by Bree Flory
For those who don’t know, my internship with Shae was for a Feminist Business Praxis independent study course. As part of the class, I wrote a term paper about my experience. This blog is an edited version of that paper.
“…It developed into a space for me to learn the importance of collaboration, shift my attitudes around makeup, really begin to understand feminist business practice and, most importantly, become more comfortable in my own skin.”
When I began my internship with Shae Face and Body, I had a very specific idea of what I thought I would be doing. I assumed that the bulk of my work would reflect normative social media practices such as gaining followers.
My idea was simple: make fun content and use strategies like the follow/unfollow technique to increase engagement and followers so I could have a solid number to add to my resume. I spent the first few weeks familiarizing myself with the above mentioned media strategies and getting more comfortable with Photoshop.
However, my ideas began to change the more that Shae and I collaborated.
Rather than use this internship as just a form of social media experience for my resume, it developed into a space for me to learn the importance of collaboration, shift my attitudes around makeup, really begin to understand feminist business practice and, most importantly, become more comfortable in my own skin.
“What is more important for a feminist business is really connecting with people and gaining followers that way. This felt like a more ethical, and feminist, way to conduct business.”
Early on we spoke about the importance of feminist business practice in contrast to the robotic and arguably cold nature of many social media strategies. The more Shae spoke about what their company meant for them and their plans for the future, the more my ideas began to shift around what I was doing.
From what I have learned, conducting a feminist business involves honesty, intersectionality, ensuring that your business is ethical and does not exploit, and putting a piece of yourself in your business.
It is clear that many of these components overlap and work together. For example, part of having an ethical business means you are honest. By honesty I mean transparency in your work, your products, and your goals.
When I set out to gain followers, I never thought of the emotional ramifications of using the follow/unfollow technique. But Shae said that they were not a fan of this approach; one of the reasons being that it simply was not a very nice thing to do.
As a user of social media, I very much notice my own follower count. I am not trying to get Instagram famous or anything like that, but I do admit that it feels really good when I gain followers. I also feel a little bad when I lose them, especially if it is a more than just one or two in a short amount of time.
While this is rather silly and embarrassing to admit, it is something that is really true for a lot of folks. It is even more so for accounts like Shae Face and Body, in which a person has made something they really care about and is trying to honestly and ethically grow their business. Whereas before I thought of follow/unfollow as a necessary part of social media, I now recognize that it is not the social media account I (we) want to run.
What is more important for a feminist business is really connecting with people and gaining followers that way. This felt like a more ethical, and feminist, way to conduct business.
“We are not competitors, but rather a collaborative group trying to make better and healthier products for ourselves, and others.”
While running your own business can be daunting and isolating, there are also people all over who could be interested in it.
More importantly, if your company is feminist, ethical, and personal, it will most likely draw the attention of like-minded individuals whom with you can work with and grow together, or simply inspire and help one another.
For example, Monica, my boss at my other job, has her own business, which is fairly similar to Shae Face and Body. At one point Shae and I were wondering where Monica got her labeling done because creating labels is difficult and incredibly time consuming. I was admittedly nervous to ask, as I did not want Monica to think I was taking her business ideas for someone else.
I was relieved and very excited when Monica’s response was super encouraging and enthusiastic. Rather than think of Shae as competition, she was delighted to help out a fellow independent business that shared her beliefs.
Interactions like these helped me to realize that if you put your heart into your business, people want to be a part of it; in cases like these we are not competitors, but rather a collaborative group trying to make better and healthier products for ourselves, and others.
“I realize now that ugliness is a myth, bred of the desire to control, entrenched in hierarchy and competition. And I realize that beauty is not something women earn. It is something that people are” – Virgie Tovar
The most rewarding part of my internship experience was what it did for my self-esteem.
Throughout my time at Shae Face and Body, Shae collaborated with some pretty incredible people. Rather than being just a beauty company, Shae wanted to foster a body positive space, and these collaborations helped to inspire the realization of that vision.
In March, Shae began collaborating with Virgie Tovar, an absolutely amazing body-positive activist.
Shae emphasized that we should use the social media space not only to increase visibility of products, but also to express ourselves and to share our relationship to skincare and makeup. They gave me several wonderful and inspiring articles that focused on things like white-washing in the beauty industry, visibility, makeup as a feminist act, self-care, and more.
While each article was wonderful and informative, the one that spoke most to me was by Virgie herself.
In “Ugliness is a Myth,” Virgie discusses how ugliness is a patriarchal tool of oppression. She ends the piece with the beautiful statement: “I realize now that ugliness is a myth, bred of the desire to control, entrenched in hierarchy and competition. And I realize that beauty is not something women earn. It is something that people are” (Tovar 2017).
This short article was truly transformative for me and helped give me the first big push into reframing my ideas about makeup, body positivity and using feminist social media.
“I had this new space where my goal was to inspire folks … In order for it to be feminist and body positive, I needed to be really reflexive with the content I created.”
I have been wearing makeup my whole life. I primarily wore it because I felt too ugly without it. I have also always been a curvier person, and have never had great control over my weight. But my makeup, that is something I could control.
In the past few years, my relationship to makeup has shifted. It has turned into a more positive tool for me. I struggle with anxiety and depression, as well as having some self-loathing and body dysphoric tendencies.
One of my tools for helping my mood and stabilizing myself is to put a lot into my makeup routine—to spend time with myself and practice self-care.
While this process was something I was doing before, it really developed during my time working with Shae Face and Body. Rather than doing makeup just for myself, I was doing it for someone else. I had this new space where my goal was to inspire folks and spark interest in the amazing products that Shae has created. In order for it to be feminist and body positive, I needed to be really reflexive with the content I created.
Did I want to sell products? Of course. But what was more important was the personal aspect of it. The body positive framework completely changed my perspective on what content to create, and on myself as well.
A few weeks ago I was working on an Instagram post and was having a lot of difficulty. The whites of my eyes were the teeniest bit pink and therefore I was convinced it was not suitable to post. I spent far too much time trying every Photoshop trick before I finally decided to send the picture to Shae to see if it was acceptable to post.
Of course, their response was nothing but positive; the pinkness of my eyes was not noticeable to them.
We are our own worst critics - and I tend to be especially hard on myself – but having someone there to show you that these “flaws” are not flaws at all is really significant.
Although I pride myself on challenging norms, there are still parts of me that I still feel like I need to keep secret. I don’t shave my armpits, and while I am comfortable showing them off on our campus and most friends, I usually hide them from the public due to societal pressures. Shae Face and Body gave me a space to face that fear and get the negative thoughts that have been so engrained in me.
What was originally meant to be a post about deodorant turned into a declaration of self-love and acceptance by embracing my armpit hair and showing it to the world. Since then, I have been wearing tank tops without fear of judgment, even at the office!
“…The best part was learning new ways to accept myself and beginning to apply my body positive feelings towards my own body, rather than just others”
Before Shae Face and Body, I would have never posted a picture of myself without makeup on. Surprisingly enough, as I look back on the content I created, roughly half of the posts I made feature my bare face.
I don’t know when it happened for sure, but working in this body positive space has really changed me.
I post pictures on the Internet without makeup, I go out in public with minimal or no makeup, and I do not feel disgusting or embarrassed - I just feel like me.
I am unspeakably grateful for this experience. Through this collaborative internship I have honestly learned far more about feminist business praxis than I think I could in a classroom setting. I got to learn by doing, and through that I reframed my whole framework about how to do business.
Yes, there are social media strategies for gaining followers, but honest, feminist work is so much more important and rewarding.
I got to be open and honest about who I was and put it out there with wonderful products and an inspiring boss.
I could say the best part was how much attention my content got, because that did do wonders for the ego. However, the best part was learning new ways to accept myself, and beginning to apply my body positive feelings towards my own body, rather than just others.
This is what is so crucial about feminist business: it isn’t just about selling lipstick, but rather it is about being honest, open, reflective, challenging societal norms and pressures, and putting your heart into your work.
- Bree Flory
Bree is currently a Writing & Marketing intern for the Keep A Breast Foundation, a breast cancer non profit in East Lost Angeles. You can find the bulk of her work at Non Toxic Revolution, a Keep a Breast program invested in educating young folks on toxins in their everyday lives.
(Bree Flory wearing Shae Face & Body Products. Lips: Ze, Eyes: Making Eyes Mascara, Foundation: Flawless Finishing Powder with Vivacious Moisturizer as primer)