A glimpse into a different world

A couple of months ago I was fooling around buzzfeed when I stumbled upon a story that for whatever reason caught my eye. It was about a blogger in Singapore who specializes in makeup tips who had just had her face ‘destroyed’ by a facial treatment gone wrong (you can find it here, if you are interested). I clicked on the link and got my first glimpse of a world that felt completely alien to me and left. That should have been it, except for the fact that for whatever reason I remembered that post yesterday, so I decided to go back to that site and see what had happened since then… and unlike what had been the case the first time around, I wound up spending some time there.

It was an interesting experience, both enlightening and horrifying. To begin with, let me state something: I don’t get makeup. I never have, and I probably never will. I am who I am and I am comfortable in my own skin, but at the same time I realize that makeup is a multibillion dollar industry and that there are plenty of women out there who can’t even begin to imagine going out in public without their gunky armor on. That may seem weird to me, but I guess that’s my problem.

The thing is that while I was reading this story I was horrified not so much by what had happened to this woman’s face as by the impact it seemed (or rather seems) to have had on her life. Yes, the damage was extensive, and I understand that the whole thing must have been quite a shock for someone who describes herself as extremely image-conscious, but it was as if in her mind there could be nothing worse than having a skin condition, and that a couple of months later she is still apparently ashamed to even show her face. Granted, in her case that situation is likely to have been made worse by the fact that, being a professional makeup blogger, makeup tips are literally her life, but at the same time in reading her words I couldn’t help but to think that it went deeper than that.

I mean, in the original post there were more warnings about how gross, graphic, disturbing, disgusting, horrifying and downright revolting the pictures were than you would get from a serious news organization before a segment dealing in detail with the carnage of war, massacres, bombings, catastrophic accidents and the like, and those warnings anything but tongue in cheek.

Now, under normal circumstances I would consider it her business, acknowledge that she is entitled to her opinion and leave it at that. I certainly don’t want to minimize her feelings, but at the same time I feel that her story is a perfect, albeit extreme, example of the importance women are taught to ascribe to their looks. Yes, I understand the concept of beauty, but at the same time I hate the fact that there are all these companies that spend millions of dollars selling us a problem in our childhoods, when we can’t really hope to defend ourselves, just so that they will be able to sell us the solution once we reach our teens (and keep selling them to us over and over again as we age) that makes me want to rebel. From the day we are born we are taught to judge each other based on our looks, to compete with each other, and to feel that we have to strive for some unattainable ideal so that when the time comes we will buy the clothes, cream, makeup and eventually the plastic surgery that will supposedly get us there… and to make matters worse we are also taught to force each other to comply. If we decide not to play that game, well, then we are judged too.

It’s like that old reality show ‘What Not to Wear’, a show that had as its sole purpose to humiliate, belittle  and ‘reform’ those who refused to fall in line when it came to those expected standards.

I guess that’s why the story of that blogger, a woman I don’t know and I will never meet, bugged me so much. Yes, she was the victim of a facial gone seriously wrong, but what she doesn’t seem to realize is that long before that she was a victim of a culture that sold her an ideal she had to aspire to… and then she went on to become an enforcer for that culture, one for whom the very idea that she might be effectively out of the running when it came to attaining that particular ideal was completely unbearable.

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