WHY WOMEN SHOULD STOP APOLOGIZING FOR THE WAY THEY LOOK
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
“I’m sorry about the way I look. I didn’t have time to do my make-up before today’s call.”
One of the biggest ways the coronavirus pandemic (and subsequent quarantine) has affected our day-to-day lives is the switch to everything digital. Quarantine has been the decline of the in-person meeting, with nearly every business interaction happening over video apps like Zoom, Google Meeting or House Party. They were so popular, in fact, that four of the five top downloaded apps of the last week in March were all video chatting apps.
Quarantine has changed the way we work, the way we entertain ourselves, and the way we go to school. With everything in our lives now happening digitally, there is little incentive to get out of our pajamas. To women, that means there is also little incentive to do our hair and make-up.
The concept of “looking nice” is an unfortunate cornerstone of the female experience. A study called “Gender and the Returns to Attractiveness” found that the perception of a woman’s attractiveness was based on “grooming” (whether she’s had her hair done, if she’s wearing make-up, her clothing) almost 100% of the time across 14,000 participants. The same study found that women who wore make-up made, on average, about $4,000 more than women who don’t.
Knowing this, it’s no wonder that one third of women never leave the house without make-up, even when they’re going on a brief trip to the store or a bank. A study by Robertson and colleagues in 2008 also found that there is a link between frequent use of make-up and anxiety, self-consciousness, and conformity.
This is by no means a claim that make-up is the root of female insecurity. Make-up is a fun, artistic method of creative expression for a large community of people, especially digitally. These digital communities can also provide much-needed safe havens for transgender women who don’t quite feel comfortable enough in their identity in public yet.
The problem, in actuality, isn’t make-up; it’s the overall concept of “grooming.” Make-up within the workplace is just a leg of the harmful grooming triangle with hair and skin care. For years the perception has existed that natural black hair and black hair styles are “unprofessional,” functioning to devalue black women in the workplace. Acne can also affect your job prospects—one study reported that people with acne or facial scars are less likely to get hired for positions than people without them.
These perceptions of being well-groomed should be done away with now more than ever. Why worry about how you look when there is no office to go to? Everyone has the exact same excuse for why their hair is bad; while many hair salons have reopened, many people still don’t feel comfortable risking their health to go. We are all in the same unmade, overgrown boat together.
But even with every reason in the world to relax, women have been taught that their most important function is to look good. So, while we all don’t have the energy to get out of our pajamas for the next Zoom call of the day, we feel we have to at least apologize for it. “I’m sorry about my hair,” or my face, or whatever you would have fixed had you had to leave your house.
It has to stop.
The solution should not be in cosmetics, but in comfort. If wearing make-up makes you happy, then you should wear it as much as you want, but you should wear it because you want to and it makes you feel good about yourself. Looking in the mirror with or without makeup should spark the same feelings of self-love. Just as women who want to wear make-up should wear as much as they want, women who don’t shouldn’t feel as though they are forced to just to earn the respect of their colleagues.
Your face should be nothing to apologize for. No woman anywhere owes anyone their looks—they only owe to themselves their own comfort in their own skin.