Saturday, November 1, 2014

the editorial | why i'm not participating in no makeup november

Ah, November. A month full of playing in autumn leaves, celebrating Thanksgiving, and shaming young Christian women for wearing makeup.

Wait, what?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with No Makeup November, it's an outreach program of sorts offered by RAVE Ministries, which caters to young women, particularly in the United States. I personally know people who either currently work or have worked with them, and the overwhelming impression that I have from them is a good one. Let me be clear: I believe that RAVE has made a positive impact in the lives of many young women, but No Makeup November, while well-intentioned, makes a moral issue where there is none.

Obviously, we live in a very façade-centered culture. We are bombarded day in and day out by advertisements calling us to spend more, look more, be more, and we often succumb. We women are told that our worth comes from our appearance and that our "flaws" are shameful. The Apostle Peter addresses this in his call to the women of the Church:
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
—1 Peter 3:3-4 NIV
True beauty comes from within, an adage that we have heard again and again—but it is indeed true. If our worth comes from "outward adornments," then there is a problem, just as there would be one if we based our worth solely on acceptance from others.

The biggest problem that No Makeup November, then, is not its focus on true beauty, but that "say[ing] YES to God-given beauty" is synonymous with abstaining from makeup. It reminds me of how smug I felt this time two years ago, sensing a sort of solidarity with the other girls who showed up to class barefaced. I convinced myself that I was somehow morally superior for not applying mascara or concealer, when in reality I had made a moral issue of something superficial at its core and was mentally congratulating myself for a nonexistent ethical victory. I had removed artificial enhancements to my physical beauty but, in doing so, had inhibited my inner beauty. By November 3, I was back to wearing makeup, stepping away from judging my peers and toward cultivating a gracious spirit.

If you are excited to participate in No Makeup November, then I encourage you to do so. For some young women, it can be a time of remembrance. For me, though, it reminds me how much further we have to go to stop shaming women not only for our "flaws" but also for concealing them.

Regardless of where you stand on No Makeup November—if you even have an opinion on the subject at all—I wish you a month of joy and peace and thanksgiving. Let us all be gracious to each other, loving each other beyond the façade, whether literal or figurative.

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