Thursday, November 21, 2013

Our Bodies, Our Selfies

Selfie panic.  Selfie panic!  Everyone, quick, flip your shit about selfies! They are terrible for women and a cry for help! 

The self-portrait has been around as long as humans have had paint and a reflective surface in which Tyra one's best angles. MySpace made the duckface helicopter shot ubiquitous--and easy to mock--but on a scale from one to Albrecht Durer turning himself into Fabio Jesus, I think the modern selfie as it lives on via Instagram is a pretty minor crime against humility. And art.  And while the "selfie" is technically sort of a gender neutral phenomenon, selfie panic is firmly focused on teenage girls.  Look at all their pictures!  How many pictures of themselves can they post? How can girls be this vain? They need to be told forty times a day that they're pretty! They are so dumb and also letting down women and also men responding to their images is their fault!
I cannot understand how girls creating images of themselves and posting them online is a bad thing, unless you assume that their photos are meant to say Look at me.  Which, sure, maybe some are.  But we're talking about girls. And women. We're all just sponges floating in a stopped-up sink full of messages that tell us we're gross, soaking up the ugliness everyday until we're saturated. To believe that a selfie is purely an act of narcissism is to discount how hard it is just to be female and be observed by the world. Given that, I believe that when a woman posts a selfie, she's saying I deserve to be seen.

The feedback loop of likes and comments is almost besides the point. It takes a split second of supreme confidence for a girl to post her picture to the world; however fleeting the feeling, she is not embarrassed by how she looks and that is the power of the self portrait. Who cares if she spent three hours and took a hundred photos to get the one she liked? It was three hours wrestling with a lifetime of learned insecurity and guess what? She won. 

Girls have always looked at themselves. Growing up is little more than figuring out how other people see you and deciding how you want to be seen. Social networking did not cause the desire for girls and women to seek acceptance of their looks.  Instead, the world before Instagram was just populated by a whole lot more girls who refused to have their pictures taken. I have about six pictures of myself from ages 12 through 20 because I deeply feared that I was ugly, and allowing someone else to present me to the world wrested the bit of control I had over my image out of my hands. How is it somehow damaging, then, for a girl to have an Instagram account full of moments she created where she felt beautiful and wanted to be seen? She's publishing the story of her self-acceptance. OH, WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN.

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