Guest Article | Tainted Realities

The Scrutiny of the Girl Child. Written on 1/6/2015

The girl child faces so much scrutiny from the point she hits puberty till the grave. I believe that it is our duty as mothers, sisters, aunties, cousins, friends, to lift off this diving bell that has been placed on women’s shoulders. It is our duty to see that the standards of “beauty” which are constantly raised by society are lowered to a point where no woman feels alienated or not beautiful. For me, December was an eventful month for my nails. Color after color, I made my nails look pretty despite the fact that whenever I did this, my nails felt trapped, like its oxygen supply was suddenly cut off. As I type this, my left fingers are painted and my right are not. But I’ll take it off today because although painting my nails is fun (like most other aesthetics), I need to let my fingers breathe again. As women, we need to pick and choose what works for us, instead of going through a list of beauty ideals and working hard to tick everyone of them.

From head to toe, we are told that something about our body needs to be fixed.

Our eyelids – we must paint them Our eyelashes – we must elongate them Our eyebrows – we must draw them on 5" thicker Our nose – we must contour it Our lips – we must paint them Our cheekbones – we must chisel them Our ears – we must pierce them Our breasts – we must make them fuller Our nipples – we must hide them Our arms – we must tone them Our finger nails – we must paint them Our waist – we must make it disappear Our hips – we must widen them Our buttocks – we must inject them with fat Our thighs – we must say no to "thunder thighs" and cellulite Our legs – we must make them slender/toned Our feet – we must rid them of callous Our toe nails – we must paint them

I know you have probably never seen the scrutiny the female body faces in this light but glancing up at that list once again should wake every one of us to the sad reality that society expects every woman to fit into. I salute every woman who has deviated from this norm, embracing all her straight edges or curves and overlooking the pressure to cut herself into this hideous cloth. --------------------------------------------------------------

Tainted Realities Originally titled "Makeup". Written on 4/23/2014

I pray for a generation of women who watch as many inspirational videos as YouTube makeup videos.

Blue mascara. I vividly remember Sunday mornings as the TOD (Teacher on Duty) would chase everyone out of the hostel for Sunday Service. It was then that myself, my roommate and her closest friend would stay behind to smack on some blue mascara. We had just moved into the hostel for Senior Girls which was well separated from our junior days’ cabin. That is probably why we had to show our seniority.

Fast-forward to many years later. I have chosen to bare my face, to show the world how I truly am, to let my pimples breathe whenever they come on and go when they deem it fit to, to walk around sans a contoured face because tomorrow, my makeup brushes may disagree with me and contour in a different angle. I have chosen to do all these but I will also throw in that judging from my blue mascara days, if I was to regularly apply makeup, it would be, for lack of a better set of words, “off the hook”. If I decided to venture into makeup artistry, you would see pictures of my clients everywhere because my strokes will be nothing short of precision. But I have decided to channel that energy and creativity into something else. I am not saying that every woman has to follow this path, but I’m hoping that you see the trajectory I am taking your mind to. If every woman could direct a fraction of the time they spend on applying their daily makeup to growing themselves, their business or craft, I personally think we would have a lot more women in the frontiers. But they knew what they were doing by subjecting us to this pressure of feeling beautiful. They knew that even when they yell from the door about how long it takes us to get ready, that at least it meant that we could not be trusted with higher positions in companies or be invited to top level meetings because we would take forever to show up. They knew that making us feel less about ourselves and throwing the dust of beauty ideals in our faces would slow down our journey and distract us from the race so that they can move along faster. The men knew all these and that is why they consciously or unconsciously demand a lot more from women in terms of appearances. Surprisingly, no matter how unattractive a man looks, there are at least 3 women dying for his attention at any given point in time. What is it that men are taught to have that women cannot imbibe?

I know using blue mascara is fun and daring, it made us feel invincible. I know that contouring your face makes you feel like Kim Kardashian for a few hours. I know all that red lipstick and batwing eyelashes makes you feel like you can approach the world with a Marilyn Monroe attitude. Yes, even I know the insecurity you hide behind those layers and layers of palpitating makeup. But for how long will you hide your beauty? When will you be confident to tell the world “this is who I am, accept me or keep it moving”. When will makeup artists stop painting on a false reality on women’s faces, charging them a year’s worth of tuition for something that will eventually be washed down the sink? When will women realize that excessive external packaging without constant internal renewal "is like working so hard to wrap an empty present"?

"It's like working so hard to wrap an empty present" - Simmy Olayebi. Author of Flaws.

If I remember clearly, my thick eyebrows were considered unkempt, unruly and out of fashion merely 5 years ago (or less). Then, eyebrows had to be pencil thin. So although, eyebrows do shape the face when filled in right, in my opinion, if naturally thick eyebrows are not your asset, look again into the mirror and you’ll see that something else about your face definitely stands out so much that people probably don’t notice you don’t have eyebrows till you point them out (this actually happened to me and one of my friends).

I won't venture into men's opinion about makeup because we all know they say they like their women to look natural, yet they chase the Kim K wannabes. So let's leave "what men think" out of this discussion, but I was stunned when my male friend pointed out that a lot of women look the same because I have felt the same way severally. Make-up these days is so overdone and what was once made to enhance women's beauty is now used to paint on entirely new faces, creating tainted realities. It’s like “Oh you don’t like your face?” Don’t worry, we’ll fix it with some strokes of the contour brush”. Nothing is done in moderation and that shouldn’t be the case.

My fellow women, I speak to you today, challenging you to refuse the need to draw on 3” eyebrows where you had 1” because even as you are indirectly saying that God’s strokes were not perfect or precise enough, you forget that your strokes change every day and so does your face.

I speak strength into you to realize that at night when you wash or wipe those layers away, it will be you and your mirror, staring each other eye to eye, demon to demon and in those moments of nakedness you are faced with the same face you were running away from. I don’t intend for this article to make you drop your makeup brushes. I only intend for you to pick and choose your battles wisely and to know that not all 7 steps/15 products you see in YouTube makeup tutorials need to go on your face. Or better still, think about it this way – after the hours of contouring, painting and re-shaping, you still search incessantly for the perfect Instagram filter or turn to Photoshop. What do you really want?

And what if...just what if some women use makeup to hide scars of domestic violence? Will we ever know?

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This was a 2-part series, a collaboration I did with my friend last year. She wrote the Guest Article "Flaws." and I wrote mine titled "Makeup" on 4/23/2014. I was afraid and not satisfied. So on 1/6/2015, I wrote "The Scrutiny of the Girl Child" as a 2-part article, revised the title and merged all three articles to produce what you just read. Thank You to everyone who contributed to this week's #TalkTuesday which was on this topic. I'm not sure I would have published it this year :D