It was a widely talked about subject when acclaimed songstress/instrumentalist/lyricist Alicia Keys made a movement to stop wearing makeup in 2016. During interviews, award shows, and music videos, the star vowed not to use any facial enhancements in order to promote movements of self-love and personally-defined beauty—and many people loved it.
While in theory, this was a great and potentially progressive idea for women to not be so worried about having to use enhancers to make themselves feel beautiful or worthy, the problem lied in the fact that Alicia Keys is a woman who, without makeup, for the most part, is seen as having a socially acceptable bare face. With seemingly blemish-free skin and facial features that many find admirable and wish to emulate, using her face as a point in advocacy did not always work in the way she may have wished for it to.
Of course, this in no way faults her for the way she looks—she cannot help that nor can she help that people deem her as conventionally attractive. However, we must open the discussion that if she didn’t have the attributes as listed above, she probably wouldn’t have received a lot of the positivity that she did.
It’s an ongoing problem that many people in our society would not accept a woman with her natural face if she had blemishes, discoloration, dark or puffy bags under her eyes, etc. How we view beauty is still narrow, and it’s a lot easier for women who have been universally praised or accepted for their looks to tell other girls and women who aren’t, that they are naturally beautiful as well.
There are hundreds to thousands of videos, articles, and advertisements out there to help women reach their peaks of having “beautiful” skin, free of acne, discoloration, and other proclaimed imperfections. The women who create these types of texts are typically praised for how they look, their commentators wishing that they too, could be just as beautiful. While it is definitely okay to seek out having healthy skin, why is it that people cannot accept women as they are at the moment, especially for those women who can do nothing about their complexions and/or features?
When discussing facial features, that has been a universal problem as well. If a woman is not light (or white) skinned with a small nose, small or full-but-not-too-full-lips, doe eyes, and long hair, she is disqualified for being put on the pedestal as a “natural beauty.” While in different races/ethnic groups some of these characteristics may vary, it has become a universal belief that more often than not, a woman should have these traits in order to be seen as desirable.
There are even articles written by scientists and plastic surgeons that state the World’s Most Beautiful Women have to have a particular dimension of their noses, eyes, and lips and (unsurprisingly) all the women listed were white or light and filled the aforementioned physiognomies.
In order to be taken seriously as a “natural beauty,” flaws are disallowed even though having “flaws” is as human as needing to drink water. What’s wrong with having acne here and there? What’s wrong with discoloration? What’s wrong with being human? Society has forced us all to believe that beauty can only look one or very few ways and it is utterly unacceptable if a woman does not fit the criteria. It is made out to be that something is wrong with her or that her “flaw” makes her less beautiful or worthy. We live in a society that also shoves the idea of female beauty down our throats—as if the apex of success a woman can reach is being physically desirable (thanks a lot, patriarchy.)
It’s 2017 and we’re still struggling to understand the concepts of basic humanity—women are going to have blemishes, and it’s okay. We shouldn’t have to hide them, apologize for them, feel less than worthy because of them. Living our lives should mean more than hoping to look beautiful. And this is not to say you can’t appreciate or do things to your appearance as you wish—to each their own. Wear that makeup as you please—or don’t! I am simply saying that we need to come to a time where a woman’s beauty is not the main objective every time she comes of presence to society. We should be seen as more than what we can present physically.
While women who are conventionally attractive can definitely help fight the stigmas piled against “natural beauty,” they must also be aware that the kind of beauty they attain is not the staple for all women, and that it may take women who don’t fit that socially-acceptable criteria longer to love themselves, come to terms with who they are, and/or not caring what other people think and face the world as naturally as they please.
Until we can accept women who have “imperfections,” with their acne, discoloration, wrinkles, etc., we are not being progressive. We are being complacent with the tapered views of how we see and accept beauty.