The dishonesty of makeup and how I learned this for myself.

When I imagine myself and the way I appear to people, I envision myself beautiful, with prominent cheekbones and slender cheeks, slightly concave but not sickly.  I visualize eyebrows several shades darker than my hair, eye lashes black, eyes big, wide.  I see lips that are glossy and red, enveloped by skin quite fair.  It’s a beautiful painted picture.

I love makeup.  Perhaps it was the effects of growing up on a stage, or having older sisters, or just living in this world of Madonna’s.  Whatever it is, I love makeup.  I love eyeliner and mascara and smoky eyes and outrageous lipsticks.  I love my work appropriate makeup and my out-with-the-girls makeup.  I love it all.

I never felt oppressed or mad that I loved makeup.  I have read the words and heard the opinions of those people who see makeup as a lie.  And perhaps it is – a lie fabricated and presented perfectly by the beauty industry without even the veiled attempt at hiding what they were doing, evidenced by the settling upon of “makeup” as the appropriate name for this accessory.  Though, to call it simply an “accessory” is, of course, insane, since we all know that makeup is imperative.  Imperative to invest money in, to invest time in.  So imperative that without our faces done, we are seen as less competent, less likeable and less trustworthy than our made-up colleagues.

But still I bought makeup, relished a trip to Sephora, asked for expensive pallets as Christmas gifts.  I did not feel mad that I loved makeup.

Until now.

On Saturday I spent the day at the office.  I first went to a yoga class at 830 and hurriedly got ready for a more-or-less private day at my desk.  But I hadn’t had enough sleep, and I had run out of eye cream, and when I got to the office I looked haggard.  I tried to shrug this feeling of unprettiness off, reminding myself this isn’t why I’m in the office today, reminding myself of the jobs I was there to do.  I went to the kitchen for coffee and saw an Avon magazine on the table.  I flipped through it and landed on a page advertising the “Ideal Flawless CC Colour Corrector Pencil“.  Makeup

I looked at this correction-enabling tool and wondered if it would, indeed, correct me.  Make me better, prettier, probably happier.  And then I became mad.  Mad at the idea of being “corrected”.  Not enhanced, not elongated, not brightened up, but corrected.  Fixed.  All of the errors that I was born with could be disguised until they look the way they should look.

I was mad because there I was on that particular day: working hard at my career, practicing yoga and meditation, by all accounts being productive.  I was going to meet my boyfriend later for pints.  The day was sunny – cold, but beautifully wintry and sunny.  Nothing was wrong.  Except for the errors in my face so desperately needing correction.  I felt mad because they were successful in getting my attention, that despite the dearth of wrongness in my life, I did, in fact, believe: why yes, I could do to have that pencil.

This drove home the other lies – the lies that my eyebrows must be two shades darker than my hair; and that without makeup, I am less competent, less trustworthy, less likeable.  I looked at the page and I felt so mad, and I also felt so sad because if it hadn’t been for the name of that cosmetic, I probably would never have had this reaction.

As I said, I never felt hurt or mad because of my affinity for makeup before now.  I have viewed makeup as art: extravagant, radical, self-expressing.  I overlooked the part of makeup that isn’t for spectacle, the part that is simply fixing and correcting.  But all these corrections are things that are just me, my lines, my spots, my face.  To hide them away is to hide pieces of myself away.  What a dark, ugly thought.

And so what is the measure of how beautiful we must be?  Or rather, of how flawless, how corrected?  How many filters and edits can fix a photo?  How many beauty products do I need to be beautiful, not because of how I look but because of how I have managed to correct myself?  What are the errors in my face that I can buy a pencil to modify and perfect, until I’m not the girl I wake up as, but rather the real-time advertisement for a cosmetics company?

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None of this seems beautiful at all.

A Don-Cherry inspired, brief explanation of “otherness”

Since Don Cherry made a bad joke, people were offended by said joke, and I wrote about racist and discriminatory language, I have seen a lot of comments about “people” who want to limit free speech, overreact, throw a pity party, overlook actual tragic, atrocious events happening in other parts of the world.  Effectively, the comments intended to enunciate just how generally absurd the offence taken was.

I wondered about these criticisms.  Perhaps I was making a Don Cherry Mountain out of a Don Cherry Molehill.

Then I wondered some of my own criticisms.  Perhaps the naysayers – to steal chef Todd Perin’s terminology – are not swayed by or aren’t familiar with a conversation about otherness.

“Otherness” is a sociological theory about how people order themselves into groups.  At its simplest, in order for there to be an “us” there must necessarily be a “them”.  The “them” are the “others”, and they excluded from “our” group.  An easy illustration is found in professions: for all of the engineers, there are people who are not engineers.  If everyone were engineers, the group of engineers could not exist.

Consider the word “other”.  When do you use “other”?  At a meal: “I loved it all, other than the carrots”.  At a party: “My girlfriends were there, and some other people I didn’t talk to”.  These examples don’t highlight negativity, per se, but they exemplify valuation: the things other than carrots were good, the people other than your girlfriends weren’t really worth talking to.  The carrots and the people you didn’t talk to are the “others”.

Included in the theory of “otherness”, is the notion of “normalness”.  Where societies have divided themselves into groups, the above principles of “us” and “them” present themselves as majority and minority groups form.  This is enhanced where certain groups in the society exert and hold more political power than other groups.  As members of a society interact with one another, identities continue to be defined, transformed, modified.  As traits develop and we identify as being in certain groups (i.e. being “male”, being “white”, being “Christian”), it effectively becomes necessary that certain people will be excluded from these groups (lest these groups not exist at all).  The excluded are the “them”, the “outsiders”, the “others”.

As we know from a simple view of history, the “others” have often had a hard go of it, typically perceived as the less powerful and less deserving members in a society.  Zygmunt Bauman is a sociologist who wrote that abnormality is the other of the norm, women the others of men, strangers the others of natives, enemies the others of friends, and “them” the other of “us”.  As we look through our own society we can identify many grounds upon which “otherness” and “normality” may be premised: gender, race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, economic status, the list goes on.

From the vantage point of human rights, the various grounds upon which these dichotomies of organization, as Bauman would refer them, occupy many of the current grounds of protection under Canada’s human rights legislation. Another interesting point about Canada’s human rights legislation is that it actually does not matter what the intention of the commentator or perpetrator is when it comes to racist or discriminatory acts or language – what matters is the effect that the act or language has on a person.

Whether Cherry or Cherry proponents like it or not, the particular language used is likely to appear racist or discriminatory for various reasons.  Firstly, the language describing the “others” – those that hunt and eat seal meat – is infused with historical racial meaning.  “Barbaric” and “savage” were terms used to describe the same groups of people who are now the “others” in Cherry’s joke, and who were historically systemically and categorically viewed as the “other” based on their barbaric-ness and savageness.  Secondly, for Cherry to so clearly be included in the group of the “normal” – being white, male, well-to-do, and stationed in mainland Canada – and then be the originator of such off-the-cuff comments, could possibly convey the feeling of insult-to-injury.  Finally, to flippantly utter comments about being “barbaric” or “savage” with respect to the seal hunt, despite the history of using those words in that context, indicates an apathy or an ignorance that may, again, feel offensive.

Am I suggesting Don Cherry is racist or discriminatory against Newfoundlanders and against Canada’s aboriginal populations involved in the seal hunt?  No.  I am not.  I am unequivocally not saying that.  Personally, I wasn’t offended by his comments.  Personally, I rolled my eyes at a mouthpiece doing mouthpiece stuff.  However, I do believe that the failure to empathize with or at least grouchily concede understanding seems strange considering the position that those, experiencing a life of being “other”, would understandably take.  Irrespective of intent, to suggest that the comment did not perpetrate the existence of the “other”, both historically and presently, with racially infused language is what is absurd.

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For an excellent resource about Otherness, please see blogger OtherSociologist.coman integral resource in the representation of Otherness found above.  If you view this post, Dr Zuleyka Zevallos, thank you for your resource!

A reply to Don Cherry: apology not accepted.

A few weeks ago, I wrote that the battle to most firmly lodge one’s foot in one’s mouth in 2015 was won by Robin McGrath.  Interestingly, it turns out that Don Cherry may be vying for the award – at least with respect to people living in Newfoundland and Labrador or in Canada’s North.

This weekend, Ron McLean, in St. John’s for Hometown Hockey, ate a seal burger at one of St. John’s, and arguably all of Canada’s, trendiest restaurants, the Mallard Cottage.  When MaClean told Cherry he had tried this unusual delicacy, Cherry decided the best thing to do was say “What are you, a savage, a barbarian?”  Drawing on his inner Paul McCartney, Cherry commented on McLean eating “a little baby seal”.

Nobody could understand how these comments could be uttered, and you know what people do when they’re confused and can’t understand: they tweet.  Cherry was clearly unhappy with being called a racist and whatnot, so he made an 8-part reply.  CBC employees under fire LOVE turning to social media to quickly and incompletely deal with the messes they’ve made.  So, in true CBC employee form, Cherry’s apology didn’t quite cut it.

The problem with using language like “savage” and “barbarian” is that these words are racially infused.  They connote that the savage and the barbarian are less civilized than standard civilization, and are thus lesser of people.  These are words that meant the savage and the barbarian deserved less than standard civilization.  They are words that established that some people are “normal”, and some people are “other” in their savageness and barbarian-ness.  These words led to populations of people being slaughtered because they were viewed as “other”, and as less deserving, and less civilized.

Here is Don Cherry’s full, 8-tweet “apology”:

“Evidently I upset some people about my seal burger comments. I would like to try to explain my comments. Not because I was told to or forced to. I do it because I feel I have hurt the feelings of some people I like and admire. I have friends who hunt deer and ducks and I myself have eaten venison and duck meat. Just the same as people who hunt seals and eat seal meat. I have no problem with my friends who are hunters and eat venison and duck. Just the same, as I have no problem, with people who hunt seals and seal meat.  I do however find it very unusual, in my world, that a person would go into a restaurant and order a seal burger for lunch.  I meant no disrespect to the hunters who hunt and eat seal meat just like I have no disrespect for the hunters who hunt deer and duck and eat their meat. Again, I do this explanation because I want to. I have hurt some people’s feelings that I like and admire.  If this explanation isn’t good enough, then let the cards fall where they may.”

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Growing up, I was taught that when I do something wrong, the apology I should give ought to be one which adequately and directly hits on the thing I did wrong.  So, for example, when a person lies, you apologize for lying.  I thought was straightforward.

In Cherry’s apology, he apologizes only for the offence that some people might have taken because they enjoy hunting and eating seal.  However, it wasn’t because Cherry thinks seal meat isn’t delicious or worth hunting or eating that is offensive.  What is offensive is the employment of profoundly racist and offensive terminology, the very terminology which was previously used to describe the otherness, the less deserving-ness, and the general less-ness of discernible groups of people.  It was offensive because this racist terminology was used with respect to the same discernible groups of people who have faced racism and discrimination throughout history.  So, where was the apology for joking around about racism that led to the extinction of groups of people, to putting a specific group of people on the front lines in Beaumont Hamel, to the Residential School System?

Cherry says if his apology is insufficient, well let the chips just fall where they may!  He himself – uncoerced by his producers – sat down at his computer or maybe his smart phone, and he said “sorry I insulted your taste buds and your interest in hunting”.  How nice!  How giving and thoughtful of you!  How empathetic to a history of death, massacre, violence, and of systemically having less.  I’m sure the chips will fall just where they should on this one.  Apology not accepted.

And p.s. we don’t club baby seals anymore, but if we did…

“I am faking this. I know I am faking this” and other shitty mantras

Welcome back to another blog about me and yoga.  It’s now February and like any good actual-and-not-just-a-new-years-resolutioner-yogi, I bought an all-you-can-yoga membership at Moksha.  January at Moksha was good.  I had promised myself not to go overboard this time, as happened the first time I joined Moksha in London, and had much better success.  I didn’t cry in any classes this time!  The worst thing that happened was that I drank a pint one lunch time before I went to a 4pm class.  That made me think I actually might die.  Don’t drink beer before yoga: now there’s a shitty mantra.

Which brings me to today’s topic: mantras.  My month-long intention for February classes is going to be to commit more to savasna and to meditation generally.  I need it more than ever now that my attitude has gone to the pits since I no longer have a window at work.  This has had the effect of making me cranky.  So I have taken to this mantra: “this too shall pass”, and I remind myself that eight months (the window-less framework (har har)) is not permanent – but then I get to thinking, WHAT IF I ACTUALLY DON’T MAKE IT THROUGH THESE EIGHT MONTHS…so…I figured I needed to work on my soul and entering a state of heightened cheerfulness, so: meditation.

My first class of February was perfect for my new goal of meditation.  It was hot, I was breathing really deep, strong belly breaths, I had a good place by the mirrors even though the room was packed, and I was ready for first, mid-way and final savasnas.  I was going to KILL ALL THREE of these savasnas.  This is a shitty mantra, too.  We should not be “killing” yoga poses.  I think this while I’m in first savasna.  I ponder, just how shitty of a yogi am I?  I think to myself, that’s just the windows talking, Emily, you are just hyper!  And lots of yogis are hyper and they aren’t shitty.

DEFEATED MY FIRST NEGATIVE THOUGHT.  Getting so much better at meditating.

Mid-way savasna comes: it’s more of a slight resting savasna.  There is less meditating to do here.  We’re really just getting ready for round two.  I don’t say anything negative to myself except that I wonder if my makeup is running, and it probably is because it’s excessively hot in class that day and THAT sucks because the one and only male teacher in the studio is guiding us through this class and now he will know the truth about my makeup wearing habits and this, too, makes me a faker of a yogi, and so on and so forth…so I try to think to myself, again, this is JUST the windows talking, and you’re probably being hyper.  STOP BEING SO HYPER.

…Okay.  Calming down and also energizing up for the floor series.

Things are good.  I am still having strong, energized belly breaths.  I have an amazing full locust pose!  I love my windowless office!  Enter final savasna.

The instructor, as if he knows that I am working on meditating, encourages everyone to spend some extra time meditating after the last Namaste.  He tells us “YOU KNOW, sometimes when I am meditating I like to tell myself something simple so that my mind does not wander, and what I like to say is this: “I am breathing in, I know I am breathing in.  I am breathing out, I know I am breathing out”.

WOW I LOVE this!  I start thinking these simple words and I’m having this real attempt at proper meditation when I suddenly catch my mind drifting.  I’m still commenting on my breath in my mind, but I start finding myself writing this blog.  I tell myself to shut up!  But it doesn’t work, and while I’m trying to focus on my in and my out, my in is basically just creating a flowchart and and my out is trying to figure out whether or now I’m actually funny or maybe just actually the worst yogi ever.  I tell myself to stop being mean to myself again, returning to the multi-tasking of writing this blog while being a really great meditator, returning to both my intention and my mantra.

A picture of me meditating.

A picture of me meditating.

The real mantra: “I am faking this, I know I am faking this”.  Maybe next time.