Women Who Do Founder Emma takes us on a journey from Noughties make-up nostalgia to why she's committed to playing her part in challenging an industry that relies on unattainable beauty standards and the platforms that perpetuates diminished body confidence in women.
00s beauty routines should have come with a serious health warning.
It's 2002. 15 year old me is stood in front of the steamed-up bathroom mirror applying Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse Foundation with the canned laughter of Blind Date jostling to be heard over Nelly and Kelly's Dilemma. The 90s and 00s were not known for being the front runners for makeup application. When we applied make-up it was always too thick, too orange, too much... Oh, and it was also badly applied. We didn't contour. There were no winged liners. No YouTube tutorials or inside industry secrets: just us, a magazine cut out and anything we could afford for £2.99 (we had other things to spend our money on like C.Ds, smelly gel pens and WKD Blue after all) in Superdrug.
Make-up was a central part of my transition from child to teen to adult. It was also the bastion of female friendships as we shared first kiss experiences passing lip gloss between us and applying layer after layer of mascara to form spider-leg stalks whilst we bitched about our parents. In the early 2000s pretty much everyone had the same relationship with their skin; it was crap but the circle of audience was much smaller than it is now. There were no Facebook photos to be tagged in. Certainly no Instagram stories to whack a filter on. When I was a teen, skin problems were part and parcel of life in the same way that first-kisses, pedal pushers and the Spice Girls were. We were unfilterable.
Now we filter everything and it's destroying our self-worth
Let's leave WKD-drinking, Girl Talk-reading, blue eyeshadow-wearing Emma for a moment and bring us back to the here and now: 2021. The era where we've never been more filterable. We take cat-fishing to a whole new level and that applies to every aspect of the life we portray on social media; not just our faces.
This is a silent pandemic that hasn't needed masks, or vaccines or social distancing... But it is still as toxic and harmful to our society.
And here’s the crazy thing: Facebook (one of the biggest culprits of all) knows the damage to young women it's causing. The Guardian wrote an article on the secret reports Facebook had made about Instagram and young people. Here's an excerpt:
“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” said a slide from one internal presentation in 2019, seen by the Wall Street Journal. “Thirty-two per cent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” a subsequent presentation reported in March 2020."
Although that's nothing we didn't already know, right? We all know how it impacts us so it's no wonder it's affecting the sponge-like-minds of teenage girls.
My body became my enemy.
In the last few years my body has been my enemy. At first I couldn't figure out where this new darker internal narrative was coming from until it clicked: social media is so darn flawless.
Every Instagram Story I've watched in my pants with bed hair and sleep in my eyes, showing lives being lived by perfect beauties, with bright white teeth and unblemished, glowing skin. Every Facebook post showing smiling faces, perfect poses and catwalk ready outfits. Every inch of flawless skin that was no longer contained within the glossy pages of magazines but was now flaunted as something that was not only possible, but paramount for the average woman to have; not just the celebrities. Every comment I read from a faceless troll to a woman whose body I thought looked amazing. Again and again, day after day, I was resetting everything that I knew to be true about me, my body and what was and wasn't desirable. I knew I had to do something. I had to start to make a change for myself, but also I had to be part of a small movement within the media that was ready to ditch these unattainable standards and I knew where to start. With filters.
Filters began to fail me
When I put a filter on my face and yapped away to the camera I was telling myself: you're not good enough to do this without some serious improvements to your face. Do this enough times it starts to become the thing you believe about yourself. Hide yourself, Emma, because you’re not good enough.
Sometimes I'd have something really important or exciting to share on social media; I'd record the video, watch it back and swiftly click delete because I didn't think I looked pretty enough. The thing that was really exciting about my business never got shared. This happened a lot. I became so OBSESSED with not looking FLAWLESS that it was actually impacting my business. And that, folks, SUCKS.
Breaking the cycle
1st January 2021 I made a promise that I'd no longer be using any filters on WWD and I've kept to my word. I've posted videos where my skin is a red, spotty mess. I've been running our networking and workshops with zero make-up on and I've been out with just my face for armour. Naked. I've made a real effort to give myself some flipping space to just be me. I felt myself take back control of my self-confidence.
Care less about the crap
Since ditching filters on Instagram it's also made me just accept the way my skin looks and give less shits. But this goes across all of our content. I made a promise this year that any photo content we produce - of ourselves or others - we will never, ever airbrush or filter (although truly, we've never done that anyway!). I've also made an effort to source body images that celebrate the ebb and flow of life.
I want WWD to be a place where you feel comfortable being you. If that's filtered, great, but if it's not then we want you to feel gorgeous, confident and empowered just as you are.
About Emma | Founder, Women Who Do
Emma can be found glued to her laptop/kindle or embarking on her next favourite hobby. Avid cake-eater, Disney-superfan and passionate about female empowerment, Emma founded WWD in 2017.
You can contact Emma: email@example.com
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