US Catholic Faith in Real Life

"Inner beauty" just isn't enough

By Kira Dault | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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We're rapidly approaching the end of "No-Shave" November, (also known as Movember) and I've seen more than a few men walking around with scruffy faces. The mustaches and beards some men are sporting are supposed to bring awareness to men's health issues, with NBC's Matt Lauer even going so far as to get a prostate exam "on camera" (though he was behind a closed door, much to the relief of his viewing public, I imagine.)

But now accompanying the men's month of non-grooming is a complimentary month for women. (Hint: It's not No-Shave Novemeber for women.) It's "No Makeup November." No Makeup November has been rolled out by an evangelical group called Rave Ministries. On their website, Rave ministries says to "allow God to paint your face each day with the joy that comes from being a daughter of the King!" 

While I appreciate the sentiment of the "No Makeup November," I confess that I am continually skeptical of messages to girls and young women that hold up that old adage "You're beautiful on the inside." While that message may be good, along with "It's what's on the inside that counts," it utterly fails, theologically speaking. In Christianity, and especially in Catholic Christianity, the flesh matters. Skin deep is deep, else why did Christ die on the cross? 

The message that we send to girls and young women should not be, "Forget your body. Focus on your soul." It should be "Value your body, your soul, your mind." 

A spokesperson for Rave ministries, Becca Daniel, told Religion News Service, "I believe that there’s a need because of the culture that we live in. It’s just very much beauty-saturated: ‘beauty’ meaning what’s on the outside."

I don't think the "beauty-saturated" culture is the problem, and I don't think that makeup is the problem. Instead, I think it's quite the opposite. We've become a culture that utterly fails to see beauty where it exists. Beauty and "sexy" (where "sexy" means "thin") have become conflated, especially for girls and young women. The cult of thinness is perpetuated on college campuses, as is hookup culture, where young men and women are encouraged to have casual sexual encounters and then walk away. This is not because we are valuing beauty too much. It is because we are failing to value the beauty of the flesh. If we tell our children from a young age that bodies don't matter, what is preventing them from abusing those bodies when confronted with the opportunity to do so?

Image: Darren Tse (originally posted to Flickr as Makeup) [CC-BY-SA-2.0  via Wikimedia Commons