If you follow me on my various social networks, you probably know that I’ve started a club at the high school where I teach just for girls. We meet every week and talk about issues in our society and in their various communities that affect girls and what we can do about those issues.
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about pressure from the media to be thin and wear makeup. Actually, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about makeup, which is appropriate because sometimes I think these girls spend so much time on their makeup that there’s little time for much else. I walk into the restroom and girls are lined up at the mirror, every passing period, adjusting their cosmetics or adding some feature to their faces that they wish was there. Sometimes I see the same girls in the restroom doing their makeup three, four, five times a day. There’s no harm in this, I suppose. Makeup is fun to play around with and passing period is their time, so they can do with it what they choose. But I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had to tell girls to put away their compact mirrors and their eyelash curlers in class. Appearance is important to them – especially at that age – but to be adjusting it so constantly that they take out their makeup and spread it out on their desks in class just seems to be overdoing it.
We had a very long discussion about who we wear makeup for. Is it for ourselves or for people looking at us? Many of the girls initially said it was for themselves. It’s fun! It’s cute! It makes them feel good! But then one girl pointed out that she doesn’t wear it at home when she’s by herself, so it must actually be for other people.
Whatever the reason, I challenged them to try to go makeup-free for a day, just to see how it felt. And, surprisingly, a few girls did the next day and came in to show me. They said it was difficult not to find the nearest mirror and put the makeup on, but they also noted that they had a lot of time to do other things. One of the girls remarked, “I actually had time to sit down and eat breakfast this morning! And everyone keeps telling me I look exactly the same!”
I’m not saying girls shouldn’t wear makeup, but I am saying that, sometimes, it can be freeing to realize that you don’t have to, not only because you’ll have more time for other things, but also because it can be extremely powerful to realize that people don’t necessarily even care if you do or don’t. Hopefully my group can learn this; if this is the only thing I teach them this semester, I think I’ll have been successful.