The adventure of reading free London newspapers

I am not pregnant. Which is kinda a huge relief, as I’m sure you can imagine. See this if you missed the whole worrying-that-I-might-be-pregnant panic. I also wanted to apologise for using cisgendered language in that post, and not taking into account that unplanned pregnancy isn’t just an issue for women, but for anyone with a uterus who may identify as trans*, genderqueer, or any other identity. I told myself when I started writing this blog that I  would make an effort not to marginalise people who are not cisgendered, but I can be insensitive and forgetful all too often. Mostly I am writing here about my experiences as a cisgendered woman, so a lot of what I have to say is aimed at other cisgendered women, but that’s not excuse. So I’m sorry, and I really will make an effort to be more careful in future. Please let me know if I screw up.

On to the exciting experience of reading a the Evening Standard (a free London newspaper) on the train last night. Normally I wouldn’t bother with it, but I was bored, and it was free. And the result? Well, people are always saying to feminists ‘Why do you look for stuff to get angry about?’ when we try to point out how something is sexist/misogynistic/homophobic/racist/classist/just generally offensive. Let me be clear here, I did not have to look for something to get angry about in this absolutely terrible paper. In fact, I had to look fairly hard to find an article that didn’t annoy me. Some of my personal ‘favourites’ were:

1) A photo of a famous actor married to an even more famous actress. The caption was something like ‘Daniel Craig takes his wife, Rachel Weisz (actress) to event’. And I’m like, um, she is just as famous as him, if no more so. What’s wrong with saying ‘Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz go to event together’? Or even, heaven forbid, ‘Rachel Weisz goes to event with Daniel Craig’? But no, he is the man. The famous, successful one in the relationship. The actor. She is just the wife. Oh,  look at the brackets, she happens to be an actress. Who knew.

2) A very short article on how female MPs need to learn to dress properly if they want to be taken seriously. But not too glamourously, that just makes them look like shameless entertainers. After all, how can a woman who chooses to wear the wrong shoes possibly know how to run a country? So remember, always dress smartly, and look your best, as long as you don’t look too pretty. That will just distract all the men. (It was written by a woman as well, which really annoyed me. I was all like ‘Nooo, the patriarchy has gotten to you too!’)

3) A fucking three page feature on how to look ‘natural’ this January.

It’s the last one that I really want to get my teeth into. ‘Natural’. By ‘natural’, do they mean no make-up? You know, like what the word natural actually means? Of course not. They mean that special type of natural that can only be the result of serious effort with the most expensive brands of make-up. The ‘it looks like I’m not wearing any make-up at all!’ look, that cannot possibly be achieved by actually not wearing any make-up at all.

Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with make-up. I wear it myself – bright shades of eyeshadow, thick black eyeliner, and dark red lipstick all form part of my costume if I’m going out somewhere special. If I’m not, a dash of lipgloss and a quick stroke of eyeliner usually does the trick. Mostly, I don’t wear anything at all, mainly because I don’t have the time for it, but I appreciate that other people do, and that’s cool. Each to their own. I don’t even mind people who like to wear lots of subtle make-up, which (they feel) improves their appearance without giving the impression that they’re wearing much at all. It’s a cool trick, if you can pull it off.

No, what I object to is the idea that this pretending to wear no make-up while actually spending hours perfecting the look is what ‘natural’ means. The article even went as far as to say that no one except for ‘those with absolutely flawless skin’ could pull of not wearing any make-up at all. I do not have flawless skin, not even close, but I don’t feel ashamed to leave the house without mandatory concealer and foundation, thank you very much. In fact, I think I can look great rocking the genuinely natural look. So please, random newspaper that does not even have the pitiful excuse of being a woman’s glossy lifestyle magazine, don’t try to guilt-trip me into buying fancy cosmetics that I don’t feel I need.

There’s also the issue that the natural-looking cosmetics are always the more expensive ones, and the natural look takes more time and energy than one where it’s obvious make-up has been used. What does that tell us? That looking natural takes more effort than not? And that’s not taking into account that foundation and the rest of it actually makes your skin worse. A three-page feature, on how you should feel ashamed in January unless you follow their steps to completely hide yourself behind their invisible shields.

Again, it is the article that annoyed me, not people who do choose to go in for that kind of look. It’s the pressure I’m objecting to, not the individual decision, which is of course perfectly fine. Personally, if I’m wearing make-up, I want it to be obvious. I don’t like hiding behind a more conventionally attractive version of myself, pretending it’s how I am ‘naturally’. But that is my choice, and I’m not going to inflict it on anyone else. I just wish the  editors and writers of the Evening Standard would afford me the same courtesy. Alas, too much to ask from a free newspaper.

I’ll be over here for the rest of January, rocking the actually-wearing-no-make-up look. I’m not sure what to call that now ‘natural’ has been commandeered. Suggestions?


6 thoughts on “The adventure of reading free London newspapers

  1. Argh! I only read those freebie papers if I want something to rant about on my blog. the sad thing is, they are not the exception – they just reflect/are symptomatic of, the attitudes in quite a wide swathe of society.

    Suggestions for what to call the “actually-wearing-no-make-up look”: Unadorned? Cosmefree? Free range? Factory preset? Default?

    • I quite like ‘free range’. Makes me feel a bit like a chicken, but a high quality, organic kind of chicken.

      I know, they’re all rage-inducing, and I shouldn’t read them either. But I know that other people do, and it makes me frustrated that enough people agree with this bullshit. Keep ranting about them on your blog!

  2. The Evening Standard gets me angry too. Gah!
    I agree with you about makeup: the subtle adjustments are overly expensive and time consuming for something that seems a bit less authentic than applying makeup to enhance your feelings/appearance at time. I think I read an article about this recently, but goodness knows where.

    • There was something on the feminist blogosphere about a TV show (I forget the name) that gives people who wear lots of ostentatious make-up a ‘make-under’, which makes them look ‘natural’ and therefore attractive, by actually using the exact same amount of make-up, just in subtler shades. Not sure if that was what you meant, but it instantly came to mind when I saw the Evening Standard article. Damn it, this stuff is everywhere!

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