Sorry for the lack of posts lately – I’ve been in the process of moving. The bf and I found a house! We’re super excited, but the whole moving process has been incredibly time consuming and slightly anxiety inducing (especially for a girl who is prone to anxiety of the worst sorts…)
But we’re getting there!
Anyhow, I’ve been a little behind on keeping up with feminist news. There’s been a lot going on though, that’s for sure. From Emma Watson’s amazing speech, to Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz of Columbia University carrying around her mattress as a form of protest against her rapist, there have been some inspiring stories lately of women fighting for their rights.
Of course, I long for the day when we won’t have to fight – we’ll simply have the rights we deserve as human beings. But until that day, I’m so happy to see women standing up and speaking their minds.
So I’m going to speak my mind about something not nearly as drastic as Emma Watson’s speech or Emma Sulkowicz’s protest – I’m going to talk about selfies.
If you know me – or you follow me on Instagram – you’ll know that I’m a fan of the selfie. The funny thing is, I’ve always loved self-portraiture, ever since I was a little bitty girl and long before people had smart phones with a flip screen.
Let me detail the evolution of my selfie obsession…
From the time I was a toddler, I’ve loved cameras and I’ve loved having my picture taken. My parents, to this day, like to tease me about how often I looked in shiny, reflective surfaces as a kid. I liked looking at myself. I’m not sure whether a five or six year old can be deemed vain, but I certainly loved being looked at. I’d make my mum take countless photos and videos of me. I’d put on my favorite bathing suit, a bright pink tu-tu, and a pair of mini high heels and strut around our house like every hallway was a catwalk. I’d never seen a fashion show, hell I didn’t even know what models were, but I had a strong desire to show off and have my looks captured on film. It was fun. I didn't associate having my photo taken with being attractive – I was much too young to be conscious of that. I just enjoyed being the center of attention (I am a Leo after all), and as a very visual person, I think photography in general intrigued me.
When I was old enough to have a camera of my own, probably around age 12, I took it everywhere with me. The majority of my photos? Yeah, they were pictures of me. My best friend and I set up countless photo shoots and modeled everything from stray scraps of fabric, to unflattering jumpsuits at Forever 21, everywhere from the pool in my backyard to the hallways of our high school. When Myspace started (oh my gawd I feel old), I made sure to have the best pictures. By this time I was an expert at capturing myself on camera. I knew my best angles, how to work the light, and how to hold the camera. Selfies (they still weren’t called that yet) were no longer just about childlike fun. They were about presenting my best face to the world. I wanted the guys to think I was pretty, and the girls to envy my photos. A gawky and pre-pubescent girl in person, I was miraculously photogenic. Self-portraits became a way for me to actually feel attractive. I rarely felt like I was good-looking in “real-life,” but damn, I could take a good picture.
Facebook started my last year in high school, and I think that’s when selfies officially became a thing. I upped my game and got a nicer camera. I got a tripod. I took photo after photo after photo. I dabbled in modeling. My photos were always greeted with oohs and aahs - they became a source of confirmation; they were a way to get the attention and compliments I rarely got in person.
In college during my freshman year, I decided to join a sorority. During the rushing process, I learned that one sorority had turned me down because, and I quote, “She takes so many pictures of herself, and it’s weird.” Throughout my four years at university, my love for the selfie veered in two directions – one good, one not so good. I turned my passion for self-portraiture into works of art. I minored in photography, and almost all of my photo series were self-portraits. I occasionally had friends model for me, but no one was willing to go as far as I was for a camera. I would do things that were questionable, controversial, odd, and provocative. I studied Cindy Sherman – one of my artistic idols – and took pride in my work and my portraits. In the dark room developing those photos, selfies became so much more than just a way to show off my looks or appeal to other people. They became a way to spread a message, a way to comment on stereotypes and women’s rights and women’s bodies. The selfie was empowering and potentially life-changing.
Unfortunately, I often lost sight of this revelation when I stepped outside the photography studio. In my personal life, I continued posting photos that I thought would make people like me more – particularly men. Following graduation, my selfies tended toward more seductive and traditionally appealing. More boobage, long extensions, a full face of makeup. I waited and ached for every comment on every photo, needing to hear someone tell me that I was beautiful or sexy.
Thankfully, I’m happy to say I’ve reclaimed the selfie. My exploration of feminism over the last two years has helped me realize that I was selfie-ing for many of the wrong reasons. These days I still take just as many self-portraits as I did before. And yeah, sometimes I still try to look good in them. I don’t generally take a selfie of myself looking like a bloated catfish. When I’m feeling especially confident and happy, I’ll take a selfie. Not because I want the world to tell me I’m pretty, but because I feel good and I think it’s okay to share that. Sometimes I’ll post a photo when I’ve done something different with my hair or something fun with my makeup. I post a lot of artistic selfies (or at least, I like to think they’re artistic lol). I still love creating sets and photo shoots, and I adore creating photos that are colorful and eye-catching, and fun to look at. Plus, I’m fashion obsessed, so I think it’s fun to showcase cute and quirky outfits. And of course, I still use selfies in my more serious, non-camera phone photography.
I get that some people think this is all very “look at me! look at me!” And maybe it is. But taking selfies makes me feel happy and creative and inspired, and that’s definitely worth something. Where I once took pictures to cater to the male gaze, I now take pictures for me. I don’t have any qualms about posting sexy photos or showing off some skin. I’m not doing it for compliments or confirmation – I’m doing it because I’m a woman who loves herself and genuinely likes taking pictures of herself. I always have. Heck, I’m pretty sure I have a grown-up version of my childhood tutu and bathing suit ensemble – I should do a selfie in that!
There are still many instances when selfies can be damaging – when girls feel the need to look a certain way or do certain things because of the images that flash past on their Instagram accounts. But I like to think that there are so many lovely (inside and out) ladies taking selfies and showing all the different types of beauty that young girls will be inspired to embrace what makes them special. The cool thing about selfies on social media is that there are a lot of women using the selfie for good – challenging beauty norms, making statements, and embracing confidence and self-love. These are the selfies we need!
As for me, I’m going to keep on sharing my selfies and I hope you do too!