When I first heard about the #nomakeupselfie for breast cancer awareness I didn’t give it much thought. In a society that runs amok with awareness campaigns that range from the subtle (ribbons) to the ridiculous (Movember) I am quite accustomed to people latching on to some form of symbolism or action to raise awareness for a particular need.

I get that the hype created around these efforts can be greatly assisted by social media just as easily as the whole point of the thing can be missed entirely as a fad-hungry generation grab hold and pose for their own little world to see.

This one, however, really has been a wonderful success, proven by the influx of sms donations that accompanied most of those selfies.

Even though the cancer research organizations in the UK didn’t start the trend (#nomakeupselfies have been around for a while now) they reportedly raised over 3 million pounds in just a few days between them when the cancer-centric version of this hashtag began trending.

That’s Good. Bravo, I say. Bravo, bare faced ladies!

But as with everything on a platform, this viral campaign has been met with a backlash. Some claim that it is vanity disguised as philanthropy. That’s Bad.

The accusation flying around that it is just a bunch of silly girls flooding the twitter-verse with braggy pictures of themselves posing sans make up holds no water, if you ask me, given the incredible amount of money raised for cancer research.

Sure, some of them are just posting pics without backing it up with the donation that was meant to accompany it (and some don’t even link the cause to the photo at all, not a #cancer, nada, zilch) but for the most part, most of the women partaking seem to be doing it properly.

What interests me, though, is what a #nomakeupselfie has to do with cancer.

It seems that the thinking behind it is based around the correlation between a ‘vulnerable’ photo of a woman, and the vulnerability of women in general to the clutches of cancer.

While I see the point and am all for anything that helps raise that much money for cancer research, I feel really unsettled at the use of the word ‘vulnerable’ when talking about a woman with no make up on.

The Ugly. Why is it that society finds a natural, barefaced, the way we were made and wake up in the morning photo of ourselves such a vulnerability?

When being real, just as we are, something most men do every day of their lives, why is it that that means we are being ‘vulnerable’ or ‘brave’?

Perhaps I am part of that problem too. While I don’t wear a lot of make up, I like to highlight my features and look my best. I don’t like being caught out and about when I have not washed up a little. I prefer my husband to come home to a sweet smelling me with brushed hair, pretty eyes and matt-dewy skin.

Then again, I don’t feel mortified when he sees me when I’m working in the garden, all sweaty, dirty and make-up free either. I don’t mind it when we spend a day together fly-fishing on the river and I leave all make-up off other than some sun factor.

I don’t feel ‘vulnerable’ when I go to gym in the mornings with no make up on, even though I will be seen by loads of strangers. I feel dressed for the occasion! (Sweat + make-up is just not a good combination.) And I certainly don’t mind having my friends see me completely barefaced when they come to visit or we spend a day on the beach.

But truth be told, I would rather choose the photo of me looking made up over the photo of me completely natural when it comes to my on-line profile.

I have to ask myself, why is that? This is me. It’s just who I am, so there is no point in pretending that it’s not. So I should just be me.

But if posting a picture of how I look without all the thrills and frills attached means I am presenting a vulnerable side to the world, then I say that there is something fundamentally wrong with the world and we need to change it. We need to take back our reality.

But I can’t really change the world, can I? With one #nomakeupselfie. I can’t cure cancer with one donation to CANSA, even if I post it on Twitter for others to see and add the link for them to possibly follow suit.

Or can I? Can my little coin help when added to the pile that grew to 3 million pounds in 3 days?

I can’t change the way society sees women or the truly ugly way beauty is warped and molded to fit an unrealistic form of thigh-gap perfection. I can’t change the way we judge others and ourselves with one #nomakeupselfie. I can’t do anything about it, really, and I will just suffer the mortification when seen without my mask on…

Or maybe the problem with the world all boils down to the problem inside me, and that is something I do have control over.

I can change the way I see myself. I need to be ‘brave’ to stop society feeling that presenting our un-brushed real selves is an act of bravery, and I need to be real to encourage the rest of my fellow female comrades to do the same.

So I say bring on the #nomakeupselfie. Bring it on for cancer awareness and bring it on for the sake of us reclaiming our natural selves.

Bring it on, freckles and cows licks and all, for the sake of being comfortable in our own skin and saving all our energy for things that are more worthy of our time.

Then, perhaps, that multi-billion dollar industry dedicated to helping us women cover ourselves up could be better steered in a different direction. Perhaps even just a sliver of the pie could go to permanently funding cancer research.

And who knows - maybe a cure is just around the corner.



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