By Suzanne Warshell
As evidenced by PBG, the media loves to hate on girls – teenage girls in particular. In a feature by The Guardian (that we can just tell was totally written by some grumpy-middle aged man), Youtube beauty guru Bethany Mota, better known as macbarbie07, is profiled … if you can even call such a condescending, and sexist review a “profile”. The article calls her “a highly successful version of ordinariness,” and “ the future of bubbleheaded consumerism,” reducing Mota and her hundreds of YouTube videos – which include cooking videos, makeup tutorials and honest vlogs on problems facing teenage girls today – into “a teenager who makes videos in which she discusses her latest purchases.”
I’ve followed beauty gurus on YouTube for years, and have always admired the way they have turned their passion into a career, especially at such a young age. These girls spend hours developing, filming and editing videos, only to send them out into a sphere where they are bound to receive extremely harsh criticism veiled behind anonymity. If you’ve ever read the comment section on one of these videos, you’ll know what I’m talking about. These girls are constantly barraged with hundreds of nasty comments insulting their voices, appearances and personalities on even the most non-controversial videos. Interspersed between the hate, however, is feedback from the gurus’ adoring fans. While The Guardian reduces these young fans to blind sheep following the ever-so-evil influence of “consumerism,” I, as a teenage girl, know better. These are girls trying to navigate their way through a culture in which everything they do, say, or care about is ridiculed. In the young beauty gurus of YouTube, these fans find girls “just like them” who are succeeding solely through their own merit. It’s a true self-made success story: Mota started with a camera in her bedroom, and has now landed a deal with a nationwide retailer.
While the most successful gurus often partner with global retailers and companies, these consumeristic influences were not what inspired the girls to begin making these videos. They began making these videos out of a pure love of beauty and fashion, not out of a passive submission to societal standards. Instead, they are now able to use the beauty industry to their advantage and play an active role within it. Thus, through these videos many girls have been able to manipulate the culture that tries to oppress them, becoming empowered in the process.
Finally, the piece completely ignores the sheer magnitude of Mota’s accomplishments. While it flippantly mentions the 40k-a-month paycheck Mota receives from the videos, the article intends for this number to be scoffed at, apparently insignificant because it came from YouTube beauty videos. What Mota and other gurus like her are doing is nothing short of astounding. These teenage girls are building empires at age 18 (and below!) and single-handedly setting themselves up for lives of financial stability by pursuing their passions.
Unfortunately, the YouTube beauty community is not without its flaws. Most (if not almost all) of the girls are white, conventionally attractive and come from extremely affluent backgrounds. It is misguided to teach young teenage girls that they are exactly like these gurus because chances are, they’re not. That being said, teenage girls finding inspiration in other teenage girls following their dreams, and doing it well, is everything but “bubbleheaded.” When the article remarks that “If you’re not a teenage girl, it’s not for you to get,” it proves its complete disapproval of teen girl culture. This profile is not some high-level cultural critique of “consumerism:” it’s blatant sexism. The piece finds itself among countless others, relentlessly mocking things that bring teenage girls joy. I applaud Bethany Mota, I applaud her followers, and I applaud teenage girls in general, for loving things fearlessly, whether it be makeup and fashion, or the countless other things teenage girls (as humans) choose to love.