Over the past few days, I’ve noticed numerous Meghan Markle memes circulating around social media—and some in particular have come to my attention, as they fall into the “woman shaming” category that I hoped we were growing out of.
The ones that bothered me most suggested that women should be more like Meghan and less like [insert the name of a woman who is often body or beauty shamed, and someone we’re not supposed to want to be like].
One popular version that has been shared all over the internet for some time now states, “In a world full of Kardashians be a…” And following the royal wedding, many social media users have taken to add in, “…be a Meghan,” using photographs to compare the amount of makeup and type of clothing Meghan wears to that of Kim Kardashian. What most of these memes fail to mention is that Kim also chose a more natural look for her wedding makeup, and wore a dress by the same designer Meghan chose—Givenchy. In fact, they’ve also been pictured wearing the exact same outfit as one another.
These memes seem to focus on the fact that Meghan chose not to wear false eyelashes, draw on thick eyebrows, get a fake tan, enlarge her lips, or use excessive amounts of makeup on her wedding day. The goal here being to suggest that it is more desirable to be a “natural” woman, rather than the type of woman who chooses to use, wear, or do any of the above.
There are quite a few things that I find disappointing or contradictory about this message, but what I want to make clear to women (and men) is that no woman is less than—less equal, less desirable, or less beautiful—just because she chooses to accentuate her features, or because she feels more comfortable, confident, or attractive when she decorates her face or her body. Beauty is subjective, and what one person finds attractive may be the total opposite of what someone else appreciates. And pitting one woman against the other does nothing for any woman’s self-worth or self-esteem.
Women, and men, have been adorning their faces and bodies, using paints and cosmetics, to accentuate their beauty since pretty much the beginning of time. And some were much more flamboyant and creative than most of what we see today.
I also find it ironic to see women sharing these memes when the majority of us use some kind of beauty enhancement, even if it’s not clearly visible to the rest of the world. Meghan herself is known to have an expensive beauty routine, including £650 facials (which is the equivalent of almost $900). She is believed to spend a huge sum of money and time to get her curly locks straightened in what is said to be a “torturous regime.” Her hair and makeup alone for her wedding day is said to have cost a reported $13,000—just to create that “natural” look. So although she may not have worn false eyelashes or heavy makeup, she still invests a great deal of time and attention to ensure she looks immaculate.
Not every woman has those types of resource available, so if they choose to accentuate their looks in other ways, then it seems highly unfair for anyone to judge them so harshly. And even if they do have the money for these enhancements—what they do is their choice.
Women get shamed for wearing no makeup and making no effort, but at the other end of the scale, women are also shamed for putting too much effort into how they look. Women, when put up against other women, just can’t win.
Some women choose not to wear makeup, but cover parts of their bodies in tattoos, or use colourant on their hair, or express their personality through the clothing they wear—it is all artistic, individual, and equally beautiful, so why do we compare one woman to the next?
Women should be cheerleaders for other women. We should be empowering one another and sending a strong and clear message out that every woman is equal, perfect, and visually beautiful in their own right, regardless of how different they all appear.
So many women deal with low self-esteem and find that makeup, body, or facial enhancements help give them the confidence to face the world. And then here come the body and beauty shamers, tearing them down for it instead of showing compassion and understanding—instead of being kind enough to make them feel good about themselves. I get that self-love needs to come from within, but has anyone considered how difficult it is to love yourself when the rest of the world is bashing people who look like you and telling them that how they show up in the world is trashy or wrong?
Appearance is important to people of all walks of life, whether male or female, and to see social media shaming one style while praising another—without knowing the work it takes to create the “natural” look—is saddening, and no doubt has made so many women feel as though the way they express themselves is not acceptable.
It’s time we do more to encourage women to respect one another and to be exactly who they want to be, to feel safe to choose how they look without fear of humiliation and condemnation, and to help one another to reach a place of self-love and acceptance. Instead of comparing and pulling one another down, we can show one another that it’s not about reaching ridiculously high standards to match images the beauty industry portrays—it’s about personal choice and feeling the comfort and ease to embrace our unique self-expression.
As Gabourey Sidibe once said, “One day I decided that I was beautiful and so I carried out my life as if I was a beautiful girl. I wear colours that I really like, I wear makeup that makes me feel pretty, and it really helps. It doesn’t have anything to do with how the world perceives you. What matters is what you see. Your body is your temple, it’s your home, and you must decorate it.”
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