|#feministselfie in the classroom!|
Earlier today when I was supposed to be grading tests on American Romanticism I decided to procrastinate for a few minutes and log on to Twitter. I noticed the hashtag #feministselfie was trending and, of course, I had to figure out why.
Jezebel writer Erin Gloria Ryan posted an article this afternoon called "Selfies Aren't Empowering. They're a Cry for Help." In the piece Ryan argues that selfless are just "a high tech reflection" of the way society teaches women and girls that their physical attractiveness is their most important quality. Ryan briefly mentions an article by Rachel Simmons at Slate that seeks to defend the selfie.
The selfie is a tiny pulse of girl pride—a shout-out to the self. Earlier this week, the first four women to complete Marine infantry combat training posted a jubilant selfie. (Nancy Pelosi tweeted it as "selfie of the year.") If you write off the endless stream of posts as image-conscious narcissism, you'll miss the chance to watch girls practice promoting themselves—a skill that boys are otherwise given more permission to develop, and which serves them later on when they negotiate for raises and promotions.
But Ryan quickly dismisses this idea saying, "I absolutely don't disagree that the three Marines who passed infantry combat training kick ass, and that photo they took was inspiring... And if selfies were typically jubilant post-achievement photos snapped by women proud of what they'd accomplished, then Simmons' assertion that selfies are 'tiny pulse(s) of girl pride' would be apt."
But most selfless, Ryan says, are the digital equivalent of "walking up to a stranger, tilting your head downward at a 45-degree angle, duckfacing, pushing your tits together, and screaming 'DO YOU THINK I'M PRETTY!'"
Ryan's article quickly enraged feminists who responded by taking selfies and posting them with the hashtag #feministselfie. Two of my favorites are below:
And so I quickly snapped a #feministselfie of my own.
Even though I hardly ever take selfies, Ryan's article didn't sit well with me either. It seemed too similar to arguments against wearing makeup or cute clothes. There's always an assumption that if a woman does either of these she's doing them not for herself but for male approval. And that's simply not true.
I love eyeshadow because I love blending cooper and bronze tones on my eyelids every morning. I wear pencil skirts because they make me happy.
While I see Ryan's point and while I do believe there are some girls out there are snapping selfies because they want the Interwebz to tell them they're sexy, I can't get on board with the idea of completing writing off the selfie as anti-feminist or evidence that we're all suffering under the male gaze.
Maybe it's because my friends don't take pictures of their tits pushed together. Or maybe it's because I'm a writer.
I love looking at the self-portraits of my female friends in my Instagram feed and I see a story -- a valid and valuable story -- in every photo, whether that story is about a major accomplishment or just the story of a woman who loves the way she looks today. The selfie is simply a memento of both special occasions and everyday life.
Do I believe the selfie is the ultimate tool of self-empowerment? No. But it's not the ultimate tool of misogyny and patriarchy either.
And why can't a woman just take a freaking picture of herself without needing to justify why she did it?!
When I look through my Instagram and Facebook feeds and I see fierce female faces staring back at me I can't help but smile. No, not every photo is in celebration of a job promotion or college graduation, but nearly every photo -- to me at least -- is a celebration of women.
I believe feminist writer Feminista Jones said it best: