Fake Your Face: Make-Up, Societal Pressure, Photoshop and Women's Self-Esteem: A PSA Video Project

 "By the time a girl is 17, she has seen more than 250,000 messages about what she is supposed to look like." [Source]

We grow up surrounded by photographs of women with every flaw carefully photoshopped out - and then are told that we can be as thin as they are, as beautiful as they are, as flawless as they are, if only we try harder. 

We are taught that beauty is essential to happiness, to success, to our professional lives. We are taught that weight is the best and most important measure of health. 

We are constantly reminded that we are companions, to be admired - the pretty prize the guy strives for, the superheroine with heels and cleavage windows.


We spend all our time creating an outer facade for ourselves, without realizing that as long as you are striving for something that you consider to be better than us, we will never be happy with who we are.  We layer ourselves in different shades and different fits, strive to look better and better while inside we feel worse and worse. We grow up staring at these icons of perfection on our television sets and in our magazines, feeling inadequate about our own imperfections that seem to stand out a mile in our bedroom mirrors. It's called, among other things, The Photoshop Effect, propogating the myth of the 'Perfect Woman' through use of shaky media ethics and fragile self-esteem to create, instead, the Perfect Lie.

"Twenty years ago, the average model weighed 8 per cent less than the average woman—but today’s models weigh 23 per cent less." [Source]

It's H&M admitting that they'd been pasting models' faces onto fake computer-generated bodies.

It's the pounds being trimmed off and the wrinkles being smoothed out and the freckles being painted away on the bodies and faces of celebrities in magazine shoots while the text printed next to them preaches natural beauty and self-esteem.

It's body shaming in advertising, in this century and the one before.

It's young girls looking at those photos and feeling their self-confidence shatter because in their minds, they are ugly. And who is going to tell them otherwise? Certainly not the $170 billion dollar beauty industry, or the mainstream media, or our politicians. Certainly not general office culture, where it is accepted practice to demand women wear high heels and makeup (and to fire them if their appearance doesn't match requirements).

For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” [Audrey Hepburn]

We are just a couple of girls with laptops and our own piles of insecurity. But we want, in our own small way, to speak out. And we are putting together a video.

So here is what we're asking for in the way of contribution.

  • Film. WE ARE LOOKING FOR VOLUNTEERS - particularly those who enjoy and have experience using cosmetics - to film themselves going from plain face to fully made up in hopes of driving home the message. We would also, with the volunteers' permission, pick several submissions to put through Photoshop as well, to show the full extent of the transformation. This is not about shaming. This is about saying, 'We are all in this together.' The two of us will be contributing ourselves, and as a show of good faith will be the first faces in the video. [DOVE - MAKEUP VIDEO - 'EVOLUTION']
  • Speak. Whether it be through spoken word poetry or just you sitting in your bedroom, talk to us. Tell us about your experiences, your feelings, your body. Why you hate it, or even better, why you love it. Tell us about how you got to where you are in your journey. [KATIE MAKKAI - POETRY SLAM - 'PRETTY']
  • Write. Don't want to show your face or record your voice? Take a photo or a video of yourself holding up a sign. It could be something inspirational, or something poignant - doesn't matter. 

And we leave you with this, which always terrifies and inspires us.

Slut Walks


The trouble begins on January 24th of this year, during an information session on campus security at York University's Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Canada. 

When speaking on the subject of rape, Police Contable Michael Sanguinetti from Toronto's 31 Division somehow thought it a good idea to tell a room full of young, female law students that, "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized." He prefaced the statement by admitting, "I’ve been told I shouldn’t say this," and had the misfortune to be overheard by Ronda Bessner, assistant dean of the Juris Doctor Program.


Understandably, people are not exactly happy with PC Sanguinetti.

Said Bessner, “I was shocked and appalled. I made contact with the police... and we’ve asked for a written apology and an explanation.”

Mark Pugash, a spokesperson for the police department, issued the statement that, "The comments have been investigated. The officer will be apologizing to the faculty and students at Osgoode Hall. And he has been disciplined."

It was unspecified as to exactly what the disciplining would entail, but the officer was forced to apologize, saying, "'I am embarrassed by the comment I made and it shall not be repeated."

Police Chief Bill Blair further soothed the enraged masses by saying, "If that type of, frankly, archaic thinking still exists among any of my officers, it highlights for me the need to continue to train my officers and sensitize them to the reality of victimization.... [These comments] place the blame upon victims, and that's not where the blame should ever be placed."

So rare is it to see such understanding in authority figures - especially male ones - that several people have professed themselves legitimately shocked, a sad fact in and of itself.

The Issue

The entire discussion has brought to media attention the age-old problem of victim-blaming in today's society. 

Not long after the incident, a website (they also have a facebook page) was created, bearing the title "SlutWalk Toronto: Because We've had Enough," and the message:

"With sexual assault already a significantly under-reported crime, survivors have now been given even less of a reason to go to the Police, for fear that they could be blamed. Being assaulted isn’t about what you wear; it’s not even about sex; but using a pejorative term to rationalize inexcusable behaviour creates an environment in which it’s okay to blame the victim.

Historically, the term ‘slut’ has carried a predominantly negative connotation. Aimed at those who are sexually promiscuous, be it for work or pleasure, it has primarily been women who have suffered under the burden of this label. And whether dished out as a serious indictment of one’s character or merely as a flippant insult, the intent behind the word is always to wound, so we’re taking it back. “Slut” is being re-appropriated.

We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault."

The ignorance on this subject in today's society is clear. Go to any one of the many articles dealing with the issue and read the comments below:  There are always several people (usually, but not necessarily, men) who not only agree with the police officer, but go on to make such enlightened statements as (and here I paraphrase), "Dress like a slut and you will be treated like one," and "More rapes occur in countries where women have more rights and liberties," and "This would not be an issue if women dressed modestly."

Statements like these completely disregard the facts. 

1) A short skirt and low-cut top is not an invitation for disrespect. If a woman wants to look good - and keep in mind that it's just as likely that she wants to look good for her own sake, or for another woman's appreciation, as for a man's - that is her business.  A woman should - and I do not claim that this is a smart idea, but they should - be able to walk down a back alley at midnight in the middle of a ghetto wearing nothing but strappy heels and her favorite lipstick without being assaulted.

Yet men and women alike have been taught by society that a woman is 'responsible' for, or 'caused' her own rape by dressing provocatively. And while police officers come into our schools and tell women 'not to dress like sluts,' it is a rare person indeed who tries to educate men not to act like raging bulls who are allowed to take whatever they wish.

"Rape is one of the most terrible crime on earth. The problem with groups who deal with rape is that they try to educate woman about how to defend themselves What really needs to be done is to teach man not to rape, to go to the source and start there."

- Kurt Cobain

Men - indeed, humans, because while it is rarer (due, among other things, to a comparative lack of physical strength) women have committed rape acts as well - are not brainless sex-seeking beasts with no self-control or impulse control. Humans do not - should not - see an attractive figure and lose all control of themselves. Humans do not have the right to take whatever they want simply because it looks tempting. 

Are there a huge amount of crimes committed every day? Yes, of course. Does this mean that 'It looked tempting, so I took it' has ever been accepted as an excuse in a court of law? No. What about 'It was easy to get to, so I stole it' or 'They were unprotected, so I killed them'? No. Never, not for a single second. So why is this theory bandied around so much when it comes to rape?

Wearing a revealing outfit does not mean you are sexually promiscuous; being sexually promiscuous does not mean a person does not respect themselves; a lack of self respect is not an okay to force sex on a person. Ever. At all.

2) Yes, some countries where women are forced to dress in head-to-toe-burqas, for example, do have very low reported rape rates.  Such as Saudi Arabia, where in 2006 a 19-year-old gang rape victim was sentenced to 200 lashes by the courts.  Yes, it is shocking that in countries such as this, women do not take their problems to the authorities.

3) People who are covered head-to-toe are raped all the time. 1/3 of women in the US military are raped; not, I'm sure, due to any sexy and revealing nature of their army fatigues. Women in long skirts or sweat pants are raped. Old women in nursing homes, children, babies, grown men - a sickening percentage of all have been assaulted and hardly any of them, I am quite sure, were walking around with their boobs popping out.

Most rapists are not psychos in a back alley, following a hot girl home from a club; they are known to the victim. 43% of rapes happen in homes. Date rape, marital rape, etcetera. For more actual statistics, go here.

To cut the argument short, all of the above can be summarized thus: It does not matter what a woman is wearing. 


And so we have 'Slut Walk,' a marching protest organized by Sonya Barnett, who says, "It was evident that if you're going to have a representative of the police force come out [and say that] then that kind of idea must be still running rampant within the force itself and that retraining really needs to happen to change that mentality."

The walk started at 1:30 PM in Queen's Park, featuring women in various sorts of dress, from proudly revealing and promiscuous to jeans and t-shirts to modest coverage from neck to toe. It attracted 3,000 people.

It has spawned dozens of walks just like it across not only Canada but Australia, Argentina, Britain, New Zealand, Sweden, and the United States as well. The Boston walk only last Saturday drew approximately 2,000, significantly more than the originally expected 20 or 30.


Links:  Rape Culture 101  *  *  Find out if there is a walk near you.