Opinion: In defence of the #NoMakeUpSelfie

Patrick English argues that criticisms of the #NoMakeUpSelfie campaign are misplaced and we should support a movement which is doing so much good.

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Patrick English is a MA student at the University of Sheffield

I am no utilitarian, but sometimes you just have to look at the consequences, and despite your reservations, simply agree that “Do you know what, this is great”.

This is how I feel about the #NoMakeUpSelfie (and now #MakeUpSelfie as the male-equivalent) social movement, which has swept across social media, and as a result of each participant donating £3 to Cancer Research, has now raised over £8 million for Cancer Research UK. People across the country are raising millions for charity. Surely this is great?

Or not, as some have tried to argue. I’ve seen critiques and criticisms of the #NoMakeUpSelfie movement almost as frequently as my friends have been posting selfies. I must stress that my disagreement is with the worst offenders within this group – those publishing critiques which actively seeking to disrupt the movement. Nor am I aiming any of this at those who have opted not to partake in the campaign, for whatever personal reason.

Sometimes criticisms are direct, some are just about certain aspects of the movement, others are more indirect and implied and don’t seek to criticise the movement itself but some if it’s implications/narratives. But criticisms they are nonetheless, which made in this context explicitly attempt, or achieve only, to create an aura of negativity and tension about the #NoMakeUpSelfie movement. Why? What possible good could this achieve? What are they trying to do?

Yes, it is entirely wrong that women posing without make-up should be a massive, newsworthy thing, but is that critique of gender norms and expectations really fairly aimed at the aims and outcomes of the #NoMakeUpSelfie campaign? The feminist critique of the notion that it is ‘courageous’ or ‘brave’ to not wear make-up is strong, and there have been some exceptional pieces written recently on this topic.

But this is not a stick to beat the #NoMakeUpSelfie campaign with, but a criticism of patriarchy and gender normativity. This reservation about the nature of society and its structures does not take anything away from the positive results and outcomes of the #NoMakeUpSelfie campaign. In fact to extend this to create negativity around a campaign raising multi-millions of pounds for charity won’t remove these gender-related problems in society, but will serve to no other end than bad consequences – people not giving money to Cancer Research.

I want to be explicitly clear that I am a feminist, and I wholeheartedly agree that these arguments should be made, but that they are sometimes directed at the #NoMakeUpSelfie campaign in an attempt at trying to derail or collapse it, or even just create a negative aura around it.

Also, yes some of the pictures and reactions I have seen seem to primarily serve the ego and self-appreciation of the individual who took them, but in all honesty I care very little what a person gets out of their charitable donation – if they treat it as an ego trip, fine, thanks for helping the cause.

Further, sometimes it is necessary for charities to engage in big, public campaigns where personalities, celebrities, and the general public alike all endorse charities and announce with pride their donations. This kind of ‘public donating’ is not new. I have no problem with people feeling good about giving money to a cause which aims to one day stop the kind of pain and agony of losing a loved one to cancer. I invite these critics to entertain the idea that on the whole, most people are not narcissists, but sometimes just want to do a bit of good in the world.

My point perhaps is that while there are valid reservations, there is no need to try and use them to create negativity around or in some cases attempt to collapse a campaign raising millions for a good cause.

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