Marilyn Monroe once said, “All little girls should be told they are pretty, even if they aren’t.” While spoken with virtuous intent, this quotation no less begs the question: what defines pretty? Furthermore, who is in charge of deciding which little girls are told they are beautiful, and which are branded with the labels of plain, homely or outright unattractive? When did society become so utterly absorbed by the notion of attaining physical beauty, anyways?

A movement called NO Make-up October has been gaining presence in the world of Facebook over the past several weeks. This online public event currently has 143 people, including Trent University students, registered and attending. It is a Canada-wide, month long venture into the realm of criticizing and attacking head-on the unrealistic expectations that the media expresses about what it means to be beautiful. A short description of the group explains that: “Makeup is not a bad thing, but by choosing not to wear makeup for a month, our hope is to make people think about why they wear makeup and the EXPECTATIONS [that] they place on themselves and others.”

For many, going fresh faced for the entire month of October will be a challenge.

“Personally, this will be difficult for me and I’m not the only one,” an admin for the Facebook page recently wrote. “Even though this was my idea to start out with, it has opened my eyes to how low my own self-esteem is and how much I’ve allowed myself to let the media feed me crap about what I should look like.”

Women (and increasingly, men) of all ages are in danger of suffering from low self-esteem issues. Many are forced to deal with feelings of insecurity on a daily basis, directly related to how others judge their face and body shape. Printed in magazines, while surfing the internet, when watching television and while sitting in movie theaters, the media assumes its authority by advising females how to act, dress, talk, flirt and do their makeup. In our modern age of complete digital synchronization, these negative messages can be difficult to escape.

“Society needs to stop telling us inner beauty is important and then shoving pictures of photoshop[p]ed models down our throats,” posted one peeved source.

The enforced notions of what it means to be beautiful are neither age nor gender exclusive, but it is the minds of young women that are being assaulted with the most brutality. According to Canada’s pediatricians at caringforkids.cps.ca, more than 1/3 girls (about 33%) who are currently at a healthy weight are trying to diet. This startling high statistic is revealing of that fact that the celery stalk thin, pale, long legged model is an unrealistic image for many and an unhealthy goal for all. Often, women will turn to fad “miracle” diets as they seek control over their weight, but similar to makeup, the importance lies in why a girl might choose to change herself.

Janessa Leighton, a Trent University student and regular YouTube tutorial contributor, added her thoughts to the discussion.

“I kind of feel a bit naked without makeup just because I do wear it every day. With makeup, I feel more confident because my favourite features are enhanced. Personally, I wear makeup because I like the confidence boost it gives me, and I also think it’s really fun to do. It’s almost an art form and you have to be creative with it like painting and other types of art forms. By doing NO Make-up October, I just want to show other girls out there that makeup isn’t everything.”

The idea that we as a society have collectively chosen to value a falsified version of beauty over the integrity of a person’s true character is upsetting, to say the least. NO Make-up October is proof that we—not the media—hold the power to inspire young girls to blossom into intelligent, confident women who meet no ones definition of beauty besides their own.

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Jen is a third year Indigenous Studies and English undergrad, and has been writing for Arthur since 2012. She has written dramatic pieces performed in Nozem theatre for Anishinaabe Maanjiidwin, been published in small alternative magazines, and is currently developing a book of self-positivity poetry in partnership with local Peterborough youth. In addition to spending her time writing essays, short stories, and articles, Jen can also be found devouring sushi at local restaurants downtown or sipping one too many cups of coffee by the river.