But, you may be thinking, what's the big deal? Well, let me explain.
It feels sexist. The fact is that a lot of women care a lot about hair and makeup and clothes. Yes, this fact is exploited by the media when advertisements and other images are purposely designed to make us feel less-than-perfect in order to incite us to purchase things. But that does not mean that it is not a natural, healthy part of many women's femininity, and even sexuality! What I mean is, when I look deeply within my own psyche, I can see clearly that feeling sexy and beautiful (not looking identical to Kate Moss, but feeling attractive in the most healthy and personal of ways) is a big component of not just my psychology, but also my sexuality. So seeing these women completely throw out mirror gazing and makeup and then watching people say, "look at how morally upstanding these women are," makes me feel similar, perhaps, to how a gay man would feel if he watched another gay man publicly declare that he was going on a "homosexuality fast" for a month, and then went on to see this man being praised profusely in the media and by the public.
It feels fundamentalist. Kjerstin Gruys openly admits that she was inspired by an order of nuns from hundreds of years ago who never looked at themselves in mirrors. Lauren Shields admits being inspired by a talk given by a Muslim woman about being shrouded in traditional dress. Have you read the Old Testament? Again and again throughout it, women are raped and murdered as a matter of course, they are treated as objects, and their sexuality is regarded as dirty and wrong. Have you learned much about the way women and their sexuality are regarded in many fundamentalist Muslim cultures? Crimes like gang rape are not just rampant in many fundamentalist regions, they're also often blamed on the victim. This inherent hatred and mistrust of femininity and female sexuality is not something I feel in the least motivated to emulate, even indirectly.
It feels like self-loathing. On her Today Show appearance, Autumn Whitefield-Madrano talks about how looking in the mirror "centered" her, and she wanted to take that away from herself to see how she would deal. Of course it centered her! Our relationships with ourselves are the most important relationships there are. It's like the song lyric, "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with." And, I would also add, gaze at her (i.e. you - "the one you're with") lovingly! And receive sustenance and joy from marveling at her beauty! (Similarly, I would not want to be barred from gazing at my boyfriend - because I love him, and love to look at him!)
It feels like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Yes, our consumer culture does not usually portray women as the goddess-like creatures we are. Yes, ad executives certainly use our natural proclivity toward beauty and sexual attractiveness against us by attempting to make us feel less-than so that we will buy things. Yes, our culture in general has been sexist since time immemorial and continues to behave as if women should feel ashamed not to fall into certain impossible and de-humanizing categories like "sexy-but-not-'slutty'," "smart-but-not-'bossy,'" and "pretty-but-not-'vain.'" But no, I do not agree that giving up my ability to look in a mirror or adorn myself with make-up will somehow empower me. Just as I also do not agree that covering my face and body with a burka or cloistering myself in a convent is going to empower me.
In conclusion, caring about our appearance is not shallow and fluffy, and neither is it the most important thing in the world. It is a part of life. And when it's healthy and balanced, it can be an extension of our creativity and self-love, and a valid and valuable aspect of the way we interact with ourselves, our sexuality, and the world.