Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day 181: Why Taking Mirrors Out Of Schools is FABULOUS.!

Several people have emailed to ask me what I think of the high school in the UK that has removed mirrors from the girls' restrooms to stop students from putting on makeup (which is against the rules for girls 16 and younger).  You can read more about it here.
These are some girls from the school.  They don't seem too miserable!
I DARE YOU to tell me they could use a little makeup....
I'd planned to write a well-crafted and highly balanced post on this topic, with a list of pros and cons.  I hoped to show myself to be perfectly, likeably, smack-dab in the middle.  But it's my birthday today (29!) so I feel entitled to write exactly what I think (not that this is usually a problem for me!).  I'm not balanced at all on this one: I think the mirror ban is an amazing, 100% productive idea, and I would love it if more schools would get on board.  Immediately.  Here's why:

1) Removing mirrors sends a clear message to girls that their bodies should be used for doing things (hugs! sports! thinking!), not just for being looked at.  When is the last time somebody told YOU this message so blatantly?  Did anybody tell you this as a young teen?  Okay, how about this: when was the last time you saw any form of popular media share this message, in any way or form?  Bottom line: this school is trying to fight the good fight.  They (and we!) are up against a powerful toxic cultural environment.  Yes, I realize that removing mirrors doesn't get rid of this larger environment, but every little bit helps.  Let's be supportive of positive change.

2) Some people have suggested that this ban prevents creative expression.  I call bullshit.  I agree wholeheartedly that makeup and fashion can be a form of self-expression.  I enjoy these things in my own life, though not without angst and expense.  That said, let's not forget that there's a powerful beauty industry that wants us to believe that we're "expressing ourselves" when we buy their products and then apply them exactly as directed by magazines.  This industry benefits even more when we decide we can't be "ourselves" without these products.  Here's a crazy idea: without makeup, without mirrors, and because of the strict dress code, these poor, poor girls will be forced to express themselves through things like: creative writing, drama class, music class, journaling, or by (gasp!) just being themselves.  

3) Finally: vanity makes us dumber.   Don't believe me?  Check out the research for yourself.  Numerous psychological studies find that worrying about appearance (called "self-objectifying" in the literature) leads to poorer performance on all sorts of mental tasks, from math tests to word recall, and even something wacky-cool called the Stroop Test.  Given this, if removing mirrors helps reduce the mental energy that students had been putting toward their looks, that mental energy can now be put toward helping them be more successful learners.  Since giving up mirrors. I can't claim to have become any smarter, per say, but I'm definitely better able to focus.  

In closing, I admit that I am biased about this topic.  But... I'm not biased because I'm avoiding mirrors; I'm biased because I had an eating disorder when I was in high school.  Now, I'd never suggest that getting rid of mirrors could ever cure a full-blown eating disorder.  But, creating a daily environment in which young women are valued for their minds and spirits instead of their looks just might help prevent one.  

Every little bit helps.

But now tell me what you think.  Am I a lone supporter?  Love it?  Hate it?  Feeling mixed?  How would this have impacted YOU as a teen?

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  1. I think it's a terrific step, like you. I hope teachers will be sharpening their gaze in order to be able to point out, say, burst spots or facial snot (even great people can neglect to point these out), but I think that being unable to centre your existance on your appearance at school should, at least a little, help to take the sting out of even mishaps related to that.

    When I was in school I was at the end of my tether over a number of things, last of which came my hair. It refused to play nicely and it certainly did not conform (through natural shape or my own honest inclination) to what seemed to be 'acceptable' hairstyles. I decided to stop giving a toss, refused to even try with it, and OH MY GOODNESS I felt so much better. It was ridiculous really. But a lack of mirrors has the potential to make the decision for people less ornery than my teenaged self, and I hope that it becomes an advantage to them.

  2. Love it! In my house of mostly females (until recently when my eldest moved out there were 4) we have exactly two mirrors that came with the house. I encourage my girls all the time to not worry about whether or not they look the way the girls in the magazines look. I remind them about airbrushing and the fact that magazines "trim" bits off of women who are already incredibly skinny. So now they see those magazines in the checkout line and are saying things like "Wow, look at how small they made her waist! She looks deformed!" I smile every time I hear that kind of comment.

  3. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I hope you get to do something fun to celebrate. :) And secondly, this is awesome. Though I was lucky and avoided this in high school, it seems like bathrooms are were taunting, bullying, and meanness took place. (People were always smoking in ours, so I avoided them like the plague. Yay KY.) If you take out the mirrors, less people will be in there, meaning less bullying.

  4. I've had an eating disorder too, and I agree that obsessive worrying about appearance is completely counterproductive. However, I am also a fashion design major in college and I very much enjoy personal appearance as a form of self expression. I'm torn about this.

  5. Hi - I've been following your blog for a few weeks now - I find the journey you are taking fascinating & I am completely supportive! Though I would like to say something - Self acceptance is at the root of it all, whether you are able to look into a mirror or not. To the young girls I say, LOVE YOURSELF, and recognize everything you see when you look in the mirror, with or without makeup, large hips, curly unruly or straight hair, small lips, red lipstick is 100% unique and beautiful to who you are! I instill that message whenever I stand behind my daughter and watch her gazing at her own what you see, love who you are....unconditionally!

  6. HOORAY! Just hooray!

    And wedding day is getting close - how are you feeling?

  7. Happy Birthday!
    I think that is a wonderful policy. Love it! So much of the teen stress is caused by appearance concerns. It amazes me how even the most beautful young ladies stress over how "fat" they are or how "big" their nose is. They stare at themselves until they are convinced something needs to be changed. Hopefully this tactic will allow them to spend more time learning and enjoying who they are instead of worrying about what they think needs to be fixed! Love who you are!

  8. I am a high school teacher and I whole-heartedly agree. Too many times girls and boys are late to my classes because they were in the restroom looking at themselves or putting on make-up or messing with their hair. You know our culture is too obsessed with looks with girls feel the need to pull out their mirrors and make-up in the middle of my history lesson. And even if girls want to use make-up as a form of self-expression it should be done at home. Removing the mirrors from schools would send the message that students are here to learn, not to be seen. I have been following your blog for a while and I love it. It gets me to think about my life and mirrors. Happy Birthday!

  9. you go, girl!
    I spent most of my teenage life thinking I was ugly and/or fat - finally got rid of these ideas in my early twenties.
    When I started teaching in high school a couple of years ago, I was shocked and apalled at how much time and energy young girls devote to their looks - to look like some magazine picture. Creative expression, my ***. It's not creative when it all looks the same, remember?

    Anyway, I'm fine now - thanks to growing up - but I hate to think my little daughter will want to desperately change her looks because some magazine cover/ tv commercial / ... tells her to. I'm constantly telling her she's beautiful. (She's three, by the way - I'm trying to get ahead on the game. And we don't have a tv, that helps)

    They should ban mirrors in all schools.
    Let's all throw out our mirrors!

  10. I am behind this 100%. I hated those darn things in school. You where either popular and in front of them or obbsessing over why you didnt get to be in the popular group. Mirrors are in a word evil. I think all schools should remove them. in all countrys in all the world. bBut that is just me.

  11. I wholeheartedly agree with you. I went to an all-girl high school and hardly anyone wore make-up, except on special occasions. No one cared or made fun or those that did (in fact, we probably gave a harder time to the girls that wore a lot of make-up instead). And because we were allowed to be ourselves -- to think, create, express, and thrive -- we were imbued with a self-confidence that exudes from us to this day (I am now 26). And you know what? We didn't lack of boys hanging outside our gates, waiting for us after school, either.

  12. Loved this part: 'Here's a crazy idea: without makeup, without mirrors, and because of the strict dress code, these poor, poor girls will be forced to express themselves through things like: creative writing, drama class, music class, journaling, or by (gasp!) just being themselves.'

    I just found out about your self challenge and your blog through one of my country's newspaper website. I definitely give you a big applause for such a big will. I think is awesome and you are giving a big example.

    By the way if make up is to express ourselves, why should we put it on just like magazines say? If we don't put on as they say it looked as wrong and not as creative. It's just saying, not criticizing, but supporting you.

  13. I'm not sure about this one.
    I agree on a few things you say, but I'm not sure they should ban mirrors from school per se. Not for gazing at yourself, but sometimes a mirror can come in handy. Like what if you've something in your eye and can't get it out? Or you want to check if you've got something in your teeth after lunch?
    Maybe NOT having a mirror can cause other insecurities or distress for some.
    Just a thought.
    So yeah, I don't know if it's a good or a bad thing. When I went to high school we didn't have mirrors (but we also had toilets that other students could open with a coin - that was horrible), but there was also a ban on make-up, on obious accessories and stuff so there wasn't much to check out in the mirror ;)

  14. I think it's awesome. Happy birthday and keep rocking the awesome blog!

  15. little late on this, but i love it!! happy belated birthday and happy wedding day!!

  16. well i don’t agree, my self esteem is perfectly fine but without make up i don’t like myself. don’t give me bullsh!t about expressing yourself in other ways. what if you love doing makeup, they unique ways yoou can look like yourself but with a bit more flavor. i don’t express myself with art, sports because my passion isn’t with those things. infact sometimes i hate having to do those things. i want to be a lawyer when i grow up, i have a 98 gpa and i put simple make up on. foundation to color my natural occurring black eyes. im a red head who has black circles under the eyes. i also have acne but i use a acne stuff to take it away but i have scars. without make up i look like a skeleton. but no mirror in the bathrooms? i got contacts and sometimes they fall out, thank god I got i carry a pocket mirror or i would be screwed. I wear them because glasses mess with my eyes and I cant contricate as best as I can with scratched glasses. I am about 50% blind and glasses for my prescription would coast a fortune with insurance. what if something happen to your clothes like a spill, come on don’t tell me you’ve never had a pill on shirt and needed a mirror to clean it. no i actually believe the commercial magazines ect are unneeded. i pick the way i look for a reason. i don’t follow them sometimes i look at them at only when im bored. I don’t go to a privet school, I got to a public school. Some kids there have so many colors in there hair, my friend loves the color green and once she died it green , she said because SHE loves the color green not because anyone else said to do so. I got my lip pierced because I thinks its cute no one else said oh do this do that. Also I do my make up in my us history class takes the 80 minuets to do it, I got a 102 in that class. Im a person who can multitask. I k know your probably thinking im just a stupid teenager but guess what for my age(16) im more mature than many people for your age. I don’t have goals that I have to follow every new trend. Yes sometimes I don’t wear make up to school but when I want to do it I would like the options to look in the mirror, say confidently to my self and say, your beautiful don’t take to heart what those girls say. YOU ARE BEAUTIFEL WEATHER YOU LIKE TO WERE MAKE UP OR NOT! WEATHER YOU LIKE TO LOOK IN THE MORROR OR NOT.

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