The Naked Face Project: Details
I know that today…my life is changed. I’m not sure I will ever be able to go back, maybe I won’t want to…but to me this is a big deal…I’m shifting. I’m beginning to see what I’ve tried not to…and it’s scary…if I look at it from the big picture. So here goes.
Every once in a while someone comes along and you know, from the get-go, you were meant to meet them.
Caitlin Boyle is one of those people in my life. If you don’t know who Caitlin Boyle is, please take a minute and get to know her. The quickest way to do that is go to her blog www.healthytippingpoint.com or www.operationbeautiful.com.
I met Caitlin about two years ago when she moved to Charlotte. We went to lunch. We were friends…immediately. Since that time, she has been a Girls on the Run coach, run a marathon, done a triathlon, written three books, been on the Today Show and gotten pregnant.
Recently we went for coffee. We began to speak of our work around beauty, gender, stereotypes, negative self-talk, cultural norms and 8 year old girls. (Not necessarily in that order, but more like…all bunched up together.)
Caitlin: What do you say to one of your little GOTR Girls when she asks you why you wear make up…or why you highlight your hair?
Molly: Because I like the way it looks, I guess.
Caitlin: I say something like, “Because it’s fun” or “I like to.” But what would you say Molly, if you were really honest.
Molly: (I stopped to think about my HONEST answer and I admit it took me a while because I’ve never really thought about why, exactly, I highlight my hair, wear make up or…add this ritual to the list…shave my legs.) My honest answer? I feel incomplete without it. I think it makes me look younger and I guess I think younger is prettier, better somehow…and in our culture more powerful.
YUCK! …I hear myself say inside. How many hundreds, maybe thousands of times, have I looked an 8 year old girl directly in the eye, held her hands in mine, and told her “You are beautiful just the way you are.”
We pause…she and I have built our entire lives around authenticity…using our experiences, thoughts, time and intelligence…to transform cultural norms around beauty and gender…to help little girls and big girls, alike, see that they are beautiful just the way they are…that beauty really is an inside job…that when we love the BIG US on the inside, the outside will, as an outcome, be loved too! Our power is in our authenticity and our strength of character.
We remain silent.
Caitlin: Wonder what it would be like to be able to answer those girls honestly…to say precisely why we do these things. To know what it is like to NOT do those things so we can say with certainty that we chose them.
Caitlin: Scary as hell.
We smile…both of us that kind of devilish smile that comes to one’s face when both fear and joy occupy the same thought.
Caitlin: Let’s do it. Let’s go sixty days without using any beauty products or girl-woman-only products. No shaving, no tweezing, no highlighting, no high heels, no skinny jeans, no smelly lotions, no make-up, no padded or push-up bras. No flatiron, curler, hairdryer.
We pause. I look at her. She looks at me.
Molly: I’m training for a triathlon. I’ll be in the gym AND the pool. I won’t be shaving. That’s gross. I’ve got a ton of speaking engagements, media opportunities. I will be in front of large crowds of people, the media, photos taken. I can’t do it. (I’m smiling the whole time I say this.)
Caitlin: I’ve got a book coming out…If I’m lucky I’ll be back on the Today Show…no makeup. My hormone-riddled-pregnant-teenager-all-over-again face will show.
And so here we are…two days out from experiencing life in a way that I have never known…or at least not known since I was 11. I started highlighting my hair, the summer of 1972 with lemon juice. I do not know what color my hair is.
I began shaving my legs, wearing make up and using a padded/cuppy bra in seventh grade. I don’t think I can honestly say, that I’ve gone one full week without wearing high heels, It’s just been a part of my southern DNA. Sure…a few days without playing by the “fashion rules” so what? But two months, continuing my professional and personal (dating, parenthood, social) life…what might happen?
We are both here to shout it out from the mountain top, that we are not suggesting any of these things are wrong. What we are suggesting is why…like really why?
Why do we highlight our hair? Why do we think that wearing sassy clothes makes us sassy? Might we discover our sexuality/sensuality is more of a “be” kind of thing rather than a “how we look” kind of thing? Does looking younger really matter? Have we ever tried just being what we are…looking like how we really look…naked face, open eyes and totally free to be as we are with the world around us…not just some of the time, but all of the time?
I’m also not trying to trivialize the plight of women from around the world. Women in so many areas of the world don’t have the luxury of this conversation. They are concerned with living another day…to see another day…simply because they are a woman. But I wonder if on some very simple level…maybe even deeply within our molecular connection…we don’t all cry out a little anytime we give in to any systemic view that (may) limit us.
I guess it all comes down to the question under all the easy questions which is…what is THAT line you simply won’t cross? Is it wearing heels? Is it accentuating your breasts with a padded bra? Is it highlighting your hair? Is it Botox? Is it breast implants? Is it plastic surgery? Is it connected to what is appropriate sexual behavior and what is not? Is it woven into your religious, political, familial beliefs? Is there a line in your life that others have set for you…a line over which you have no control? What is the line you simply won’t cross and why do we choose things on this side as “okay” versus things on that side as not? What are our justifications, rationalizations to do what we do and aren’t those availalbe no matter where you draw the line? Why is one line right and another NOT right? Genital mutilation, an accepted feminine ritual in several nations, is an extreme form of systemic predjudice as far as I’m concerned, but might plastic surgery be considered an extreme form by some naturalists?
It is a very complicated conversation and can rightly so, be a hot topic for many people.
I have no idea what the outcome of this sixty day journey will be, but I do know that I will be digging deeply into some things that potentially frighten me…like looking older, somehow seeming less sexual/sensual/desirable, not feeling complete or professionally buttoned up. But on the other hand, everytime in my life I have let something go, something else has come into my life. Something positive, rich and fulfilling.
I told my daughter about this adventure and her response…”Maybe I will finally get to school on time. Besides, I’ve told you for years (she is 13 now) that you don’t need to do all that stuff anyway.”
My 16 year old son was totally grossed out. The body hair thing…well…let’s just say he could hardly imagine it. “Don’t pick me up at school.” I think he was kidding, but I’m not sure.
Caitlin and I will be chronicling our journey on our blogs with our words, some photographs and video footage. We have NO idea where any of this will push or pull us…but I do know, without a doubt that when it is all said and done, I can begin my response to a little 8 year old when she asks, “Why do you do that?” with “I choose to do this because….” What rounds out the sentence will be what I think Caitlin and I will discover.
I wonder if we aren’t making a bigger statement here than just exploring the American beauty landscape. Might we learn that all of these feminine/gender/beauty/sexual stereotypes connect us, in some way, to our sisters across the globe…that by exploring these beauty “handcuffs” or” treats” …this simple, little, nearly-superficial-relative-to-their-plight-experiment might in some way be encouraging a woman from across the world to explore HER’S. What is the line she will no longer allow…what choices does SHE make or buy into that limit her potential and which ones does she avoid that may enhance it? What will we stand for together and what will we stand AGAINST? How does returning to the beauty, child-like curiosity and the unfiltered view of the 8 year old girl impact us all…whether we live here or in another nation?
I just want to feed my curiosity…explore what is unknown. But could I possibly, by being curious within the small space I live, in reality, be encouraging my sisters, far, far away to be curious as well. I want to as one girl in Girls on the Run put it so beautifully, Be the Boss of My Own Brain.
I’d love for you to join us, share in the journey. We start February 1st and go ALL the way through April 1st.
To join in the conversation add your remarks here or go to our Facebook page. The Naked Face Project. You will also find everything you need to know about what’s going on, as well as our essays chronicling the experience at www.thenakedfaceproject.com. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cailtin has written a beautiful piece for today and will be chronicling her experience too. Read all about it at www.healthytippingpoint.com.
Wish me luck and love. Here are the details…you can find these on the website www.thenakedfaceproject.com.
“Why do you wear makeup?” the eight year-old asked. “Because it’s fun!” we inevitably answer. But when we really get honest, that’s simply not the truth. We both work for organizations that promote a message of inner beauty, empowerment, and self-confidence, and we still engage in Beauty Habits – like makeup, shaving, and wearing uncomfortable feminine clothing . We’ve believed for years that these habits would enhance our appearance. After much discussion, we found the difference between what we preach and how we choose to act on a day-to-day basis troubling.
We’ve often said, “I need to go fix my face,” but really – what is there to fix? This is our journey to explore what happens when we start living in complete alignment with the message we encourage others to live by. We do not know where The Naked Face Project will take us. We do not have a hypothesis we hope to prove or know how we will feel at the end of sixty days. We’re not trying to make a political or feminist statement. We simply want to live in our own space of authentic beauty and be more intentional in our actions. That’s why we’ve chosen to completely commit ourselves in the project for sixty days. It is only through this total immersion that we believe we will come to a more authentic answer for the hard questions little girls ask.
The Naked Face Project is likely to be very uncomfortable for us. Why? We’ve engaged in these Beauty Habits for so long and we know that changing up our habits and especially our mindsets around habits are always a bit unsettling. We feel like we’ve only approached feminine beauty in one way for our entire lives. What might reveal itself when we give ourselves the opportunity to experience another way?
Meet our Naked Faced Project Participants/Creators
The Naked Faced Molly Barker
Molly Barker, MSW, founded Girls on the Run in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina. A four-time Hawaii Ironman triathlete, she used her background in social work, counseling, teaching and her recovery from alcoholism, along with research on adolescent issues, to develop the program. Today, there are Girls on the Run councils in over 190 cities across North America serving over 150,000 girls and women each year.
Girls on the Run, a grassroots movement, engages thousands of people, throughout North America, in its effort to help girls break free of the “Girl Box.” The “Girl Box,” a phrase coined by Molly, describes the imaginary place many girls go around adolescence, where cultural and societal stereotypes limit choices as well as opportunities. Starting with this strong foundation, Molly’s idea is to create a social movement, which provides girls and women with the tools and the courage to see, unravel from and eliminate their own and often unconscious buy-in to the Girl Box and its limiting messages. Only then, will a world where all girls and women are able to recognize and achieve their greatest human potential, have the capacity to emerge.
Girls on the Run has been featured in many media outlets including People, Runner’s World, Glamour, Self, Shape, Redbook and Woman’s Day. Molly has authored two books, “Girls on Track, A Parent’s Guide to Inspiring our Daughters to Achieve a Lifetime of Self-Esteem and Respect”, and “Girls Lit from Within” which is specifically for 3rd – 8th grade girls.
Molly is a positive role model for girls and women of all ages. She enjoys writing, running and yoga but most enjoys the challenges which emerge in her own personal evolution and deep desire to live life outside the Girl Box. She is the mom to two aspiring artists and activitsts (otherwise none as artivists) 16 year old Hank and 13 year old Helen.
The Naked Faced Caitlin Boyle
Caitlin Boyle is the founder of OperationBeautiful.com, author of the Operation Beautiful book, and the blogging behind HealthyTippingPoint.com. She is 27 years old and lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband and two dogs. Caitlin is currently pregnant with her first child.
Caitlin discovered purpose through battling negative self-talk. Tired of hearing her own inner voice telling her she wasn’t good enough, blogger Caitlin scribbled “You are beautiful!” on a post-it, stuck it on the mirror of a public bathroom, took a picture and posted the photo on her blog. A movement, “Operation Beautiful,” was born. The mission – to post anonymous messages in public places to encourage others. Thousands of notes have been posted all over the world, in many different languages by people of all ages. The “Operation Beautiful” book launched in August 2010; Caitlin has been featured on the Today Show, on the OWN Network, and in magazines such as Glamour, Fitness, and Self. She was also chosen by Yahoo as one of the “Top 10 Inspiring Stories of 2010.”
Caitlin also runs Healthy Tipping Point, a food and fitness blog that encourages others to redefine true health and happiness. Caitlin is a weekend warrior, regularly competing in triathlons and road races.
Born and raised in Miami, Florida, she attended the University of Pittsburgh and graduated with a double degrees and with honors. Caitlin and her husband volunteer with Girls on the Run, and Caitlin was named Charlotte’s Rookie Coach of the Year of 2011.
We will be journaling, blogging, videoblogging all about our experience. You can find us on Facebook (The Naked Face Project) and read in more detail about our journey on Molly’s blog, www.mollybarker.com and Caitlin’s blog, www.healthytippingpoint.com.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are you giving up as part of The Naked Face Project?
For sixty days, we will give up wearing any makeup, removing any body hair, altering our hair from its natural state (dying, curling, straightening), wearing uncomfortable feminine clothing (high heels, tight skirts), wearing jewelry (with the exception of wedding bands), painting our nails, using anti-wrinkle or anti-acne lotions, wearing deodorant, or styling our hair for reasons other than function.
Are you saying there’s something inherently wrong with these things?
Absolutely not. We are not “anti” anything. For us, it’s not about wrong or right. We’re hoping to discover something unknown to us now, through this process. What we will discover is a mystery at this point.
What are you not giving up?
We plan to blow dry our hair (because it’s the winter), brush our teeth, wear sunscreen, and dress appropriately for the occasion. The issue of dressing appropriately gave us great pause. We have decided that The Naked Face Project is not about being outrageously socially unacceptable. It is possible to dress professionally without being inherently uncomfortable.
Why 60 days?
We feel that this is long enough to lean into the discomfort of giving up our Beauty Habits. Who knows? We may continue this new “lifestyle” or find some interesting combination of what we have done in the past with what we do (or don’t do!) during this experiment.
What you do you bring to the table?
We feel like we offer a unique perspective on beauty, power, confidence, sexuality and gender-related issues because of our careers, as well as our ages (Molly is 51 and Caitlin is 27) and life stages (Molly is a mother of two teenagers and single, and Caitlin is currently pregnant and married).
What are you trying to prove?
Nothing! We are truly operating from a space of child-like curiosity. We have no preconceived expectations of this project other than the fact that we anticipate we will feel the discomfort by changing up what has been our normal “beauty routines.” We really have no idea how The Naked Face Project will turn out. We are questioning ourselves and our actions, not those of other people. We are hoping that, though this journey, we will come to a more authentic and genuine understanding of our individual definitions of beauty and how these may or may not play out in terms of our self-worth, power, and sexuality .
Why does it matter?
Molly: “I’ve built my entire life around encouraging girls and women to recognize and activate their potential through embracing a definition of beauty which includes compassion, strength, mindfulness, authenticity and empowerment. I think I’m finally ready to not only cognitively believe this message, but feel, live, and breathe it too. I want to genuinely and with my heart wide open live in this space. Something is calling me to do this, and I’ve learned to never, ever question that intuitive voice.”
Caitlin: “I really believe that we have a confidence crisis on our hands in this country, especially in the minds of teenage girls and women. I want to do more than pay lip service to the belief that it’s what’s on the inside that counts – I want to truly embrace the philosophy and see what I discover about myself and other people as a result.”
Can I participate?
Yes! The Naked Face Project might look different for different people. You can follow our rules and terms or create your own We will be journaling, blogging, videoblogging all about our experience. You can find us on Facebook (The Naked Face Project) and find out everything you need to know from our website at www.thenakedfaceproject.com. You can also always find my experience
. If you have a blog and would like to be linked up on the site, please email TheNakedFaceProject@gmail.com.