I take a lot of selfies, enough so that a friend recently called me “the selfie queen.” My favourite selfie subgenre are the sporty selfies, see below.
Women are often criticized for taking selfies and posting them on social media. Selfies have been said to be narcissistic, self-centred, and a cry for help.
I think that those criticisms miss the mark and misunderstand the full range of motives for taking and posting selfies. For me it’s fun, yes, but it’s also about taking control of my image and being out there, not being hidden, and not being invisible.
I even started to write a paper defending the much derided selfie.
Here’s my title and abstract.
“Look at Me!”
Fighting invisibility: A defense of the midlife “selfie”
Women of my mother’s generation often have very few pictures of themselves. They might have owned personal cameras but they usually played the role of the photographer, documenting both significant life events and everyday activities, of their families. In midlife many women experience the phenomena of becoming invisible. Valued primarily for their looks, in societies that prize youth, older women seem to recede into the background. Judging by my Facebook newsfeed those days are over. While much of the media angst and anxiety about “selfies” concerns young women, usually teenagers, this paper looks at the other end of the spectrum, at the phenomena of the midlife selfie and the middle aged woman’s quest to be seen.
I’m not alone, a feminist defending the selfie. See Alison Reiheld’s “Unamused by My Erasure”: Feminist Selfies and the Politics of Representation.
In defense of the hashtag, #feministselfie, Alison writes, “When a beauty norm is tinged with ageism and promotes making oneself appear young, posting a picture of oneself as unabashedly oneself, comfortable at one’s own actual age and in one’s own actual experienced body, is a bold and subjectifying act of self-representation.”
“Even when we are not fat, but are conventionally sized, beauty norms demand a certain texture to our skin, a certain shape to trim bodies. A competitive runner and model recently discussed her hesitation in posting images of herself modeling at New York Fashion Week with a nearly ideal body alongside images of herself a week later slouching with a stomach pouch and visible cellulite.
When a beauty norm is tinged with athletic idealism, posting a picture of oneself as unabashedly non-ideal, comfortable in one’s athletic and imperfect trim body, is a bold and subjectifying act of self-representation.”