Thursday, February 26, 2009

Beauty, Consumerism and Environmentalism

What is beauty? Is beauty defined by a mainstream magazine cover where the models are airbrushed, who eat diets of 800 calories a day, wear toxic makeup and use toxic products to wash and style their hair? To some this is beauty. To me this is a definition of self hate, internalized oppression and empowerment that only reigns on the surface.

In my life I have defined beauty as natural, honoring Mother Earth, honoring the Native tradition of beauty and not falling into the trap of consumerism. The trick of mainstream beauty is consumerism, not honoring Mother Earth and economic poverty for women. This is all related and it distracts women from cultivating inner beauty and true empowerment. First, consumerism is a trap that keeps you only coming back for more. Its how capitalism thrives. Yet, it is the intention of these big corporations to lure you in to their products and be distracted from your authentic self. Secondly, products that help us look beautiful are most often toxic. Despite the whole "green" movement these products are still filled with many toxins. Beauty at what cost? Is it a cost of the Planet? Is it a cost of the Earth until we have continuously raped her resources therefore raping ourselves? It is cyclical as all is related. Thirdly, these beauty products are targeted at women to keep them buying and feeling that they need to have this makeup or other beauty products to feel complete. Poverty is feminized and one aspect of this is beauty products. If 70% of the world's poor are women then why are companies directing beauty products towards women? Mainstream beauty maintains homogeneity among women. If a women has outer beauty whether in the home or work world she can keep her head above water. While her breasts are lumped and pushed up into toxic and padded bras as she cooks, cleans, types, washes, files, sorts and delivers to the male she can survive. For he is surrounded by the outer beauty of a women to please him and to be praised by him. Maybe she will be promoted at her job because of her outer beauty but not inner beauty. This is why these beauty products thrive. Once the coating of makeup is applied she can be safe in a world that discriminates, exploits and oppresses against her at all costs. It is a well designed system of distraction and ultimately submission into gender norms for sake of survival. While some women rise above others buy into this idea of beauty to please others, oppress themselves, deeply internalize oppression, are sold into the idea of beauty and its viscous cycle. This ideal will continued to be delivered to you in shiny, stinky magazines and billboards even in an economic depression. Unless you live in the middle of the forest its hard to not see whats going.

The definition of beauty can be dismantled. There are more body positive websites out there. There are sites about size acceptance. There are cool online stores that promote a positive self image. We can cultivate inner beauty within ourselves. We can understand and learn more about the cyclical connections of the Earth to our hearts, spirits and back again. We can reject consuming beauty products sake of looking good for a night or to impress others. Most of all we can shine our light out from our heart and souls to stand strong in who we really are.


What are your stories on this topic?

What are your experiences with beauty standards with your friends, family and community?

Do you dismantle standards of beauty in your everyday life or do you adhere to them?

If you choose to wear makeup or purchase other beauty products do you feel empowered? Are you doing this for yourself or is it for your partner/companion and/or job?

More information and resources:

Beauty at Any Cost - A YWCA USA report on the consequences of
America’s beauty obsession on women and girls.

A body lovin' site - Adios Barbie.

Any Body - A site that challenges the limited representation of females in contemporary society.


dollyspeaks said...

Cecelia--this is a fantastic post! I love how you tie in beauty image to consumerism, because it is so true. For as long as companies want to make a profit, they can oppress women by limiting them to their bodies. Cultural programming does a great job of that by instilling in young girls the "beauty myth." It took me nearly 18 years before I realized I didn't need to be pretty to have value, and even now I realize that while this may be true to me and those I love, mainstream society has yet to accept it.

"Green" movement is so obviously a superficial trend in major corporations. The idea that if you stick an herb in a product and a leaf next to your logo that you've gone "green," is what makes it superficial. I wish I knew how to make my own soaps and stuff so that I wouldn't have to rely on companies with questionable backgrounds.

I think as far as my story goes, I used to wear a TON of makeup. Having two different colored eyebrows made me sensitively aware of my facial asymmetry. I tried to disguise my face with loads of mascara, eyeliner, brow pencil, harmful bleach creams, and face concealers. I always felt too fat and my hair was never straight enough, long enough, shiny enough. It wasn't until just this last year really that I gave up--mostly because I was tired of a 2-hour routine in the morning, to still wonder during the day if people could tell if my face was asymmetrical. I'm like Tamara Blue now: "Fuck it. Just love it!"

Really amazing post. Great job! :D

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

Dolly - Yes, mainstream society has yet to accept it. I was 15 years old when I knew what was up. This is when I would march up to the health food store and buy my natural body lotion and natural shampoo. I was doing this is defiance against the J.Crew parade and Allure magazine polluting my consciousness.

The green movement is very superficial and frustrating. Green is 100% not 10% to meet a corporate quota.

Thanks for sharing your experiences. A 2 hour routine in the morning? Wow! Yes, self love and body acceptance is so important! I love that poem by Tamara Blue - so inspirational and body positive!

Idzie said...

Great post! I stopped wearing makeup last year, when I found out all of the toxic crap that's in it. Also, a good portion of the time, I'd wear it because I didn't like how I looked without it. And I didn't like that I felt that way!

It always pisses me off (like, extreme I want to do bodily harm to the person) when people say that the woman's rights movement is over, that things are equal now, because they are so obviously NOT! Woman are objectified everywhere you look (as your post showed very convincingly), and no woman, no matter where she lives, can ever feel safe walking alone at night. Hell, it doesn't even have to be night. And that makes me incredibly sad...

Sorry, that turned into a mini rant lol.

Anyway, love the post!


Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

Idzie - Glad you like this post! Ranting is totally fine with me.

Yeah there is a lot of stuff in makeup. So many toxic chemicals.

I totally understand because the woman's rights movement is not over at all. Objectification is an everyday occurrence, everywhere you turn. This is why it is important to dismantle beauty and objectification as much as we can.

Renee said...

This is an awesome post. I agree, very few think about how toxic beauty images can be. I know that I don't subscribe to most of the nonsense and yet I would be dishonest if I didn't admit that I am not hurt by the discipline I receive from it. When I speak out against it, I'm told what do you expect if want to do your own thing there is a price to pay. I know that my way living and loving myself is ultimately healthier and I just need to find the strength to keep resisting forces that attempt to create women as other.

feministblogproject said...

What are your experiences with beauty standards with your friends, family and community?

One of the reasons I hate going into work is because I don't shave my legs or wear makeup, and even though I'm glad of my decision because it's healthier for me and because it means I get to sleep later (because I don't have to get up early to "put on my face"), I actually feel "unprofessional" because I don't look nearly as glamorous as my co-workers who engage in meaningless beauty rituals. Even though what's on my face has nothing at all to do with my job.

Do you dismantle standards of beauty in your everyday life or do you adhere to them?

I try to dismantle them. I quit shaving my legs in May; I quit waxing my eyebrows, too. I also virtually quit wearing makeup, although I have a little bit in my apartment that I like to put on sometimes, if I'm in the mood (which is maybe 6-8 times a YEAR). Nor do I spend half an hour styling my hair. I try to show that you don't need to live up to some standard of beauty and still be successful.

If you choose to wear makeup or purchase other beauty products do you feel empowered? Are you doing this for yourself or is it for your partner/companion and/or job?

There are only two occasions when I wear makeup:

1. If I am in a dance performance and I need it so I won't look washed out under stage lights. I don't mind wearing makeup in these instances because I do want my face to be seen! Okay, I don't really like putting it on, but I'm okay with having to do it.

2. When I feel like it. Which is rare. I put on some eyeliner last Thursday just because I was in the mood, and that was the first time I had put on any makeup since early December. So when I choose to wear it, I do it entirely for me.

By the way, my makeup count is: one stick of eyeliner, one pot of glitter powder, and four lipsticks.

Pan said...

I loved this blog, your so cool, I agree that natural is innate beauty and much more appealing than face paint that harms the earth and your so right about oppression, I never thought of it like that,its a false layer of illusion that creates a false domaine of self. I choke to death walking through those makeup departments, that as to say something about the toxicity of the stuff. Stuff to clutter up the life and spend vast amounts of time applying and perfecting, what for, everyone is naturally concieved and perfect already without fabrication to play subservience to male illusions of feminity. Theres no respect in false consummerism, just exploitation and impedance to autonomy of nature, happiness is in being present and not lost in the dark looking for whats right in front of you.
Thanks Cecelia your so good at blogging and so naturally beautiful with it, Im inspired again.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

Renee - Thank you, I am glad you like this post! This way of living that resists mainstream beauty is definitely much healthier.

feministblogproject - Thank you for answering all the questions. Its interesting that you would feel unprofessional at your job when glamor and beauty does not mean makeup and shaving ones legs. I am glad that you are trying to dismantle them. I have not shaved my legs in years as well. But, there have been times where I did shave my legs, especially when I was a runner. I love that your makeup count is so minimal. I have four mineral eye makeup's in which two were given to me as a gift. I am glad that when you choose to wear makeup that you do it only for you!

Pan - I have always choked when I breath the smell of a magazine like Glamor or Cosmopolitan here in the USA. Same with the aisles of makeup. Exactly there is no respect in this false consumerism. It is not about honor or respect. I am glad my writing and my blog inspire you, yah!

lyndorr said...

Very interesting. It's true that it's hard to find things that are naturally green and not just 10%. I hate how they can trick people like that. I barely wear make-up though I would love to know how to do it better for times like weddings.

Whenever the consumerism issue is brought up, I agree on a personal level. In my 21 years I've acquired plenty enough stuff and will be careful when thinking about buying something else. However, there's this nagging voice in my head that says if everyone were like me and my parents, how would there be enough jobs for everyone? Then another voice says that I can't just assume there's not another better way.

Once my lotion runs out I will buy more from the Farmer's Market. I've also realized how many local producers of soap there are in the area.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

lyndorr - It is interesting you bring up jobs. People associate extracting resources from the Earth and creating a "product," with jobs. This is true but on the contrary most all of these jobs are unsustainable on some level. What I mean by unsustainable is that once certain resources are used up there will be no need for the "product." So on our Planet at this current time we are undergoing what many mainstream thinkers label as a "crisis." In fact it is but we have the opportunity to come together and create something that is good for us as people and the Earth. So that we actually choose to live in balance and harmony here. I really believe and feel that if we choose the path of harmony and balance "jobs/career" and its definition will drastically change. The meaning of it, hours working in the job and how it affects our families and communities. This is a system that is failing so we can tweek it to better reflect the Earth, balance and harmony that is cyclical.

I love the Farmer's market and I am glad so many people utilize it. It is really a great place to contribute to community, small businesses and local farms.

Sounds like you are very conscious about the choices you make and how they impact the Earth, thats great!

Lyndsay said...

"The meaning of it, hours working in the job and how it affects our families and communities."

This reminds me of one of my "ideal world" solutions. Give everyone the option of working 80-90% of the hours they do for 80-90% of the income. Hopefully enough people will accept this to make more jobs in a company and the unemployment rate will be lower. I would love to work no more than 30-35h a week if I made enough for a simple life.

And yeah, lots of jobs are definitely unsustainable. Every time I go to the Farmer's Market I'm glad to see it's so busy.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

Lyndsay - I have noticed there are more and more people at the Farmer's Markets here. Local is the new organic. It is better to support a farm 40 miles up the compared to supporting something 2,000 miles away that is organic.

Ideal world solutions are so important to have and to work towards. If we truly believe and live our ideals we can then create a more sustainable to just society.

K.C. Jones said...

I do like wearing makeup, but most of my makeup is bare minerals, which is supposed to be good for the skin and the earth. Please, let me know if it isn't! I'm a little different from most women though, in that I think of clothes and makeup as art. I wear makeup, because it makes me happy and it is how I express myself-not to please any man. Usually I don't wear much, but I do like to have a bright red, sexy, shiny mouth.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

K.C. Jones - Yes Bare Minerals is good makeup. On their website it says it is free of preservatives, talc, oil, fragrance, other potential skin irritants and fillers and binders.

Whatever feels good to you is great especially if you feel like it is art. I know there are a lot of women who are wear makeup and dress up because it makes them feel good and it is not for a man or whomever else.

Pan said...

Just following on from Lyndorr's good point about Jobs, I think part of the problem with the hierarchy is that it struggles under its own device to be a hierarchy, implementing jobs to fulfill a work ethic based on equal opportunity and merit, yet, in real equality of life ethics in harmony with work ethics arises the potential to create billions of jobs in community vitality and integration with a right to life and quality in sustainable natural being, in tune with nature and the world. Equality is vastly under rated as a means of developing affinity to the significance of the world we live in. We own the planet, it does not own us and when we all own something, we take more care in the way we look after it, since its significance to the future, is a reflection of our own capacity to be intelligent beings and not locusts, in the future of children and animals alike, since, in the nature of being we are always the history to the future we cultivate and pass on.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

Pan - I agree with what you are saying. We have yet to create jobs that are in tune with the natural rhythms of the Earth. Capitalism is destructive on all levels. There are some new theories and thinking around natural capitalism.

Here is some information...

EHR said...

Love this post!

I went through a phase where I wore makeup on a regular basis and while I liked the attention I got at first, I quickly began to realize that it wasn't the makeup (which inevitably ended up running off my face after a half hour anyway) but that I felt so good about myself, I was glowing. So I stopped wearing the makeup and resolved to just keep feeling good about myself!

I don't wear a bra anymore either. That was very strange at first - not many people are used to seeing a woman without a bra so they tend to stare - but it felt so good to not be separated from a part of my body by cloth and (ugh!) wire that I have never worn one since.

My New Years resolution this year was to wear jewelry more, but it wasn't a consumerist thing. It was inspired by a gift of jewelry from one of my favorite aunts. The necklace she gave me used to belong to her mother's sister, who I also adored but who passed away, and I felt so close to her wearing it. It was almost like she was hugging me or talking to me the whole time I was wearing it, and since I miss her a lot, it meant so much to me to have that. Most of the rest of my jewelry is from my great grandmother, too, so I decided I needed to bring those wonderful women with me a lot more. And now my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law are starting to give me jewelry, so I can carry them with me too.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

EHR - I am glad you like this post! Yeah I am glad you feel good about yourself without makeup. Yes, thats awesome about not wearing a bra. I know many women who choose not to wear one. Thank you for also sharing your story about the jewelry and connections to the females in your life. I know many women who wear jewelry that are specifically from Mothers or other female family members.

sushil yadav said...

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

Industrial Society is destroying necessary things [Animals, Trees, Air, Water and Land] for making unnecessary things [consumer goods].

"Growth Rate" - "Economy Rate" - "GDP"

These are figures of "Ecocide".
These are figures of "crimes against Nature".
These are figures of "destruction of Ecosystems".
These are figures of "Insanity, Abnormality and Criminality".

The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature [Animals, Trees, Air, Water and Land].

Destroy the system that has killed all ecosystems.

Destroy the society that plunders, exploits and kills earth 365 days of the year and then celebrates Earth Day.

Chief Seattle of the Indian Tribe had warned the destroyers of ecosystems way back in 1854 :

Only after the last tree has been cut down,
Only after the last river has been poisoned,
Only after the last fish has been caught,
Only then will you realize that you cannot eat money.

To read the complete article please follow any of these links.

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

Delhi, India

B said...

Hey Cecelia,

I love this; thanks so much for pointing it out to me! Like other commenters, I used to wear a lot of make-up and spent a lot of time on that stuff. As I got older though, I also made choices like not shaving my legs & armpits. A friend once asked, "Why do you wear makeup but not shave?" I couldn't answer that and after one particularly humid summer when I sweat off most of my makeup, I just gave up. When I moved abroad a few years ago to be with my partner, I couldn't bring appliances due to the different plugs and that was the last of my vices: my hair straightener was left behind. What amazes me is that I was someone who bothered with that even a few years ago. Feels like eons now.

Much love for all you do, brittany

Anishinaabekwe said...

Brittany - Glad you enjoyed this post and thanks for commenting! A simple life and simple way of taking care of yourself feels good. I am glad you appreciate the work that I do.