Wednesday, November 12, 2014
"My name is Tracey Spicer, and I am a vain fool," Australian journalist Tracey Spicer said to a TEDx audience before she started walking them through her beauty routine before appearing on stage that day. It consisted of a morning run (even though no one was chasing her with an axe), exercises to try and get an inner thigh gap and to get rid of "bingo flaps," exfoliating her skin, lathering her hair with shampoo and conditioner that contains harmful chemicals, and then using skin products with more chemicals.
"By this time, I'm feeling like the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil spill," she said. "But I can't stop." She then said she applied bronzing cream, straightened her hair using searing heat and then "almost did her back in" as she lifted up her makeup case that morning.
Her beauty routine is only one example of many in how much many women go through each morning to get ready for the world. "Why do we do this to ourselves? Why?" she asked. "Because it's bullsh*t." She then proceeded to the message of her talk: Women could increase their productivity and place in the world if they just decrease the amount of time spent grooming.
The TODAY/AOL Ideal to Real Body Image survey released in February said that women spend an average of 355 hours, or 14 days, each year grooming themselves. That breaks down to about 55 minutes each morning on average, though some women will tell you that it's closer to two hours. In the amount of time women spend grooming over a lifetime (about 17,750), Spicer said they could do things such as become proficient in an instrument or learn a foreign language. In the 55 minutes we spend grooming, we could get more sleep or even use a few minutes of that to do a short yoga routine. We could get up and actually make breakfast, instead of grabbing something on the go.
But Spicer's speech was so much more than how we could be more productive by cutting down on beauty routines. She also talked about what society expects of us and how no woman really understands why we're told to wear makeup or those "tools of the patriarchy," as Spicer so affectionately called heels.
For someone whose morning routine consists of hitting the snooze button repeatedly, getting a quick shower, spraying sea-salt spray into my hair and throwing clothes on, she affirmed my reasons for not being a major participant in the beauty culture. Sure, I'd love to get up early enough to put on makeup, and I'd love to have a better wardrobe, but I don't have to do any of that to feel beautiful. And I definitely don't have to wear the torture device called heels to feel noticed.
When I was a young teenager, I thought I had to wear makeup to keep up with society, but that quickly took a backseat when I realized I'd rather sleep than get up early enough to put it on. Hell, I'd rather get outside and run than put on makeup. It also helped that my mom and stepmom always told me that I look fine without it.
For me, it's always been because I didn't care enough to do any of those things. But Spicer gave me a new reason to keep doing what I do—I don't have to wear makeup or uncomfortable shoes or even get eyebrow waxes frequently to feel beautiful. I feel most beautiful when I've done none of those things. My face doesn't feel like it's covered in a mask or get irritated from some of the chemicals in makeup, and my hair looks fine when it's acting naturally, and staying away from a lot of products keeps it healthier.
After watching Spicer's talk, my beauty routine, or lack thereof, became a statement against societal rules that dictate how women should look, dress and act on a daily basis.
I'm not saying that women who wear makeup are wrong for it. On the contrary, I respect someone who can do a good cat eye, and I wish I could learn how to put on lipstick and lip gloss without it coming off. I know plenty of women who treat makeup as art, which is great. And I can appreciate a good heel and a pretty dress with the best of them.
If you enjoy a good mascara and love to go shopping, more power to you. I'm also not saying that women who wear makeup are better than women who do. We all have our own reasons for liking what we like and doing what we do. It's no use condemning anyone, because we're all different.
What I am saying is that when you take your makeup off, don't look in the mirror and hate the person you see. Your makeup doesn't make you who you are, and it doesn't determine your worth in society. It should be simply a vehicle to enhance natural beauty or a way to express yourself. When you start looking at a beauty routine in that light, you may find yourself cutting down on the amount of time it takes you to get ready.
As a way to break through the societal barriers and to show the audience who she really was, Spicer took off her makeup, sprayed her hair with water to bring out its natural state, took off her heels, jewelry and dress.
Underneath the layers of her armor, she revealed her true self, a strong-willed woman with the courage to do just that. She said that women go through the torture of beauty routines because we are trying to protect ourselves from the outside world. We don't want anyone to see what we look like under our layers.
Her reason for speaking out? Spicer has a 7-year-old daughter who always asks why her mom does all these things when she gets ready for her TV appearances. She said she couldn't tell her that she does it because it makes her look better, because that says that she doesn't like the way she looks naturally, and she couldn't tell her that she does it because she likes it, because that points to low self-esteem. Spicer says she does tell her that it's what society expects of women—even though she doesn't like it and probably doesn't want to do it.
It's this kind of expectation that keeps women from truly excelling and progressing. We keep letting society tell us what we need to do. And I, for one, don't want to do that anymore.
Amber Helsel is the assistant editor of the Jackson Free Press and coordinated this issue. Email her at [email protected] freepress.com.