Makeup Free Me: Interview with founder, Merissa Mathew

MFM 2013 Flyer_150x100Makeup Free Me is an initiative started by Merissa Mathew in conjunction with the Butterfly Foundation asking young people, particularly young women, to go without make up to see how beautiful they can be in other ways. We spoke to Merissa about this great cause, where all donations are given to the Butterfly Foundation which supports those dealing with eating disorders and negative body image issues. She gave us some great words of wisdom to share!

What is the Makeup Free Me challenge and what do you hope to achieve through this initiative? 

On Friday 30th August we are encouraging women all over Australia to take on the challenge of going without makeup for one day. By asking women to go makeup free for a mere 24 hours, we’re showing the world that beauty is more than just skin deep. At the same time we’re raising vital funds to support the Butterfly Foundation. The Butterfly Foundation provides support for Australians who suffer from eating disorders and negative body image issues and their carers.

What inspired you to start this movement?

There’s a saying ‘be careful what you wish for’. In my case it was ‘be careful what you pray for’ because I said a desperate prayer one day asking for direction in my life and it was at that moment that this idea came about. 

Do you ever go without makeup?

Prior to starting this campaign I never left the house without makeup on. In fact, when the campaign idea first came to mind I started laughing out loud but I released later that my own insecurities was what made me perfect for this venture. Since then I have gone out a few times without makeup on and its refreshing, freeing and scary all at the same time. I’m only now learning how to love me, the natural me. 

Any tips on embracing who you are and affirmations we can all try and remember for those times when we feel not so great?

This is a great question. Positive self talk has always helped me. Sometimes speaking aloud all the great things about yourself or even writing them down can really boost your confidence. It may sound like a bizarre thing to do but this has honestly helped me in many aspects of my life, not just in relation to body image.

Do you have any personal stories to share around body image?

I believe I’m like many women out there, I have good days and bad. Sometimes I feel great about how I look and other times I feel quite awful and the reality is that I don’t actually look any different. I know I personally place too much emphasis on the way I look and somehow I connect it with my self-worth. So in essence I’m far from having it all together and I’m very much on a journey in discovering my value in who I am rather than what I look like.

Where do you see this campaign in a few years to come?

Negative body image is not just an issue in Australia. In fact, only 4% of women globally consider themselves beautiful. In a few years to come we hope to expand to other countries so that we can empower women across the world to develop and nurture positive body image.

994564_10201785306298686_30325048_nThe UQWC is hosting a MUFM event this coming Friday at 10am on the Grassy Knoll on UQ St Lucia campus. We’ll be taking photos of you – you’re encouraged to not where any make up, but if you do that’s okay! We’ll get you to hold up a sign where you’ve written one thing you find beautiful about you that isn’t related to your appearance. Maybe it’s the way you support a friend in need, the way you stand up for yourself in stressful situations, or maybe the way you love your job or are doing the best you can in your studies. We’ll post the pics on our tumblr for your to see!

Student Services will be hosting a Mindfulness workshop from 10-10.30am as well, so come along!

You can donate to the Butterfly Foundation through the UQWC support page too :)

A special shout out to Emily, Lotte and Emma who have all been a big help in organising our event!

The Acid Tongue Orator

As seen is Wom*news #9: Myths! 

She charges on stage, a beleaguered veteran of comedy, and launches into a set that tends to leave a stinging sensation.

BeckyLucas2013

“I was in the valley the other day and I heard some guys talking about chasing some pussy. They said they were going to chase some pussy. Let’s go chase some pussy. I felt like saying if you have to chase pussy that means pussy is literally fleeing from you. I don’t know about you guys, but being chased is my least favourite form of foreplay. A little game of tiggy isn’t going to negate the fact that you are wearing white leather shoes and have red rapey faces.”

Her name is Becky Lucas, a rising star in the Brisbane comedy scene. Next month will see her in a run of shows during the Melbourne Comedy Festival with Corey White and Dan Rath, titled Undiagnosed. I was fortunate enough to chat to Becky about her time as a comic, what makes her laugh, and the myth that women aren’t funny.

Mitchell: How did you get your start in comedy?

Becky: I told this really good comic that I was thinking of doing it and he booked my first gig for me at the New Market Hotel. Looking back it was such poor quality humour; I thought it was really good. It was fine for my first go. I look at it now and I just know I would have hated me as a comic.

M: What were some of your jokes?

B: I had a joke about the bikes Campbell Newman set up and apparently people would hire out a bike and get to their destination and there was no space, no one had taken any at the other and so they had to go back. Nothing says convenience like a round trip. That’s my punch line, that wouldn’t even get laughs in a conversation. People think on stage that things are heightened, that they are funnier. But it is the exact opposite.

M: How would you describe your comedy voice or style now?

B: I think I am still finding my voice. I have recently become aware that I am quite mean. I don’t want to be, but when I look over my material it is very ‘this is this’ and I kind of attack. I’d like to think of it as satirical and observational, just mean things that I try to give a punch line so people don’t hate me. A friend of mine always calls me an acid tongue orator.

M: Where do you draw a lot of you inspiration and influences from?

B: I really like Louis C.K, Maria Bamford, Dylan Moran, and Bob Saget which might seem ridiculous. I love Jerry Seinfeld, I would probably feel like I am Seinfeldish, but meaner. Like I’m the unlovable Seinfeld. I’m Jenny Seinfeld.

M: Do you have a favourite joke that is not one of yours?

B: It’s this local comic named Dan Rath and it’s his joke about how old white guys a rarely on the fence when it comes to Asians. They either hate them or they are married to one.

M: What do you think about the article by Christopher Hitchens that proposes that women aren’t funny?

B: It sounds really bad, I know funny women. I know myself. There are funny women. There are funny women out there. But it is hard, because the article talks about how women don’t need to be funny and that is the depressing thing that biologically a man will go out with you because you might be beautiful or smart or you provide and then they can go off with their friends and be funny with their friends. But I think it kind of depends on what kind of woman you are, I mean I am quite independent, I have always been.

I think men aren’t really willing to listen to a girl being funny. They just don’t want to. They go up and say something funny and instead of laughing and processing it the way they would if a guy said it they have to give a quick scan of what she looks like. Even to this gig I was wearing this dress that is kind of short and with skin showing. I have to change into a dress where I can be a mole underneath it. It is about how you appear and whether that affects humour. I think we are hardwired to think of humour as a fat, down and out guy, or someone that is a little askew. But women aren’t taught to be pathetic. You are taught to wash your hair and do your hair and be reasonable and trot off and be independent and don’t be a fuck up. Whereas guys can be a fuck up and people will go ‘what a larrikin’. He is one of the boys and there is none of that leniency for girls.

M: He makes the comment at one point that the only women who are funny take on a masculine voice and are ‘dykes’. Do you think this is true?

B: I completely disagree with that. I think they are maybe the ones men are comfortable with listening to because they can place them into a category. I will never fuck you so I will laugh at you. I don’t think men like women who can do it all, you can’t be pretty and funny. That’s a man’s job. You don’t need to be funny. It is such bullshit. Anyone can be funny. I have met funny people who don’t even speak English, we don’t even speak the same language, and they are just charismatic

M: Germaine Greer wrote an article in response and she says that it is not true that women aren’t funny. It is just because they are less competitive. The joker is always looking for acceptance and women just don’t really care about that. What do you think about this?

B: I agree with that. I have had boyfriends where I would be sitting in a group of his friends and I will be zinging hard and later he will be like, ‘you are just trying so hard.’ And I will say, ‘That is because I want to be a part of it and it is so easy to not be’. Competiveness in a woman isn’t seen as an attractive trait and because we are conditioned so early to be attractive often women won’t pursue it. That is why women can be funny together and then separate them into a group of men and they get withdrawn. I still have that underlying urge to be liked or to be considered a woman.

M: Thank you for your time, it was great to an insight into your mind!

“Undiagnosed” can be seen at the Ball and Bear Bar in Melbourne from the 27th of March to the 20th of April. Tickets are $15.

~ Mitchell Firman

“Free Yourself, Man – Woman!”

“Free Yourself, Man Woman”
By Samantha Kelly

This article will be featured in the upcoming issue of wom*news: bodies!

The textile world.

That is the phrase used by members of Aquarius to describe the outside world, occupied by the general, non-nudist public. That is, world where everyone is expected by society and required by the law to wear clothing. This is one of the phrases uttered in the conversation between Maureen and I as she steers us toward the camp at Browns Plains.

At this point, I think it’s important to rewind and explain why the hell the readers of a feminist magazine should care about a caravan park half-way to the gold coast occupied by people whose only known common ground is their aversion to clothing.

My interest in naturism spurs from a variety of different sources. The first time I began to think critically about the stigma that is often associated with nudity was at the beginning of 2011 when I began modelling for a life-drawing class. I was living with my Mum in Bribie Island and it was virtually impossible to find a regular job in a town full of family businesses. What I did find however, whilst flicking through the local paper, was an ad seeking amateur models for an amateur drawing class. The work I soon became involved in was extremely casual: about one shift every month or two. But the extra cash on top of my youth allowance wasn’t my only motivation. I felt an inherent contrast between the way these artists viewed the human body and the way it was seen by others. I felt as if this difference existed in two primary ways.

Firstly, because the human body is too often sexualised. Something completely natural has been hijacked by raunch culture. Being nude is naughty. Pornographic. Secondly, because the human body is subject to standards that dictate what is attractive or unattractive. People who fit these narrow criteria are encouraged to expose their flesh on public beaches, on television and in magazines. Those who don’t are mocked and marginalised. The life artists had no interest in perpetuating these ideals. In fact, the group appreciated being able to draw diverse range of men and women with different body shapes. Having figures that were bonier and others that were fleshier, some that were muscular and some that were curvier was a good way to practice drawing real human beings.

I have since moved to South Brisbane and have become less involved in this particular class. But I have learned that two of my friends practice nudism regularly on a clothing-optional beach in Byron Bay.  I have also attended a nude dinner party and have grown more interested in the idea of disassociating nudity from sexuality, and rejecting the concept of an ‘ideal’ body type.

Recently, I discovered the Topfree Equal Rights movement, which overlaps the philosophy underlying naturism and the goals of activists who advocate gender equality. So I decided to further explore the nudist community and set out to answer this question: How compatible is nudism with feminism?

I’d been emailing Maureen throughout the week and we had arranged to meet in the city before heading to Aquarius for the day. On the way to our destination, she revealed a few interesting things about herself. Maureen grew up in New Zealand, where there is no law explicitly forbidding nudity. She recalls that it was much more accepted in this country, and quite common on public beaches. She was secretary of the Naturist Federation Australia until she developed breast cancer, after which she resigned for health reasons. She said that she is “feeling pretty much back to normal now” and “committed to this great lifestyle.” We also discussed the portrayal of beauty in the mainstream media, and the idealisation of certain body types. This was a topic on which we seemed to think in much the same way.

When I asked about nudity outside of Aquarius, she revealed that she’s often naked in her own house. She emphasised that although she believed in accepting nudity, she is always careful to consider others. This is why naturists wear clothing out in public. It is also why, she explained, she would put clothes on if she knew that someone was visiting who was uncomfortable with nudity.

It was a quiet day at Aquarius. Most of the members had plans for Father’s Day.  But I did see a couple playing tennis as Maureen gave me the tour of the grounds. After Maureen ditched the sarong and singlet she’d worn in the car trip, I was the only person clothed. And about twenty minutes afterwards, I undressed as well ¾ mostly because I’m not a fan of standing out.

Almost every caravan in the park was decorated with bumper-stickers or hippy-ish décor. The flags also suggest that quite a number of other members grew up in New Zealand. Sport seemed like a fairly popular thing amongst the community at Aquarius.

Maureen introduced me to her partner Mark, who was preparing tea and coffee. One of the few regular traditions at the club was for everyone to have afternoon tea together on a Sunday. Members took in turns to host the afternoon tea, and this particular week was Maureen and Mark’s. There were usually a large crowd, but because it was Father’s Day, Aquarius was particularly quiet. When the five other club members who weren’t off celebrating with their families showed up, we introduced ourselves and had a good conversation about life, work, study and our mutual dislike for Campbell Newman. Maureen asked me about the Zine I was writing for, at which point I described the women’s collective.

“And is that still a big thing, women’s equality?”

It was apparent to me at this point that Maureen doesn’t identify as a feminist – despite her views about body image mainstream media. But when I began to explain the attitudes and injustices that still exist, I realised that much of what I described was not so evident at Aquarius. The prelevance of scantily clad women in the media, for example, is only a problem when nudity is seen as sexual; and to Maureen, that in itself is a bigger problem. The behavioural expectations also seemed less relevant to a woman owned a motorbike, played a lot of sport, didn’t wear make-up and whose male partner was in the kitchen washing the guests’ dishes.

I am by no means attempting to claim that sexism is entirely a textile-world problem. Many of the other forms of inequalities I mentioned such as equal pay were things that Maureen suggested to be the result of individual women’s choices, rather than a system, which I thoroughly disagree with.

But she did go on to mention other women who embraced the lifestyle as an aspect of their support for gender equality.  The vice-president, Jackie Fuller, wrote on the website for the Australian Nudist Federation:

I would like to encourage more females to join social nudism rather than stay at home behind closed doors. Being a social nudist helps with self esteem, relaxation and builds self confidence.

There is also the Topfree Equal Rights Association (TERA), which is geared toward pointing out the injustice about the lack of legal and social acceptance of women who are topless, as compared to men. Again, it is important to understand that a part of the female body has been deemed taboo, simply because it has been objectified and sexualised by men.

Although TERA like to be recognised as being distinct from naturism, there are a number of members who are also involved in nudist groups.  A common pattern I found amongst many of those from the online TERA discussion group was those who advocated for gender equality, and believed the current state of laws and social norms to be sexist- but didn’t identify with feminism for various different reasons. And yet the small number of younger people I know who embraced the lifestyle are all strongly feminist-identifying.

At this stage, having only been exposed to a small part of this lifestyle, I can’t draw any definite conclusions about it. But I do believe that whilst nudism and feminism may have their differences, they are compatible with one another. That is, that the principles of nudism and the goals of TERA are an excellent way of addressing some of the forms of inequality. 

Later, after the other campers had left, I had the chance to ask Maureen a couple of questions. Since reflecting on the interview and my visit to Aquarius, I’ve been following the TERA discussion group. In future, I’d be interested in seeing how many people who embrace nudism or Topfree Equality do so from a feminist perspective.

The important thing for me is that there can be a positive relationship between these causes and I feel that this is somewhat illustrated in my interview with Maureen. Read on to see what she had to say!

S: How did you discover nudism?

M: My husband saw an ad for the local club… looking for members or people interested in nudism, and it was actually more like a dare. He made some sort of sarcastic remark to me and I was like ‘well, yeah, why not?’  So he said, ‘right then, next Saturday we’re going out to visit.’ So, it was curiosity really.

S: How is nudism perceived in the mainstream of Australia in comparison to other parts of the world?

M: I find Queensland people are really conservative and… are surprised by nudism. Or are probably misinformed, because they’re so conservative that they don’t want to know or find out about it. But then you get people who say ‘I’d love to do that, but I don’t know if I could’. So…. They’re not quite ready to look into it. And in New Zealand it’s not illegal. Like, Queensland and Tasmania are the only states where it is illegal. There are other states where it is legal, but I don’t know how accepted it is.

S: What kind of positive effects do you feel nudism has for the individual?

M: Oh, great because… your forced to learn acceptance, tolerance and respect. And the positive things that come back out of it, is that you get it all back. You know? When I had breast cancer, I had a lot of friends here. And to come back here, when I was off-guard… and really felt… blergh… you know? And sitting here… it didn’t seem to matter. You know? The people here… don’t care. They’re mostly just really genuine people. Because they get to know each other… instead of getting to know what you look like.

S: What kind of effects do you feel nudism could have on society?

M: Well, I think, because of the respect and tolerance… the good thing that it does is promote those things. And, health-wise, too.  I think you become more aware of nature… and of the sun. There’s a lot of active people. I think people feel free here, too.

S: Have you ever been subject to negative reactions from those who might misunderstand social nudism?

M: Oh yes, absolutely. Probably the most shocked people are those who think it’s all to do with sex. People think it’s a big swingers party… and it’s nothing to do with that at all. Or others think we’re all tree-hugging hippies…  which we’re not.

S: What is your opinion on the double standard that exists in relation to the exposure of male chests and that of breasts?

M: Oh, so unfair. Absolutely. I mean, on a hot day… why should we have to tog up… you know? But I do think it would be better again if we could just all wear nothing, too.

S: Do you feel as if the nudist community has a positive attitude toward diversity?

M: Definitely. Because of the many different body shapes. Different races. Genders. All age groups…  although more of my age group, for some reason.  But I definitely think there is diversity here and it would be good to have even more.

I’m not going to pretend it’s easy to become a nudist, or to embrace nudity with open arms. As a person who has had insecurities about my body for my entire life, I know how deep-seated it can be. I know what it’s like to know rationally that you should accept yourself and still fail to do so. To be aware of an ongoing problem and still be damaged by it. However, I think it’s worthwhile to consider nudism and recognise its legitimacy in our society, especially in regards to feminism: because hey, which one of us wouldn’t like to be a part of a community where all genders in their naked form are not ridiculed, sexualised or objectified?
~ Samantha Kelly