A couple days ago Jezebel published a piece, “Selfies Aren’t Empowering. They’re a Cry for Help.” I understand what the author, Erin Gloria Ryan, was trying to say but I could not disagree more with the delivery. The thesis of the article was that selfies reflect the patriarchal idea that women’s value is based on their looks, not intelligence or accomplishments. I agree that the pressure women face regarding our appearance is disgusting and manifests from patriarchy. Selfies are not the problem though and I am appalled by the shaming of women that is going on with this conversation about selfies.
A bit from Ryan’s article:
“In that respect, selfies aren’t expressions of pride, but rather calls for affirmation. In real life, 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!” would be summon the authorities.”
Being judged by what we look like should be insignificant in a woman’s life, however it is not. We live in a world where women are put under tremendous pressure to look beautiful all the time, an unrealistic expectation and an expectation rooted in the idea that women are here to be appealing to men. If a woman putting a photo up makes them feel a bit better, let them have that small victory. When women face losses and hate everyday, it is the small victories that get us through.
Personally, I used to hide from taking pictures of myself alone and posting them on any social media platform. I did that because of insecurities, not the other way around. Several months ago I actually pushed myself to post a photo of just my face on Instagram. I was proud of myself. I was comfortable enough in my own skin to say, “hey here’s what I look like and I like it!” That was empowering for me as an individual. My own individual empowerment can lead to the building of a more just society. It is difficult to create a world where marginalized individuals are empowered when we ourselves do not feel empowered enough. If other feminists shame women for feeling empowered in a way that is seemingly small, that only isolates people from this movement.
Every time we walk out of the house we face shame as women. The moment I wake up I do not feel pretty enough, smart enough, articulate enough, you name it enough to be successful in this world. I do not need now to be shamed for posting a picture of myself on the Internet.
My ideal of a feminist society is a place where all humans are empowered. When we type away at our computers shaming women for something that empowers them even for a few moments we are moving toward a movement of isolation. This is especially true for groups of women who face immense amounts of unique shame based in racism, classism, ableism, homophobia and other forms of oppression. If a woman just worked a 10-hour shift, making minimum wage and wants to post a photo of herself on Instagram, maybe that is her personal form of self-care and a pretty darn healthy one at that.
I found this article so infuriating because it targeted women in an extremely condescending and shaming matter. I do not want a feminist movement that shames and manipulates women into feeling their actions are anti-feminist. We have enough shame in our day to day.
I want a movement of empowerment and radical acceptance. We need a movement that acknowledges that most aspects of our lives are rooted in oppressive power dynamics and sometimes we must find the moments of happiness and security within that harsh reality of a world.