When we see this mascara ad (one of HUNDREDS just like it in any media directed at women), we have a few thoughts:
Natural extension-free, insert-free eyelashes on women are unbelievably rare in all media today, and it has exerted some serious pressure on girls and women to keep up with that normalized new standard. Eyelash-related products and services are being sold at record rates. Before you dismiss this stuff as petty, consider that this is an example of one single beauty ideal (among hundreds) that has evolved to become inescapable and unquestioned. We LOVE to question these things.
Like the sticky note says, this ad has been altered to sell many unreal ideals, and the most egregious is the LIE so many of us are buying that any mascara can make your lashes look like this! Even this magic mascara can’t create the look in this very ad! Need proof? See the disclaimer in the bottom left: “Simulation of product. Results on the lashes enhanced by lash inserts.” In other words, “This is all a lie. But we hope you don’t read this tiny print.”
Why is “LOOK-AT-ME” always the goal if you’re female? We hate that becoming an ornament to be looked at is not only the unspoken message of most advertising directed at women (for beauty products and everything else), but is often also the literal, verbalized message, like it is here. Your body is an instrument to be used for your benefit, not an ornament for others’ viewing pleasure. Thinking about what you look like a lot of the time, even while you should be concentrating on other things, is called self-objectification and it’s not a good thing. Learn how to recognize it here.
No one ever ever ever talks about men’s eyelashes or sells men anything to do with their eyelashes or asks men to think about what their eyelashes are lacking. Male and female eyelashes serve the same functions and are created equal. Just like men, you don’t need to dye, extend, amplify, paint, or modify your eyelashes in any way. You don’t. Yes, we’re living in a world where natural eyelashes are becoming a rare sight in media (and unfortunately in the world around us too), but that does not mean your natural lashes are any less awesome or fulfill their intended function any less perfectly. When we flip the script and see how unbelievably gendered the expectations of eyelashes are, we get a much-needed reality check.
We are not throwing shade on anyone with lash extensions, expensive potions, mascaras, procedures or prescriptions. We get it. Long, dark, thick lashes look fab. But we gotta talk about the reasons so many women feel so compelled to spend their money and time on those potions and procedures. And why zero men do. And why ads like this target us at every turn. And how much money these companies are making off of our desire to look like these unreal images. (Hint: it’s in the billions.)
Own your reality. Own it and rock it and show other people it’s OK to feel good about their own realities — long, thick, dark lashes or short, thin, light ones or whatever. We all need them to protect our amazing eyeballs. When you accept and feel OK about whatever you’re working with, it gives others permission to accept and feel OK about whatever they’re working with too. And that simple example can be life-changing.
Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline. OR MAYBE it’s Maybelline plus lash inserts, plus Photoshop, plus an objectifying culture that teaches us our appearances define our worth that gives this ad its power.
I’m rebelling against this endless eyelash pressure by boycotting mascara today. And maybe tomorrow. Don’t get me wrong — I love me some mascara, but what I love more is my self-worth not being determined by the products I smear on my face. If you feel less “you” when you’re not wearing certain cosmetics or lash extensions, or you use certain products and services out of fear of what others will think if you *don’t*, I challenge you to try TRY try to wean yourself off of them. It is liberating to stop depending on that stuff. Prove to yourself that you are more than a body and your reflection doesn’t define your worth by foregoing the beauty efforts and expense you think you need. You don’t need makeup or extensions to make you any more acceptable and valuable or any more YOU.
If people ask you if you’re “sick” or “tired” or “OK?” when you’re not wearing makeup, we have to learn to blame the system that has created the made-up, unnatural ideals we now see and accept as the default of normal and healthy. Wear those questions as a badge of honor for pushing back against the pressures that make our regular, natural faces unacceptable and strange while painted, modified faces go unquestioned. You could even be honest and say that out loud when someone offers a comment or question about your less made-up or naked face — tell them this is just your natural face and the alternative is actually your altered face. If the person is cool, tell them you’re working to be more comfortable with yourself minus alterations. There is no shame in this game!
Need more help developing body image resilience that can help you overcome your self-consciousness and be more powerful than ever before? Learn how to recognize harmful ideals, redefine beauty and health, and resist what holds you back from happiness, health, and real empowerment with the Beauty Redefined Body Image Program for girls and women 14+. It is an online, anonymous therapeutic tool that can change your life, designed by Lexie & Lindsay Kite, with PhDs in body image and media.
For more about the Beauty Redefined Foundation and the work Lindsay and Lexie do to promote positive body image, check out our short intro video below, and don’t forget to subscribe to our new YouTube channel!