As party pooping goes, I realise what I’m about to say is equivalent to rocking up at a birthday bash without a present, unplugging the stereo and throwing the cake out of the window, but in light of the #nomakeupselfie storm that has been raging for days on Facebook – to the tune of £8m of donations to Cancer Research UK – I think you should hear me out.
1. Why I won’t put up a no-makeup selfie
Caitlin Moran has a test. “You can tell whether some misogynistic societal pressure is being exerted on women by calmly enquiring, ‘And are the men doing this, as well?’” she says. “If they aren’t, chances are you’re dealing with what we strident feminists refer to as ‘some total fucking bullshit’.” I think makeup passes the total fucking bullshit test with flying colours. Men (on the whole) don’t wear makeup. Women (on the whole) do wear makeup. Most of us everyday. Because of societal pressure. So then encouraging people to post photos sans maquillage is a good thing right? Nah, I don’t think so. Because now you’re just exerting a different kind of pressure on women: if you don’t post a naked-faced selfie then you’re selfish and vain, is the implication. You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. If this selfie craze was actually encouraging women to wear less makeup, I’d be supportive of it. But I’ve found very little evidence to suggest it does. In fact, I think it’s generating plenty of narcissism along with all those donations, as people seek validation and confirmation that they are still, in fact, attractive without makeup. And look where we’ve ended back up: societal pressure on women to look a certain way. What does this have to do with breast cancer again?
2. Why I won’t be donating to Cancer Research UK.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that Cancer Research UK does a lot of great work. But of all the charities in the UK that need a massive surge in donations, this is not one. Did you know CRUK had the second largest income out of all the UK charities last year? They netted £537m (according to the Charity Trends website), second only to the Arts Council. Of that, only 70% was actually spent on charitable activities. In this table of ten large charity groups, that puts them fourth from the bottom – at the top of the rank, the Royal Mencap Society (income £201m) spends 96% of it’s income on actual charity work. But here’s the real clincher for me: Cancer Research UK pays 160 of its employees more than £60,000 a year. That’s four times as many as the next biggest salary spender, RNLI, with 42 staff on more than £60k. Personally, I think that’s a shocking number, vastly disproportionate to the income and number of staff. On top of that, it worries me that the extra £8m raise in the last week as a byproduct of all the social media snaps has diverted funds that could have been much better spent by other charities. And that it will give people what psychologists call the ‘licence effect’ – where because they’ve done one good deed it gives them licence to not do another e.g. give to another charity. (Of course I haven’t got any evidence for this because who would admit to it?)
3. What I will be doing
The no-makeup selfie campaign was supposed to be about breast cancer awareness. But I didn’t see anyone actually sharing any information about breast cancer alongside their barefaced self-portrait. So I posted this as my Facebook status:
Breast cancer: What to look out for
Any sign of a lump or thickening in the breast
A swelling or lump in the armpit or near the collar bone
Discharge from the nipple
Change in the shape or size of the breast
A change in the shape of the nipple, for instance becoming inverted
A rash on the nipple or nearby area
Changes to the skin on the breast such as dimpling
Incessant pain in the breast or armpit
I don’t want to pressurise my friends into looking a certain way, or donating to a certain cause, but I definitely think the world would be a better place without a) makeup and b) cancer. I’m not sure how to eradicate the former (I’m not ready to give up mine, so I’d be a hypocrite if I tried) but I know early detection can help reduce deaths due to the latter. Now, I wonder what Facebook would make of my plans for a viral campaign where women post photos of their nipples for breast cancer awareness? Get ready for the #nipplie coming to a news feed near you soon.