I’ve been trying to write this one for a while, and I keep not writing it for the very reasons it needs to be written. I’m not the first person to cover this topic, and I certainly won’t be the last, but if I’ve learned anything about being a woman in my almost-33-years on this planet, it’s that no one hears you until a thousand other voices are amplifying your message. So I’m adding my voice to the crowd, meek though it may be.
I was inspired to write this today, specifically, because this morning everything seemed to indicate that I should.
First I ran across this tweet, to which I responded honestly:
Also, hey, look! My dumb ass finally figured out how to embed tweets. I’ll have to fix some of my other posts now…
And then this one:
And while I fully intend to write a whole bunch of words about this, one of the articles I was looking at unintentionally provided me with the perfect metaphor for what I’m about to talk about.
Today, I’m here to talk about selfie shaming. It’s a concept that’s been nagging at me for a little over a year. I had just really figured out Instagram and was chatting about it while out having drinks with a friend. Said friend made a comment about how he could tell a woman was a total narcissist if her Instagram contained mostly selfies.
Selfie-shaming became a major part of the vernacular in 2015, after a group of male sportscasters shamed a group of sorority sisters – ON AIR, FOR TWO MINUTES – because they were taking selfies instead of watching the game.
I can only assume this was the most (only) riveting game of baseball ever played, because I can’t imagine why else they would be so perturbed by these girls finding ways to occupy themselves for NINE GOD DAMNED INNINGS. Oh, wait. Of course I can.
Because they’re females who are participating in a public display of self-confidence.
Those bitches. How dare they.
SIDE NOTE: I’ve attended baseball games. Being at the game is fun. Watching baseball is not. Don’t @ me about it, you won’t change my mind, waste your time on something else. I’m sure I like watching things that make you want to claw out your own eyes.
This pervasive hatred of selfies is just one more thing designed to bring women down. To destroy their self-confidence. To keep them in their place.
Let’s examine that for a minute.
We live in a society that still places beauty above all other things in terms of worth for women. And yet this same culture that tells young women that their beauty is what gives them worth is the same one that will tear them down for celebrating it.
It’s no secret that our concept of beauty is shaped almost entirely by the media we consume. It’s called cultivation theory, and it can be applied to all sources of media in the modern age even though it was initially developed in regards to television consumption. Media presents a distorted version of social reality (beauty), and the more media we consume, the more our perception of reality is influenced by it.
It can be argued (and it has been, by many people, but also by me in my Master’s Thesis twelve years ago – which you are welcome to read if you have trouble falling asleep at night) that the portrayal of beauty as defined by media representations has a significant impact on eating disorders and mental health disorders in young women.
Yes, men also suffer from these things, but even though men are also affected by the media’s portrayals of “beauty,” it’s far less pervasive. There’s a reason “overweight, unattractive guy married to a gorgeous woman” is a trope. It’s in roughly eleventy billion sitcoms. Guys can look however they want. Women must maintain a certain standard.
This does not mean that women who don’t meet the standard can’t be successful, but we all know it means we have to work harder.
I remember, vividly, the two times I met with talent (read: beauty) agents prior to going to college. One of them took one look at me and said, “Next!” The other gave me a bit of hope, describing me as being “somewhat unconventionally attractive” before signing me and then essentially forgetting I existed. Neither one of them cared whether I could act – and I can. I’m a damned good actress. They were only concerned with whether they could sell my look.
Growing up with set of very attractive, photogenic siblings, I was always acutely aware of my physical shortcomings. I was also reminded, frequently, any time I had a crush on a boy, that I was not worthy of their affection. Girls who aren’t beautiful learn pretty quickly that a lot of guys will only pay attention to them if they put out – and you’re not girlfriend material, you have one purpose. If you don’t want to fulfill that purpose, you’re nothing.
Back to my friend, and the issue at hand.
I don’t know if there’s some kind of magical ratio we’re allowed to have on our social media feeds in order to avoid looking like narcissists and I honestly don’t care.
It has taken me years to convince myself that I have any value as a human being. It was only very recently that I started to recognize my own (unconventional) beauty, and I hated writing that sentence because I don’t feel worthy of acknowledging my physical appearance.
Even if I didn’t suffer from depression, there is nothing wrong with feeling good about yourself.
And that’s what selfie-shaming boils down to. You are telling women they should be ashamed for sharing their self-confidence with the world.
I’m going to make this simple for you.
If you see a selfie on someone’s page. Ten selfies. A hundred. A thousand. If you see that they’ve devoted an entire god damned website to house one hundred million selfies, and you feel compelled to comment on their narcissism, here’s what you need to do:
No one has the right to police our self-confidence. No one.
And yes, we need to empower young women to realize their worth beyond their physical appearance, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need to hear they’re beautiful as well.
So girls? Take the fucking selfie. Take them all. Because you are beautiful. Not unconventionally beautiful. Not sort-of pretty. Not “attractive if only you [insert change here].”