25 Mar 2014

Women's selfie campaign criticised

3:05 pm on 25 March 2014

A social media campaign to raise breast cancer awareness is drawing criticism from some feminist commentators.

The 'no make-up selfie' campaign began in the United Kingdom and has gone viral, arriving in New Zealand a few days ago.

It involves women taking pictures of themselves without make-up and posting them online.

Woman in red clothing: Alisha Evans.

Alisha Evans. Photo: SUPPLIED

Woman in leopard print top: Nikita Judson.

Nikita Judson. Photo: SUPPLIED

The aim is to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research and in Britain the movement has already raised over three million dollars. In New Zealand it has raised about $25,000.

But Auckland branch president of the National Council of Women in New Zealand Julie Fairey is concerned this reinforces sexist attitudes and devalues women.

She said the movement assumes women are weaker without make-up.

"It is perpetuating ideas that women are vulnerable unless they're wearing make-up. You would never have those kind of arguments around men,'' Ms Fairey said.

"That suggests to me that there is an element to it that's gender based and that's not great."

There are other ways for organisations to raise money and awareness, she said.

The movement's origin is unknown but the idea was picked up by the social media team at Cancer Research UK which posted a photo online with a number to text to donate three pounds.

And it exploded from there with thousands of people posting selfies.

Aaron Eccles, a social media manager for the organisation, said the positives far outweigh the criticisms.

"The money is going to be going towards research that will help bring treatments to patients faster. For us this is just a massive positive thing," he said.

New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation spokesperson Adele Gautier said the criticism is unfounded.

"Most people who are doing this aren't just thinking frivolously they are thinking of the underlying message and that's what matters," she said.

Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition chairperson Libby Burgess said as a feminist she doesn't see how it reinforces sexist messages.

"Maybe some people are taking this too seriously. Basically as a feminist way back myself I don't find it offensive," she said.

The foundation says it expects donations to keep coming in.