Barefaced Brilliance or Selfie-Indulgent??

Unless you have managed to avoid any and all contact with every form of social media over the past week, you cannot have missed the ‘Barefaced Selfie’ campaign being employed to raise breast cancer awareness. And you have probably not escaped the controversy which raged (and still rages) about the issue, either. On one side of the fence there’s the argument that it’s just a bit of fun and it’s all for a really, really good cause and it’s raising lots of money, you sour-faced meanies, so what on earth is wrong with that? On the other side, is the contention that those taking part are vain, self-indulgent narcissists, posting photos of themselves all over the internet so that people will shower them with compliments and they’re just using charity as an excuse. The sound of teeth grinding all over Facebook and Twitter has been positively deafening.

Personally, I think that raising people’s awareness about cancer is a great thing. Prompting us all to check our boobs and our balls or whatever and reminding us what those living with this horrific disease have to face every day is extremely important. Raising money for research and cancer care is even more vital and this campaign has seen donations soar.

Most people have had their lives touched by cancer’s cruelty and horrific consequences in some way. Only a few years ago my family lost a delightful, clever, funny, warm and lovely young man who was only in his twenties to cancer. And very recently a wonderful woman I love, respect and admire had a traumatic struggle with breast cancer which, thank goodness, she won, but not before having to undergo a mastectomy and lengthy, debilitating treatment. So I do know what tragedy and heart-ache it can cause and how indiscriminately it strikes. I certainly have no problem with any sort of campaign which raises awareness and, more importantly, raises money to tackle this sly, pernicious disease.

I’m not sure I agree with those who think that the posting of selfies on one’s Facebook or Twitter profile is narcissistic or self-indulgent. I am not generally a big fan of the selfie and I rarely post photos of myself online for any reasons other than professional (I’m an actor). My family and friends know what I look like, as do I, and, unless I’m doing something outrageous or unbelievably exciting in them, I think photos of me are a bit dull for all concerned. However, that’s just my opinion and my preference – people are at perfect liberty to post whatever they want to on their own profile.

However, I do have one HUGE issue with this campaign. And that is it just upholds the social conventions regarding the representation of women and the pressure on women to look a certain way ie (conventionally) attractive. The premise seems to be that women posting photographs of themselves without make-up is so unusual and daring that it attracts attention. It’s a pity that a photo of woman not wearing make-up is in any way noteworthy at all, still less supposed to be embarrassing or abnormal. It is just assumed that we all wear make-up (because we all want to be beautiful and / or sexually attractive, of course, don’t we?) so appearing ‘in public’ without it is a big deal.

As if to prove my point, in several of the so-called ‘barefaced’ selfies I have seen, the women involved have definitely been wearing make-up (albeit very subtle). I do not blame the women themselves for doing this, but the massive pressure put on them by the media and by society to look a certain way and conform to the strictly laid down ideals of conventional beauty. How sad that they feel this pressure so greatly, they do not have the confidence to be seen without their make-up, even on the one occasion when they’re not supposed to be wearing any. It saddens me greatly that, even in this day and age, young women feel they have to be (conventionally) physically attractive in order to be valued, loved or respected etc.

I would also add that some of the men I know have felt excluded by this campaign. Men can get breast cancer, too, and their lives can be affected by someone close to them having it. I know that, rather as an after-thought, men were invited to post photographs of themselves wearing make-up, but very few seem to have accepted the invitation. (Not surprisingly, really, since painting one’s face requires a certain amount of time and effort, not to mention the necessary tools which not all fellas have readily to hand.) And a male selfie with make-up really doesn’t have the same social connotation or implication as a woman without it. It doesn’t make the same statement.

However well-meaning, the ‘barefaced selfie’ is perpetuating the already pervasive beauty myth. Why did it have to be about women’s physical appearance? Could we not have posted photos of ourselves as children, or wearing a hideous jumper, or just pulling a ridiculous face…?? The list is endless. It could’ve been a photo of almost anything; something inclusive that we could ALL, men and women, have been involved in and had a giggle over.

But, bottom line, I am delighted that so much money has been raised for such a good cause. If you would like to make a donation, just text BEAT to 70099 to give £3 and help beat cancer sooner.


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