With the internet’s cesspool of negative comment threads, anonymous hate and cyber bullying, it’s refreshing to see a web trend encouraging acceptance and kindness. Unfortunately, the “don’t judge me” challenge, despite its misleadingly pleasant title, is not one of these trends.
To participate in the challenge, one uses makeup to create blemishes on their face and then makes strange facial expressions at the camera before holding their hand in front of their lens, covering their drawn-on insecurities, before pulling their hand back to reveal their conventionally pretty faces.
At first, I thought that maybe I just “didn’t get” the challenge or, perhaps, had watched a bad few examples, but no, they’re all like this. Unfortunately, the “challenge” has gotten popular on Youtube, Vine, and Facebook, which means that many young people, who could use the support of a positive viral campaign amongst the sea of media that alienates, sexualizes and shames almost every body type , are exposed to this toxic trend and many are even supporting and participating in it.
This concerns me for many reasons. First off, the “don’t judge me” challenge, or the “don’t judge a book by its cover” challenge (as it is sometimes called), eludes to the idea that physical appearance does not correlate to intelligence, maturity or personality, which is absolutely true. Yet instead of demonstrating that every person, regardless of age; gender; and appearance, has hidden talents; feelings; and experiences, it simply portrays an attractive person pretending to have blemishes. What do we learn from that, that drawn-on pimples and unibrows can be washed off? Instead of pursing their lips in slow motion as dubstep music plays, the people in these videos should have been telling us about how someone had misjudged them based on their appearance, since that is what the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” actually means.
Secondly, the first part of these videos, when the subjects draw on unibrows and pimples, black out their teeth and mess up their hair, is offensive to people who actually have these features. Since the subjects are obviously trying to make themselves appear “unappealing,” that means they think these features are unappealing. Instead of mocking these qualities and caricaturingthem, the participants shouldn’t have elevated any features above others; the participants should have focused on the content of their own characters, which is much more important than any blemish or physical quality someone can have.
Thirdly, there is a clear implication of racism running through several of the videos. The now viral image of one of the challengers donning black face is just one of many instances of the “unappealing” features being based on racial discrimination. “Frizzy” and “nappy” curly hair, m0no-brows, big lips, and darker skin are all caricatured in these videos and all happen to be features prominent with people of color. This shows us yet again just how superior society deems a thin white, polished face.
Lastly, these videos almost always feature a subject who would be considered attractive by today’s standards. The concept of physical beauty is subjective and changes depending on what culture or time period you are considering. A challenge entitled “don’t judge me” should not be focusing on appearances at all, or at least, should be attempting to widen the definition of beauty to show that anyone can feel and be beautiful because of their body type, scars, hair texture or any other quality they have. These videos mostly feature people of slim body types wearing mainstream, socially acceptable outfits and amounts of makeup, meaning they are not representing varying body types, body modifications or alternative subcultures. And as we all know, the alienation of a certain subgroup or body type will eventually persuade viewers that it is less desirable.
Luckily though, the internet is vast place and there are several bloggers and YouTube videos who promote acceptance. Here are a few of my favorite examples, notice that just like in the “don’t judge me” challenge the speaker also uses the application or removal of makeup to make a point.
1. Gamergate Make-up Tutorial by tadelsmith
“Are you a gamergater, tired of feminists meddling in the affairs of gamers? want to show your support for the movement in a creative way? then this makeup tutorial is just for you! Possibly.”
On her channel, Taylor, known as tadelesmith on YouTube, often posts videos with feminist themes such as “Anti-friendzone Makeup,” “Feminist Makeup,” and “Gamergate Makeup Tutorial,” which points out sexism, homophobia, and racism in a comedic way. In the above vodep, Taylor points out the inequality and hypocrisy of Gamer Gaters while giving us a pretty snazzy make-up tutorial.
2. You Look Disgusting by My Pale Skin
In the video “You Look Disgusting” Em, known on YouTube as My Pale Skin, shows actual comments she received on social media after she started posting photos of herself without makeup on. Not only do viewers criticize her natural appearance, but when she covers it up with makeup, people also criticize her choice to do so. This video points out the hypocritical way that society expects women to be naturally flawless, with clear skin and thick eyelashes, but the second that women reveal that they use makeup, they are deemed vain, high maintenance, fake or self-absorbed.
3. Cassandra’s Camo Confession by Cassandra Bankson/Dermablend Professional
In this video by Dermablend Professional, YouTuber and model Cassandra Bankson removes her makeup as she tells viewers the bullying she faced as a teen growing up with cystic acne. “I used to use makeup to cover up and to hide who I was. Now I use it to express myself and to show the world who I really am,” she says at the end of the video, in which she also expressed her desire to make others feel more confident and the myth of perfection. Another video in this series features model and Dj, Rico, who is covered in tattoos. He says, “Many people would say that I am different just because of my skin, but I don’t feel that way.” He talks about how his appearance sometimes causes strangers to judge him, like when a woman he held the door open for purposely walked through another door to avoid being near him.
4. The Power of Makeup by NikkieTutorials
In the video “The Power of Makeup” by NikkieTutorials, Nikkie touches on the subject of “makeup shaming,” which is when people assume someone wearing makeup is doing so to impress men or because they desire to hide. This mentality is damaging because it dismisses the possibility that women could choose to wear makeup and still be secure with their natural appearance, or that someone could choose to wear makeup for artistic purposes, or that someone could simply find applying makeup fun.
At the end of the video, Nikkie says that she is not encouraging people to slap on makeup opposed to learning how to be content with themselves, but to realize that any woman, confident or otherwise should be able to wear cosmetics without being criticized for it.
So in short, stop watching the “don’t judge me” challenges. If you really wish to be measured by the content of you character and your achievements, then you have to extend that consideration to other people, realizing that their appearance, even if it is one that the media glorifies, has no baring in who they are.