I’ve recently been getting into watching those live makeup tutorials online, which is weird considering I don’t wear makeup often and when I do, it’s minimal. Also, weird given my preference for consuming non-fiction or at least semi-educational brain fodder. So I was reflecting on this and wondering what it is about these videos that I like. After a long, Sunday muse over a bowl of potato gems, I realised that the things I like are twofold.
Firstly, I love seeing groups that have less of a public voice in the spotlight doing their thing, owning it and loving themselves. Too often these voices are drowned out, and social change cannot happen fast enough for those of us who fight daily just to get air time in a meeting. This rings even more true for those whose communities have been waiting for generations. Black, lesbian, feminist-poet-activist Audre Lorde said, ‘Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.’ In this sense, each makeup tutorial is its own small revolution.
These videos remind me that there is value in my voice, that my individuality has power. They’re a glimpse into the diversity I want a workplace to reflect, a space where any gender can shine—literally with shimmer powder if that’s your jam, but also metaphorically as an empowered individual living their truth. And despite the recent IMHO devastating news that glitter is a microplastic poisoning our sea-life and ecosystems, it’s hard not to love anything that shines!
The second thing I enjoy is the banality, and I mean that in a good way. How can anything vanilla be good, you ask. Let me answer you in short story form, trip-down-memory-lane style. Once upon a time…I was sitting on a tram feeling super annoyed about a group of teenagers behind me giggling and squealing loudly. At the time, my internal reaction was something along the lines of ‘<groooooan> Immature, thoughtless, selfish twats.’ But… I had just watched a doco about Syria and a thought came to me—people probably don’t laugh like that there often. Then I remembered living in Prague, never hearing that on a tram and wondering why strangers didn’t smile at each other. And I realised something. Only people who aren’t afraid for their lives, who have enough to eat, who have friends, who can travel, dress and speak freely, and whose country hasn’t been recently occupied by a violent or authoritarian regime can laugh like that. That sound represents freedom.
Similarly, mum of three, devoted wife, and makeup lover Megan Willey Harrigan, chatting blithely about her botox and how to contour, symbolises freedom to me. Freedom to spend free time and money how we want to, freedom to make choices about our own bodies, freedom to present ourselves to the world how we choose. During her live video on the weekend, she unsurprisingly—albeit still disappointingly—started getting comments from a few trolls who presumably felt threatened by this freedom. I felt tension build as other viewers added response after aggressive response in her defense. But when someone directed a sympathetic comment to her, she just laughed lightly, agreed she didn’t understand and said ‘We just love ‘em where they’re at.’ And with that, I felt harmony restored.
That is the kind of reality I want to co-create. One where, like Megan, I love people where they’re at, I don’t judge, I sit in my own power and I hold clearly my vision of the better world I choose to work towards.
Girls in Tech tweeted a quote this week by author Vivek Wadhwa: ‘The skills needed to solve the larger problems require a broad understanding of different fields and disciplines. Most of all, we need the empathy to design good solutions. Women excel in both of these.’ Whether it’s working to reduce bias in supervised machine learning or making computer vision more fair by ensuring it can recognise women and people of colour as well as white men, our voices and perspectives are needed, in Tech in particular as its presence in our lives grows.
To be able to truly ‘reclaim our time’ and have seats at the table, we need grit and determination. We need a silent undercurrent of confidence, a hidden source of strength. I think loving people where they’re at might be my secret weapon from now on. What about you?
Written by Gwenny Warnick
Gwenny Warnick is a Melbourne-based writer, curriculum developer, and musician. She loves binge-watching Netflix, eating potato gems and experimenting with dessert recipes. Her dream is to transition into a zero-waste lifestyle and cover her whole house in climbing towers for her Devon Rex cat, Nelson.