#nomakeupselfie: 3 Things You Must Know Before Posting

While the #selfie meme irritates me personally, I’m far more irritated by the short-sightedness by many critics of the ensuing Cancer Research UK campaign, raising awareness and funding cancer research.

Make-up free selfies have nothing to do with cancer.

It’s not a campaign. It’s just a hashtag, started by this lady, in support of this other lady, who copped a lot of heat from a faceless, Twitter mob for her physical appearance, at the Oscars. So why are women like Sall Hughes claiming it as a “reductive, sexist, self-congratulatory campaigns for ominous gain”? Make-up and feminism certainly aren’t mutually exclusive.

The fact that publicly posing for a make-up free photo doesn’t have a clear link to cancer awareness is also beside the point. The exploitation of this meme for social good is an example of the conscious minority capitalising on an existing social media trend. The original creator of the original #nomakeupselfie post, didn’t set out to create a cancer awareness campaign. No one could have planned for its success, but it’s a classic Web 2.0, “remix” evolution.

  1. Celebrity — influencers of cultural product with huge audience reach.
  2. Poser — the worker bees that imitate celebrity behaviour and provide the foundations for a viral effect.
  3. Clicktavist — add a “feel good” social cause to down play the an otherwise superficial motive.
  4. Campaigner — capitalise on the awareness generated by existing memes and behaviours, and provide a link to meaningful action.
Evolution of a "Social Cause" Meme

Evolution of a "Social Cause" Meme

Criticising the self-indulgent posers and clicktavists—due at least partial credit for catalysing the overwhelming positive outcomes in this case—is an entirely separate discussion that should centre on finding an antidote for Tom Wolfe’s “Me Generation”. Simply denouncing the campaign as unjustifiable is like claiming we should stop all foreign aid and development work, because the self-indulgent, “volun-tourist” do-gooders give the real, skilled aid workers a bad rep.

#nomakeupselfie is a clear indication traditional organisations are no longer an imperative for mobilising individuals, allocating resources and creating change.

If you haven’t had cancer, you’re not brave.

Brisbane Times Editor, Kim Stephens says, “washing off your foundation, losing the mascara and posting a photo of a face that remains healthy and attractive is not brave.”

Having survived her own battle with cancer, I can only imagine the bravery summoned by Kim Stephens. It’s understandable that once you’ve experienced the uncontrollable reality of your own mortality—battling cancer, going to war, or running into a burning building—it could be difficult to empathise with other incarnations of everyday bravery. So how do we measure bravery? Bravery is relative to fear and therefore, what you perceive to be within your control. I know someone suffering depression who is brave because they manage to get out of bed every morning. And I’ve witnessed the bravery required for some to say the words, “I love you”. If almost everything we consume, reinforces the need for make-up in achieving beauty and success, is it not a brave (or at least subversive) to challenge those norms by posting a make-up free selfie?

We don’t want money from posers.

Kim Stephens, concludes, “…if the campaign has yielded an enormous surge in donations to cancer research, it certainly has some merit.

However, if it has come at the cost of making the most hellish time in the lives of women enduring chemotherapy harder than it already is, it has no virtue whatsoever.”

My empathy for Walter White’s journey of self destruction in Breaking Bad is the closest I’ve come to understanding what it’s like to endure life with cancer. I hope I’ll never fully understand the harsh reality of battling cancer, as only someone experiencing it firsthand could. It seems absurd then, to respond to those genuinely motivated by wanting to help, with the assumption they’re making a direct comparison to living with cancer –as this commenter has.

“Wow, you guys look just as sh*t as I did when I had cancer! It’s the SAME! #sobrave”

The Cancer Research UK suckerfish has latched-on to this meme and built a worthy social cause campaign, generating more than £8M for cancer research in the process. That’s almost 50% of their monthly voluntary donations in 2012/2013 –a very tangible measure of success by anyone’s standards.

It’s difficult to imagine then, how a handful of ignorant posers rearing their make-up free heads on your social feeds, could over-shadow the outcomes for Cancer Research UK and the hoards of well-meaning women who have already participated.