One of the many navel-gazing pasttimes of Americans in the 21st century is to look at celebrities with no make-up. Wait, let me be specific, we look at female celebrities with no make-up. I’m not even sure the genre of male celebs in no make-up even exists. Over the past years we’ve seen
Recently, I came across a picture of Kerry Washington without make-up and she fit well within the realm of “the regular.” She looked like the tens of millions of women who go to work day in and day out without make-up–average. Average doesn’t mean bad, average simply means that you fall, percentage wise, within the apex of the bell curve. For those of you who have been living under the proverbial rock, Kerry Washington is the actress who has slogged through many character-actor movies and finally hit the jackpot starring as Olivia Pope on ABC’s hit Thursday night show “Scandal.” It’s also one of the few instances in which a black female actor is starring not just in a show, but in a top-rated show at that.
Nevertheless, this is what she looks like sans make-up:
She looks…well…average. She looks like a mid-30s stay at home mom juggling two kids, both under five, and one of them just pottied in the middle of the hallway, the dog is barking, the buzzer to the dryer just went off and the doorbell for the FedEx package just rang.
Again, very average and very typical.
Regardless of race, she just looks average.
In part snark and part stunning awe, I made the following comment on my Instagram page which gets plugged into my Twitter and Facebook pages:
My fantasy is ruined. this is like seeing Mickey take his head off or seeing Santa rip the beard off… She need some Proactiv and something to address the struggle edges. Whoever her makeup artist(s) are need a raise!!!
Yeah, I said it, and I’m not apologizing for it. And these are the responses from women that I received:
She is still gorgeous! She’s a human being—she has blemishes. You men and your hyper criticism of the female body.
you [sic] remark is the exact reason why women pack makeup on there skin now…afraid to show there [sic] flaws
One in response to the first comment left one, then another comment:
girl I was thinking the SAME thing! Brothas kill me doin that!
Also, sisters never tell when our fantasies get ruined. For example, when a fine brother has nice shoulders and decent arms under a sweater but then he take that joint off and look 2 months pregnant because he drink too much. No we don’t do that. We are often taught to protect the male ego. Yet brothas steady examining us like we some damn barbie dolls for purchase as a Christmas gift. Have a _/. Her edges probably struggling because of the weave she wears to be deemed presentable enough to do her job. There’s more, but I’ll just stop.
Instagram was no less on “chill” mode with this either:
That’s misogynistic as hell.
And another lengthier comment read:
Why do we feel like female celebs have to be flawless but male celebs can be overweight, balding, have adult acne and/or be ugly. It might be predictable as a response but let’s call a thing a thing. My bf is cute because I know I’m at least cute, equally yoked goes with looks and attractiveness too.
Truth be told, I identify with the last comment, who is a woman. I think this is a valid, well thought out question that turns the argument on it’s head: who’s determining what a woman’s beauty is?
In the growing vocal declarations of black women reclaiming their own voice and determining their own destiny, this argument laid at my feet on comments today registers bankrupt for me. Primarily because it puts the onus of beauty determination on men. I’m confused, I thought women determined their own standard of beauty, and even if one wants to play into the “it’s a man’s world” notion, are there not enough avenues in which women can still “buck” the system if you will.
While I love a woman in high heels, who’s really forcing women to wear high heels? I know I’m not. I know I never held a gun up to a woman’s head and said “Wear high heels or die!” Granted, the standard of beauty is determined by something such as that, or how long one’s hair is (enter the whole weave and extensions facet and permed vs. natural hair), but who’s approval are women really after?
If the honest and true answer is that women do all of this for men’s approval, then I’m not much in the way to entertain the articles that appear in Ebony or anywhere else that make enemies out of black men for black male patriarchy. As a commenter said above that my remark is why women put on make up–really?
In 2013, I don’t buy that argument at all.
No one forced any woman to go to the make-up counter at the department store and buy make-up to put on their face. This is notwithstanding that there are professions and jobs solely based on how one looks, and not just those in the entertainment industry. Women who work corporate or office jobs are expected to look “womanly.” Churches are still segments of society that place high emphasis not just on gender role, but on the appearance of those roles as well.
This argument falls flat because you can’t accuse men of forcing women to look a certain way, wear make-up and wear the heels and label them misogynists, chauvinists or the epitome of [black male] patriarchy when these are 1) worn willingly and 2) worn to gain the attraction of men in the first place. This is not a case where you can have your cake and eat it too without acknowledging the want for female hegemony.
When my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter timeline are full of tweets and status updates about how great Olivia Pope looks and how flawless her hair is, posted by women, then hearing this pushback sounds disingenuous at best. It becomes a near hypocrisy if women hold to the views of the commenters, yet watch Real Housewives of Atlanta on a consistent basis. Women themselves engage on this negative banter themselves; do you honestly think “struggle edges” was a phrase that originated from a man?
Admittedly, there has not been the history attached to women objectifying men, but as the fight for equal rights progresses, women have become more and more liberated to do so of men. While this may register as just desserts for women who are old enough to remember what it meant to enter the workforce for the first time, the younger generation isn’t aware of that struggle and I don’t think it’s fair to pass down such a mindset. Just because men did it in the past doesn’t make it right for women to in turn objectify men in the present.
I think this is also a by-product of our social media saturation. As I said, this is a new phenomenon as far as celebrities without make-up. Before, all you had were the supermarket tabloids, but with smartphones, these pictures are at our fingertips–literally. Social media gives us the license to make fun of anyone. Is it really that my comments were misogynistic or that I was just making fun of someone and something that all of us have done at one point or another on social media.
Specifically to the case of Kerry Washington looking “plain Jane,” it really is akin to the kid seeing Mickey take his head off in a dressing room or a kid peering around a corner and seeing Santa take off his beard. We are presented this image that makes up who she is. The fantasy is ruined now. But guess what, I’m a grown man, and I understand it’s just that–it’s fantasy. Ask any grown man out there who knows what it’s like when she rolls over in the morning–it’s not Olivia Pope in the morning, it’s Kerry Washington, sans make up, the hair isn’t combed, or flat ironed, there’s probably a night gown as well, not some sexy two piece and the breath is probably on ten.
I think this clip illuminates the dialectical tension on this exact subject:
Will’s character had a fantasy of what he wanted Kathleen (Tisha Campbell) to be. If the conversation is being discussed by women, usually that’s where the point of departure is and this most time results in men being the sole purveyors of the misogyny and chauvinism and it results in a non-solution based
argument conversation. But the “Kathleens” of the world are many: many women do what they do to fulfill the fantasies of, and gain the attraction of men. Some then may chalk up the “Kathleen” persona as a woman who’s low on self-esteem and has no self-worth to support “all men are dog theory” that has so much traction these days. But I can’t help but ask the bottom line question, what type of man are you really attracting who’s attracted to all the fake stuff?
That clip also shows the challenge that gender roles play into all of this. The exchange of getting food out of the freezer shows this flip-flop of independent woman/I-need-a-man all in one exchange and then brings to bear just how fake she really was. Will wanted a fantasy if it could be made reality.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting Olivia Pope–if Olivia Pope is real. I think when most men make the comments I do, be it about Sofia Vegara, to Sanaa Lathan (or even my red-head fantasy of Scarlett Johansson in “Iron Man 2”) it’s really fantasy based; we all know the reality is Kerry Washington. Specifically, I think I got flak because this was thee sainted Kerry Washington. If this had been any other celebrity (even Oprah) no one would have said anything, at least not to this point. It’s almost like this Obama syndrome where it’s some black cultural taboo to say anything negative.
This, ultimately is a one-sided conversation because men, as a rule, don’t wear make-up, we don’t wear enhanced shoes that do long-term damage to feet and backs, nor do we put stuff in our hair to make it longer–as long as we make enough money, women will look past it.
This confuses men, and this confuses the crux of the argument. All men aren’t chauvinist and every joke about a woman’s appearance doesn’t amount to male privilege rearing it’s head. Simple as that. However, that’s not what the vocal collective of black women have put out there as the dominating school of thought. You can’t ask black men to love you for who you really are if the hair isn’t your real hair, and if you have a pock-mocked face underneath the make-up that you don’t ever want to be seen! A real and mature love isn’t going to love Olivia Pope, it’s going to love Kerry Washington. This neo-black feminist thought has seemingly disavowed any responsibility in these matters of black women from either participating in the female-on-female criticism or tacitly giving permission for men to do it by the way they react given their own appearance.
I’ve never cat called–wait, that’s a lie, but I was out coming from a kickback and it was late and yeah, you know, the car never stopped, and I never intentionally… but I have, in passing, stopped a woman before and simply said “Excuse me, I just want you to know you look good today,” and kept moving. Does that make me a chauvinist? Does it matter if she had on make up or not? Whether it was her real hair or not? Does one give more “real” point to the dark skinned women versus the light skinned ones? Natural hair vs. permed hair?
Within the black community, far too often this is where this argument lies. It’s really issues of gender and black feminism and expectations of masculinity (masculinism) that play heavily into all of this. I will say this, to quote a close friend, I’m not interested in having non-solution based discussions. If reconciliation isn’t a primary goal, I see no point in a dialogue that’s more concerned about arguing just how right one is to show just how wrong the other side appears to be.
Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL