The ‘Porn Stars Without Makeup’ article on the Huffington Post was, I hoped, going to be a sort of small female empowerment piece where someone dares to say that women are beautiful without makeup and clothed and that no matter what we do for work, we’re all human underneath the costume. That Disney-level optimism was very quickly dashed to shards by the unforgiving reality of an article that is a puff piece on the makeup artist behind a gallery of pictured porn star looks. “The extra exposure led to more job offers for Murphy, 35. She noted that many women outside of the industry want her to do their makeup for weddings and other events.” I’m pleased that Melissa Murphy’s makeup career is thriving and that more people are viewing makeup as an art form in its own right. I believe that it is, or can be. This isn’t to take anything away from Murphy’s success but there is a glaring oversight here. An elephant-in-the-room sized level of ignoring what could have been a wonderful angle. Looking through the photo set of all eighty-two women I was struck by two things simultaneously. 1) Almost universally every woman looked more beautiful – and in many cases downright adorable – without a stitch of makeup on her face, and 2) Without the ‘war paint’ (which porn makeup, as thick and overly dramatic as it is, qualifies to be called) each woman looked strikingly like somebody I might know or, more the point, any woman at all. And they are. These are mothers, daughters, sisters, girlfriends, wives, aunts, and best friends. These are women you could easily giggle with over coffee or go to a concert with or host a killer Halloween party alongside. These are women you might turn to in tears after a bad breakup or whom you might console with Kleenex and Haagen-Dazs after one of theirs. They are everyday people who just happen to work in the porn industry. More than anything else, stripping the women of their masks reveals how utterly gorgeously real they are underneath. For many people humanizing an industry that excels at impersonal and impossible fantasy adds an element of appeal and responsibility. These are real women so they shouldn’t be regarded as objects because they aren’t. They perform for our collective enjoyment but at the end of the job they go home to partners and pets and bills and hobbies and dreams and sorrows just like every single one of us. Something as significant as this photo set could be used to further the conversation on how we are all linked through our shared humanity and how women, no matter their industry, are being marginalized and objectified and how that needs to be addressed. But instead it is a puff piece enforcing the value of makeup, of pigeonholing femininity and female interest, of maintaining the status quo of what society expects women to look like. And the comments allowed to fester on HuffPo reflect this. They reflect how the conversation that wasn’t had – the one about the value of a woman in her own right and without any applied assumption and role to play – is the one so desperately needed. These women allowed themselves to be photographed stripped all the way bare, more exposed than they are on film in many regards, and this is how that courage is repaid. Well I want to stand up and say that the other conversation needs to happen. The attitudes behind the comments on HuffPost display all too well how badly we women need to keep speaking up for ourselves and how much we need the voices of supportive and intelligent men behind us. What we do isn’t who we are. Our worth is not measured by the shade of our lipstick, the size of our bra, or how well we turn you on. We are worth immeasurably more.
By Corinne Simpson