Well, twitter defeated me. It's lousy word count is great for 'I had the best sandwich ever' messages but does not allow me to explain why I think Give and MakeUp is a worthwhile cause.
I should explain. Earlier today I noticed a Refuge tweet about Give and Makeup. Intrigued, I clicked the link and found an initiative bringing toiletries, baby food and women's essentials to women and children escaping domestic violence. One of the items listed was makeup. I tweeted my support for the chairty and received a reply:
"I love it, except the make-up part. That's not a need, YKWIM?"
"I guess it just breaks my heart that women feel like they need it. Not right."
I understood the sentiment, that we shouldn't need to find our value in makeup and I wanted to explain that I agreed in part. I personally feel like choosing your own style is the choice of an empowered woman but I got the spirit of what this person is saying. I choose not to wear makeup except for kicks and giggles which averages about 6 times a year if I'm honest. What really made me sad though was I could not explain why I also supported the make up part of this initiative. Twitter just doesn't give me the word count. I really hope she reads my blog and emails me if she does.
Many young woman and mother I've worked with escaping domestic violence or who have experienced sexual violence often reach that point where all they crave is to feel normal again. Many escaped with their life in tatters and a few items of bare essentials; their lives have been far from luxurious. The kindness of someone giving them something nice like a bit of mascara and lipstick can be overwhelming. I remember one girl I worked with saying 'I wore LIPSTICK today and I just felt like a teenager not a down and out with no home'. It was so honest but I understood. She didn't want to feel like she was recovering that day and we discussed lipstick heroes such as Marilyn Monroe and Dita Von Teese that session rather than reapplying for a new school. We did that later, when she was ready.
Another charity that I have a great deal of time for is Dress For Success that provide professional attire for disadvantaged women as well as career support. For me, it falls under the same category as Give and Makeup. When you're trying to look professional you do not want the jeans you ran for your life in. You want to feel equal to every person in that room and confident about how you feel. Yes, I could get upset that women need to dress up but men wear suits to interview and if I choose to add mascara to boost my confidence, heck I'm gonna do it.
Finally, and probably the most difficult part for me to write is the saddest moments I have shared with these brave young women and mothers. After years of feeling worthless and shamed, many cannot imagine words such as 'sexy', 'vibrant' or 'attractive' ever being relevant to them. Many felt they had invited the terrible things that had happened to them and I can remember a particularly powerful session where we grouped items that applied to them and those that didn't. Lipsticks, magazines, hand mirrors, padded bras and all the paraphenalia associated with a stereotyped view of women were nowhere near them. The only sign left of gender was sanitary towels.
Wearing make up does not make you powerful, only you can do that. There are more ways that I can list here that you can feel sexy, or like a woman or know who you are. Applying lipstick requires you to look in a mirror, examine your face and enhance your features. It means that you see yourself as a woman. That in itself is an incredibly powerful tool.
I hope this explains why I will be donating all future loyalty card points and buy one get one free offers to items listed here and posting them to Refuge, Give and Makeup and my local refuge group.