙂

  • Ashley February 20, 2012, 11:44 pm

    Working for Planned Parenthood has made me a proud feminist. I work in our public policy department at an affiliate in Northeast Ohio and work hard to promote reproductive justice policies. Access to women’s healthcare such as birth control has been so important to ensure women can live the life they want to. It has allowed women to go to college, purse careers and have families when they are ready. I love being part of this movement, and it makes me proud to know the work of my volunteers helps women live out their potential. I think that is a great reason to wear the feminist label loud and proud!

  • Terry Miller February 25, 2012, 3:58 am

    1) From a male perspective(obviously the vast majority of your readers are female)-No man whose esteem is worth having will care if you have makeup on, and most won’t even notice(I know I don’t). There are of course, lots of men who DO care about such superficial things, and probably just as many women. The problem is, if you have to deal with the public in certain ways(applying for a job, or doing a job(selling, for example)that requires interaction with the public, you can’t simply alienate lame/superficial people because you have the philosophical high ground-Stupid people have money too, and you sometimes have to appease them to relieve them of it.
    2) The people bashing you for not flying your feminist flag proudly enough are not paying attention. Many of them mentioned “feminist” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. So, are you going to have a long drawn-out conversation with everyone you meet to explain exactly what feminism means to you? Of course not. And, as you mentioned, lots of people think of the term negatively. Is simply saying “I’m a feminist” going to accomplish anything in and of itself? NO. So why label yourself at all, and give people reason to judge you? It’s obvious you want what’s best for women and girls; and what’s more you’re doing good work to actually DO something about it! If that’s not enough for someone their opinion isn’t worth what it cost them to post it.

  • Katie M March 11, 2012, 6:46 pm

    I had never heard of the Naked Face Project before, but I absolutely love the idea! I myself am a ridiculously loud and proud feminist, and I try to spread the positive ideals and empowering notions behind feminism in my everyday life because I KNOW that women deserve equal rights, equal pay, equal representation, and the right to choose for themselves what happens to their bodies.
    Honestly Caitlin, you don’t have to yell it from the rooftops, but you should be able to at least proudly affirm with yourself that you are a feminist because you surely are! If you can say simply that you feel that you and all the women in and out of your life deserve all the same liberties and freedoms that the men are easily given, then you can feel solid in the knowledge that you are a feminist. And truly, it is a lovely group of people to be a part of! Also, I think that the men in my life who are feminists might be some of my absolute favorite people. Have you ever talked about it with your husband? Maybe he is a feminist too and you can feel even more bonded through that tie.

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