The burden of YouTube popularity?

It’s 1am so I hope I’m coherent enough to say this! I frequently watch makeup tutorials on YouTube – I mainly have certain subscriptions and stick to them. A lot of the women’s main demographic is young, teenage girls, and they know it, so their content is often adapted to fit that (One Direction-esque things, dating advice, etc.), but I see so many problematic things in them – things that might seem casual or subtle to another eye.

The women perpetuate the notion that a bare face is ‘OMG the horror!’ I believe you can run a makeup channel and introduce teens to makeup in a way that doesn’t suggest you MUST wear it constantly and God forbid anyone sees you without any on. The latest video I watched actually said “thumbs up for bare face bravery!” While this might be a sad commentary on the individual’s insecurity about her looks, I don’t think it was solely that, and however it was intended, it still perpetuates the message that you can’t have a positive approach to being seen bare-faced, that your natural face is something you must be ashamed of and want to cover up pronto.

I have so many problems with these videos, not only makeup and beauty ones – they’re very heteronormative, reductive in the views of variety in humans, and often casually sexist in other ways. One of the guys I watch is a lovely guy, but seems a bit dim when it comes to the possibility of things being sexist. He’s one of those “I love chocolate – I’m such a girl” people – and that’s a paraphrase of something he ACTUALLY said. His videos involve a bit of ‘dirty’ humor, and he has no problem with the word ‘penis’, but he seems to be unable to use the word ‘vagina’ – it’s all ‘vajayjay’, ‘lady bits’ and, urgh, ‘lady penis’. I shit you not – ‘lady penis’.

What worries me about this is that these YouTubers are actually very influential in their circles – there are so many young girls out there who actually idolize these people. I’ve seen their Twitter accounts and videos of meetups they hold, and they’re worshipped like any other celebrity. The fans hang on to their every word, and instead of being introduced to makeup as something fun you can add to your life, they’re instead having it drummed into them that it’s wrong to go bare-faced, that they must use 10 million products to cover dark circles and spots and mimic sharp cheekbones (with expensive products no less), and to subscribe (almost literally) to an ideal of beauty that they shouldn’t feel obliged to agree with. They end up internalizing comments such as “I’m such a girl” as if it were true and natural for them.

The fans are young, so I want to say I hope they ‘grow out of’ the ‘brainwashing’, so to speak, but in fact, it’s sad to use the moment that should be ideal for getting young people involved in feeling independent and not about conforming to ridiculous notions about beauty to instead indoctrinate them into an even casually sexist, always-made-up sort of world. Instead, I pity the droves of young girls I see Tweeting these YouTubers with comments such as “I’m so jealous, you’re so gorgeous”. The YouTubers have a platform with which to shout out that it’s important for people to feel happy with themselves, and show that they can have makeup channels without putting insecurities into girls’ minds as to whether their cheeks are too ‘fat’ and need contoured or their eyebrows need filled in before they even think about leaving the house. It’s the way tutorials make certain things seem horrorful and almost disgusting that I find disagreeable. There’s not enough stressing that these things are a choice.

I’ve started to leave comments here and there nicely pointing out some specific problems I see in the videos, rather than going all out on their channels like “OMG YOU’RE SO PROBLEMATICALLY SEXIST AND BRAINWASHING YOUNG GIRLS WITH EVERYTHING YOU DO.” That’s ineffective, for starters – no one’s going to listen to that. I believe that by beginning to point out little things, hopefully they and their fans will begin to take notice. I think the YouTubers are rather unaware of the harm they might be doing, so it’s important to educate them directly rather than throwing out insults they’re going to deem as nothing more than ‘trollish’ comments.

Anyhow, this was just a bit of a ramble after I did some browsing of my YouTube subscriptions. Apart from these little things (and actually, they’re not just ‘little things’), I do enjoy the videos I watch and like the people who make them; I just feel that it would be good if I use the opportunity to let them know that certain things they say or do are not harmless. It still feels like a losing battle these days, but I hope some of the young fans will see my comments and others like mine and realize that they don’t have to feel embarrassed about their makeup-free face.

Keep in mind that I say this as a fan of the makeup tutorials. I personally don’t wear much makeup myself – simply mascara and lip balm most days – but I’m not criticizing those who wear makeup so much as those who are, admittedly rather inadvertently, pressuring young people to subscribe to their problematic beauty ideals.

Difficulties finding a retail job?

Some of you will know, either through knowing me personally or reading a previous post of mine (which I’d posted on my other blog, Fanciful Reality, because of the accompanying YouTube video, but linked it here) that I volunteer in a charity shop. In that post, I talked about the benefits of volunteering – knowing you’re helping a worthwhile cause, while making friends and having fun all at the same time, while possibly spotting an amazing bargain ahead of the crowd! A benefit I don’t think I touched on is the work experience, though I might have mentioned it in the video.

Don’t get me wrong – while the driving necessity for retail experience was a major factor in me deciding to volunteer, it almost immediately became much less of a focus, due to all the great reasons I listed above and in the original blog post. But having moved back to my small hometown with barely any money to my name, I needed a job, and at that point, I thought anything would do. That was mainly because I studied classics, and my hometown offers nothing to a classics graduate desiring to remain in the field. I applied to a lot of retail jobs, using academics as references, but of course, I received lots of rejections. Shops simply didn’t care whether I was a good student or not, because I couldn’t back certain things up well using only my academic career – and being a student says nothing about your till abilities!

After I’d been with the charity shop three or four months, I was able to obtain a reference from the manager, praising all that I’d learned on the job – till, interacting with customers, helping out, etc. And I was able to use what I’d done in my application too – I was able to write about stressful situations that weren’t about dissertation frustrations at 8am in the library. I was able to mention shop-specific situations. I felt that my applications were a lot stronger this time, and, being on Jobseeker’s Allowance (jobseekers’ welfare) by this time, I was feeling the strain of keeping up with the tasks I needed to do and record in order to receive my welfare money.

It didn’t take long for an application to be successful – in fact, the very first application I sent off with the new reference and details got me an interview. Then, I got a second interview, and a third, and I got the job! Now I’m a sales advisor for Debenhams, which is a high-class department store (not quite Selfridges level, but rather pricey), and I know the volunteering reference and experience must have been the kick my application needed. I wasn’t (and am not) paid for what I do with PDSA, but of course, whether you’re paid or not doesn’t make a difference to what you learn on the job.

There are three ways I feel volunteering gives a job application that extra kick: 1) as I said, you rack up retail experience without actually having to have a ‘real job’; 2) you can impress at whatever stage by making it clear that working in a charity shop is a lot less simple than a normal store, because your stock is unpredictable and ever-changing, showing you have to keep on the ball about what you have and don’t have in your store, and 3) it shows your potential employers that you have a good work ethic – you’re willing to work, and do a good job (corroborated by your volunteering manager’s reference) for absolutely nothing. Luckily, if the wage for the job has already been set, you don’t have to worry about the employer wanting to take advantage of you because you’re willing to work for free. And anyway, you’re willing to help a charity for free, not a corporate business. You will shine if it is apparent that you are happy to do your job and that money is not the sole factor in your dedication and assiduousness (even if it is :P).

So if you’re after a retail job but find it difficult to get any work experience, think about giving your local charity shop a visit. Again, you’d be helping a great cause, and also be helping yourself gain the experience you need to get your feet into the retail world! I probably wouldn’t be working now if I hadn’t begun volunteering; shops still wouldn’t have wanted a classics graduate who’d never touched a till in her life!