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Why Are We Going Out Of Our Way To Attack A 16-Year-Old Girl?

Has online mob mentality gone a step too far?
PHOTO: Instagram/bianxumali

Apologies—we're a little late to the party, but by now we're sure you've heard of the no-makeup controversy surrounding actress and endorser Bianca Umali. Her Facebook post, which has garnered reactions and comments in the tens of thousands, struck a chord among makeup-wearing and makeup-shunning women alike:

Now, here's a quick rundown of the typical responses this post has received:

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1. I wear makeup however I want, and that's none of Bianca Umali's (or anyone's) business.

2. I don't wear makeup and I've never felt the need to, so just let girls do what they want to do with their faces.

3. Bianca is a hypocrite for daring women to go barefaced when, in her attached selfie, she's clearly wearing ____, ____, and ____.

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4. Bianca is a privileged actress whose skin is well taken care of by doctors and beauty centers, a perk that the average Filipina may not have.

We're not here to validate or invalidate any of those opinions. This has been said before and needs no repetition: As a woman, wearing makeup is your choice and your choice alone. The real issue here is actually quite simple: Why are we going out of our way to attack a 16-year-old girl who released a statement on self-love whose intentions could have been worded a little more eloquently?

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Social media is a public arena wherein we voluntarily broadcast our thoughts. Like it or not, when we tweet, upload a selfie, or update our Instagram, we consent to the public viewing and subsequent praise, judgment, or criticism of our posts. Ten years ago, if we had a so-called "controversial" opinion on something, nobody would have to know because we kept that opinion within our circle of trusted friends. Today, one little slip-up can be screencapped and immortalized for everyone to see. But we're human; we make mistakes, especially on social media. Celebrities and influencers aren't magically exempt from this—if anything, they're much more susceptible. The issue with Bianca Umali isn't that she unintentionally singled out girls who wear makeup. It's that the public chose to resort to namecalling, ad hominem attacks, and vicious sarcasm to bring their point across. 

Bianca merely wanted to empower women to feel comfortable in their own skin and wear a smile every day. However, the way she worded her statements made it seem as though girls who choose to wear makeup every day weren't as confident in themselves. That much is true. However, it would have been easy to politely and constructively discuss these gaps with Bianca in the comments section. Instead, her post has become a microcosm for the callout culture that has become prevalent on social media.

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When somebody's opinion is different from what is considered to be "the norm" or in the realm of political correctness, we're quick to send them scathing, witty replies. Some teeter on the side of comedic, while some are downright unforgiving. When the likes and supportive comments flood in, it's easy to forget that we've engaged in the most insidious kind of cyberbullying—the kind that is normalized because it is egged on by others. When we are in the right, does that mean we're allowed to air out our opinion however we want? The short answer is, delivery still matters. Careful, constructive wording still matters. If somebody's made a mistake in the way they've expressed an opinion, and we want them to follow our lead, we ought to lead by example.

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At a young age, Bianca Umali lost her parents. She had to finance her own education. She pulled up her bootstraps and worked hard to become the public figure she is now—she works to support not only herself, but also her grandmother. Yes, she is successful today. And yes, her position in life allows her to enjoy certain privileges many of us might not have access to. But like all of us, Bianca has had her fair share of struggles in life. If we truly want all women to be confident and empowered with or without makeup, we shouldn't spend time tearing down women with opinions that aren't quite well-formed. Instead, we should gently prod them in the right direction, hoping they'll learn a thing or two. 

You know how you cringe at your social media posts from four or five years ago? That's because you can clearly see how much you've changed since then. Social media merely depicts our learning process on a readable, tangible timeline. Bianca's learning, and so are we. The least we can do is help each other up when we trip and fall, instead of kick a girl when she's already down.

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*Minor edits have been made by the editors.