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.

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2 thoughts on “The burden of YouTube popularity?

  1. Wow. This post was a massive generalization, and I have to disagree with you completely. Just because someone on YouTube is famous for doing beauty tutorials and hauls and things, doesn’t make them vapid, sexist idiots. The idea that going barefaced into public is an embarrassing is an idea perpetrated by our society. The fact that some beauty gurus go on camera without makeup is a stand AGAINST the idea that you should be embarrassed of your barefaced self. If you have ever put yourself out there in the way that YouTubers have, then you will understand the horrible, vulgar, mean, unwarranted comments that people post. In my opinion, exposing yourself without makeup, showing who you really are on camera, flaws and all, and letting people judge you so harshly is very brave. There have been so many polls proving that large percentages of women would not leave their homes without some kind of cosmetic on. One beauty guru that I watch, Ingrid, just recently posted a 16 minute video of her without makeup, talking about how important it is to love yourself and, makeup is a supplement not a requirement (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9tNoy5DpMQ). I’m not trying to be a bitch, but your post came off as very, “I could do better,” but I think you are totally undermining the stress and pressure that YouTube stars are put under.

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  2. I didn’t want to go on for five years about the issue, so as a result it has ended up rather generalizing, to avoid as well going focusing on specific users. I didn’t want to be under the impression of attacking certain people, though I have of course used examples. You’re right – the individual gurus’ decision to actually be seen on camera is actually very brave – I’ll concede to that. I’ve heard of a lot of women who would never be seen in public or even in front of their partner without makeup, so for the YouTubers to choose to be seen obviously helps to make out that they’re not 100% horrified by the idea. I think that simply avoiding the ‘omg – horror!’ sort of captions would make a lot of the difference, and that’s really all I’d ask for.

    I do have a YouTube channel, two in fact, but I do understand that I don’t experience the same pressure as the famous YouTubers do (far from it!) – pressure even on the basis of their content, as well as for their appearances (especially since their cameras are very good quality!). I do, in fact, watch Ingrid too, and it was rather short-sighted of me not to mention people like her who are trying to help break down the notion of makeup being an obligation. She’s a very big inspiration of mine in that sense, actually. 🙂

    I would like to note that I do not claim the beauty gurus are sexist – that paragraph about the sexism was concerning another channel, and is very oddly placed, which I excuse on behalf of the post being a late-night ramble about some thoughts. Reading back over the post I see I have been reductive about certain things, including the naivete surrounding the difficulty for women to begin to stand against patriarchal attitudes about them.

    Also note that I don’t accuse anyone of maliciously or deliberately feeding young girls bad messages – it’s all rather inadvertently done. But I have been quite unfair in my initial post and naive in ways too, so I do apologize! I just hope that soon we can see them barefaced without any sort of comment (along the lines of shock or uneasiness, I mean; it’s quite fine to comment on the fact that you’re barefaced) to suggest that it’s any different from being seen without makeup. I see how I must have across to you and possibly to other readers, and although I think my core point was important, my execution of it definitely leaves a lot to be improved!

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