What do you make of selfies? Do you take them? Do you engage with them on social media? Or do you hit the unfollow button as soon as you see someone’s face plastered all over your feed?
According to professor Andy Pippen quoted in Women’s Health (August issue 2017) ‘selfies are generally linked to a need to measure popularity’… Usually there is a lot of negativity associated with the infamous selfie, and the word narcissist gets thrown around a lot. Ok, so I get how you might perceive it this way. But I want to offer up a different perspective on the selfie.
For years women have been objectified in the media, and in general, the portrayal of women have been for the male gaze and we haven’t had much say in it. Women’s bodies are used as an advertisement strategy. They always have been and they still are, disappointingly. But with the creation of the selfie-cam we have now been given an opportunity to take back control, to start curating our own representation of who we are or who we want to be, and how we want to appear. Sure, you can argue that this might contribute to an increased focus on appearance. I am not saying it’s a perfect world, we are still a product of a patriarchal society where appearance is currency and, whether we realise it or not, often submit to constrictive and narrow beauty ideals. But it has given us the tools to break down the objectification. We are now taking back control. And there are plenty of people out there using the selfie as a powerful method of really challenging the expectations of gender, beauty, femininity and masculinity. The decision is ours, and that’s what makes it powerful. We choose ourselves to take the picture, to post it and how we are using it. Sometimes a selfie is art.
I also think seeing people’s faces crop up on my feed makes me more likely to engage with that person’s content. I like scrolling and seeing the face behind a brand and faces that I recognise or faces that I know and love. I like assuming that the person who posted that photo felt like they were confident in that moment, and perhaps felt even more confident afterwards. It is like a tiny act of rebellion in a society that has taught women to never be happy with themselves and especially not with their appearance. I like the vulnerability of putting yourself ‘out there’ with a selfie, and I like the contradicting sensation of power in the same image. Because that’s what we all are really, a combination of contradicting feelings and experiences and opinions and faces. Because you don’t have to be just one thing, you can be both powerful and vulnerable at the same time.
Yes, I acknowledge that the focus on appearance on social media can be problematic, but I like to think the selfie signifies a shift in power. We are taking it back. And not just that, we are also curating a space where we get to see otherwise invisible faces. We can choose who we see. Your selfies gives me an opportunity to see faces and hear stories I would otherwise not see or hear. I see women of all kinds of sizes, unashamed women, unapologetic women, I see people being open about mental health, I see people whose smiles contain stories of loss, I see women with beards, I see trans people, I see people of colour, I see drag artists, I see people with acne, I see creators, I see people with disabilities, I see people battling cancer, I see fathers, I see men questioning the toxicity of masculinity, I see diversity. People taking the place they rightly deserve, standing up to the ridiculous beauty standards and gender norms and demanding to be seen and heard.
And I love that! Brag about your eyebrows on fleek, tell me about your day, show me your ‘flawed’ skin, use your face to talk about politics – I want to see it! But first, let me take a selfie!