FeministSelfie

WAHHH MY TEARS NEED AFFIRMATION.

Earlier today, a Jezebel writer penned an article called “Selfies Aren’t Empowering. They’re a Cry for Help.” In it, the author claims selfies are your internalized response to–you know what, here. I suck at summing things up. You might as well read a few excerpts and judge for yourself:

Stop this. Selfies aren’t empowering; they’re a high tech reflection of the fucked up way society teaches women that their most important quality is their physical attractiveness.

Not, you know, excitement over a new hairstyle, being stoked you did something awesome that day, or happiness that you have hit a weight loss goal (which, by the way, is frequently not a goal based around the desire for conventional physical attractiveness). Oh, wait, no–that kind of selfie is okay. We have permission.

…the typical selfie is not taken by women who have just completed Iron Man Triathlons or finally finished reading Infinite Jest (caption: Me N DFW 4 eva! XOXO #blessed #reading #smart #rip)selfies don’t typically contain job offer letters, successful grant applications, their face in front of a gorgeously rendered still life the woman drew by hand. They’re literally just pictures of a woman’s face not talking (grey-area exception: selfies where a person’s face is not the point of the picture…

Well, first of all, photos are literally just pictures of a people’s faces not talking, most of the time, unless you are in Harry Potter.

This is reminiscent of the argument against women wearing makeup: we’re all just doing things to our appearances because of internalized repression, we all just want people to be attracted to us, we all feel like we’re ugly without it. We’re not allowed to simply enjoy our appearances; there has to be an alternate reason that we do things, and it has to be about men, or at least about the patriarchy.

…selfies aren’t expressions of pride, but rather calls for affirmation. In real life, walking up to a stranger, tilting your head downward at a 45-degree angle, duckfacing, pushing your tits together, and screaming “DO YOU THINK I’M PRETTY!” would be summon the authorities. On the internet, it’s just how people operate.

Hey guys, are you aware that every photo you’ve ever taken of yourself was just some pathetic attempt to get strangers to call you pretty, and the online equivalent to sexual harassment? I was not.

Retaking a photo 12 times until your chin looks right is in no way analogous to asking your boss for a raise. Nor is it the sort of self-promotion that results in anything but a young woman reinforcing the socially-engrained notion that the most valuable thing she has to offer the world is her looks. If culture were encouraging women to be smart, the word of the year would be “diplomie” and the definition would be “a photo of an academic achievement posted to social media.” “Here’s my face!” is not an accomplishment. Feeling pretty is nice, but goddamn — “beauty” far from the most important thing about being a fully-actualized adult human person.

While I agree that beauty is far, far from being the most important thing about yourself, much of Ryan’s argument seems to stem from the idea that selfies say little to nothing about your personality, intellect, ambition, talent or integrity. But…do they have to? Should everything I do in my private life require a motive to prove who I am to other people? (And you know what, if I felt like getting validation from other people about my face, that would be fine, too, because it’s my fucking face.) By putting it on the Internet, I’m not saying it’s an “accomplishment,” I’m just…putting my face on the Internet. Does it need to have some secondary meaning other than that? Some deep-rooted issue simmering below the surface? I don’t think so, and neither do lots of other women, it seems.

In response to the piece, Twitter became aglow with pictures of women accompanied by the hashtag #feministselfies. And they are brilliant.

       

And there were others still who simply offered words of encouragement, frustration and explanation as to why they love selfies:
 


There are literally hundreds more, but you get the idea. Basically, people find this self-righteous judgment of why women are doing what they’re doing with their own appearances on their own social media, not hurting or mocking or insulting anybody, to be annoying as fuck. I get it–sometimes seeing photo after photo of people can get monotonous. Offensive? Eh, not so much. Literally today, though, I had somebody write, “Need attention, much?” on a photo I posted to Instagram. Why? I’m not entirely sure, but apparently, people’s silly pictures can upset others so much that they feel the need to be angry and occasionally cruel about them.

Once upon a time, I wrote a little piece for The Gloss about how part of my Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has manifested itself in an inability to remember well. I’ve lost entire chunks of my childhood, teen years and, more recently, have begun forgetting college. As I said in that piece, I like taking photos of stuff–including myself–because it helps me remember and stop disassociating so badly. Though I don’t often recall what my face looked like during a time in my life, nor remember what I felt like, when I see photos of myself or the people around me, I have so much of an easier time recalling what my life was like at the time. I have zero idea why this is. I’m not a doctor. And beyond that, sometimes I just like taking stupid pictures of myself.

Obviously, I’m not saying this is everyone’s reasoning for snapping shots of themselves; I’m just saying that this widespread judgment about why I, or anybody else, choose to take photos is bullshit.

So, I’ve continued taking photos–often of myself, or myself with others, or myself with my cat, with my phone. Am I crying for help? Uh, no. But I have a feeling that if I stopped taking photos because I was terrified that my reasoning would be judged by feminists apparently better than myself, I would be crying a whole lot more.

As you can see from those tweets, women (and men) take and enjoy selfies because they like seeing people who look like them, they enjoy viewing other human beings, they find it empowering to see themselves as deserving of being photographed–including by their own hands.

It bums me out to see stuff like this on a website that I used to view as so refreshing, so sensible, so much more inclusive than a lot of the Internet’s hugest blogs. But just as with the origins of the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag and Doug Barry’s awful article about Chris Brown being sexually abused as a child and that time Gawker posted a woman’s corpse not 24 fucking hours after she’d been murdered just for all the rad page views it would get, I don’t really expect them to address this unless it’s simply to make fun of those who discuss it.

[EDIT: The writer, Erin Gloria Ryan, does seem to be taking suggestions, comments and concerns into consideration, judging by her recent tweets. So, that is pretty awesome and admittedly a lot more than I expected. We’ve all missed the mark or not thought about other points of view when writing (myself certainly included) and in my opinion, the best thing you can do is listen. Hooray for all of you awesome Twitterers who brought this into focus!]