Lots of wonderful buzz this week about female empowerment, especially amongst us nasty women ;). The election has certainly heightened our awareness, emotions and convictions around this topic.
But there was another piece of news on this topic that had nothing to do with elections. Instead it had to do with an unlikely new “face” for a beauty brand: Nigerian author and feminist speaker Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie . She is the new spokesperson for Boots No.7. According a statement emailed to Mashable, Adichi feels “women use cosmetics to be ready for something: to show up, speak up, and make an impact in their world in their own way.” For her make-up isn’t a tool to hide women’s power and turn them into sexual objects. Rather it is a wonderful source of transformation, confidence and power. What’s better, she gets to the heart of the matter and addresses the seeming conflict of being a feminist who loves make-up. She reveals that she shied away from make-up at one point so as not to be deemed frivolous. But this wasn’t her true self. It was only when she gained a greater sense of confidence that she chose to go back to wearing make-up again. Check it out in this great new video.
While we may have heard similar statements in the past about the powerful role of cosmetics, to have such a powerful voice speak about her appreciation for cosmetics is new. And then to take such a strong stance by associating herself with a brand in such a way is even more surprising. I applaud her for fighting against the typical rhetoric that claims enhancing our beauty is wasteful at best or degrading at worst.
But I would interpret the empowering nature of cosmetics and skin care in another important way too. Beyond how skin care or make-up make us look, think about what the actual process of engaging with it does to ourselves. Sure, there are the usual mini frustrations of a wobbly eyeliner lid or a spilled nail polish bottle. But most of time, the ritual of applying these lotions and potions or colors and creams, is deep. I wrote about this a few years back in a few different posts: Another Powerful Role for Cosmetics & One More Minute Please. I explained that the very act of pampering or applying skin care and make-up allows us to gift ourselves a form of, in what my good friend and Anthropologist, Tom Maschio calls, “self-care.”
Here’s how I described it in then:
When we touch, caress, adorn and pamper our bodies, we are connecting with them and, eventually, our spirits too. Caring for our bodies is soothing and uplifting at the same time.
Our bodies aren’t detached objects just to be prepared for public appearance but, rather, are inextricably linked to the self. And every part of the body — appendage, organ, secretion, etc., function together harmoniously. Beautification, i.e., the act of massaging, applying, fixing, plucking, whatever the actual activity, isn’t just a means to an end but an act of health care and self-love.
So, for all of us women –and men included –who enjoy adding some scent, sparkle, color or plumpness to our appearances, remember that it not only boosts our confidence but it gives us a spiritual high too. It helps us connect to our bodies — to admire them, care for them, energize or calm them and, ultimately, connect with them. And if loving and caring for our bodies doesn’t lead to feeling empowered, I don’t know what does!