Friday, April 17, 2009

Such Pretty Faces

I have a photo of my teenage self, wearing orange eyeshadow with long drawn out extra eyelashes painted only on the lower lids. I had a lot of fun creating that look, but must admit that it doesn't photograph terribly well (unless you like eyes which resemble fat orange spiders). Neither did the black lipstick. But it was lots of fun to experiment with face-paint. To this day I'd like to have my whole face temporarily tattooed with tiger stripes in black and white.

All this is to show that I'm not one of those surly feminazis who want women to sprout nothing but armpit hair. I love the idea that humans decorate their bodies! What I'm not so much in love with is the size of the cosmetic industry, the lies they often tell, and the humongous amounts of money women (and it's mostly women) spend on cosmetics, especially if the desire to do so doesn't come from the women themselves but that whiny little mosquito buzzing on television and in women's magazines and in music and inside our heads which tells us that we are not pretty enough without cosmetics, but that for only $130.78 we, too, can look sexy and stunning and ... acceptable! There was a time when I felt naked without having goo on my eyelashes, and that feeling did not get its start from my own desires, you know.

Megan sent me a link to an article about what the French Elle is doing about make-up and photoshopping, and that's what reminded me of those orange eyelids:

The April issue of French Elle features eight female European celebrities--including Eva Herzigova, Monica Bellucci, Sophie Marceau, and Charlotte Rampling--all without makeup and, perhaps even more revealing, all entirely without Photoshopping or retouching of any kind. The mag's headline "Stars Sans Fards" translates to "without rouge/makeup," but it's a French saying that also suggests a sense of "openness."

Judging from the images that have been leaked so far (the entire issue hits newsstands later this week), this title could not be more apt. Model Herzigova, 36, and actresses Marceau, 42, and Bellucci, 44, all look refreshingly natural, relaxed, and vulnerable in a way American stars are seldom seen.

In fact, what might be most striking about French Elle's pictorial is how it actually appears to embrace and celebrate the organic beauty of these famous faces (even if the lighting is super, super flattering and the women are all unbelievably gorgeous to begin with). In the U.S., when you come across a "stars without makeup" story, there's always a GOTCHA! element, a message that says "Our gift to you: Derive pleasure from how ugly this person looks without cover-up for her zits!"

The link has some 'natural' photos for you to look at, should you care to do so.

The topic of feminist reactions to cosmetics is huge. Huge! And full of wolf-traps for the unwary. I'm going to leave most of those for the discussion I hope we are going to have. But what I was really thinking when reading that article is that cosmetics are in some ways just another form of veiling. Women's actual naked faces are, to some people, too shocking to be seen! So they have to be veiled in one way or another. (I have no idea how generally true that is. My impression is that cosmetics are losing their 'must-wear' status in many subcultures. But it's too fun an idea to qualify. Though I just did.)
Picture from my family files.