Photo courtesy of Dlhagi via Wikimedia Commons
A father reaches for his camera in the back of his pocket to capture the candid expressions of him and his two grinning daughters as they sip their homemade hot chocolate.
A teenage girl approaches her bathroom mirror, applies a final coat of mascara, takes a tug at her already revealing blouse and adjusts the angle of her iPhone’s front-screen camera to perfectly capture her face…and assets.
Inevitably, the moral principles of photographic self-portraits are debatable, or as a recent article on Jezebel interprets them, plainly egotistical.
Writer Erin Gloria Ryan believes that selfies are a mechanism our society uses to teach people that physical appearance trumps one’s accomplishments and talents.
“Retaking a photo 12 times until your chin looks right is in no way analogous to asking your boss for a raise. Nor is it the sort of self-promotion that results in anything but a young woman reinforcing the socially-engrained notion that the most valuable thing she has to offer the world is her looks,” wrote Ryan in November 2013.
“If culture were encouraging women to be smart, the word of the year would be ‘diplomie’ and the definition would be ‘a photo of an academic achievement posted to social media.’ ‘Here’s my face!’ is not an accomplishment. Feeling pretty is nice, but goddamn — ‘beauty’ far from the most important thing about being a fully-actualized adult human person.”
Since the publication of Ryan’s piece, a few women in support of the selfie have used social media to advocate what they believe is an invigorating and radical practice.
Jamie Nesbitt Golden and Kate Averett created the #feministselfie hashtag to highlight how radical a selfie can truly be when they showcase someone other than the photoshopped white woman—how they empower people of every race, size and sexual orientation who are often unlikely to be photographed in the media.
Writer Veronica Arreola took Golden and Averett’s movement a step further when she created the #365feministselfie, a hashtag that encourages women to post a photo of themselves to Flickr, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram everyday of 2014.
Although taking pictures of oneself everyday may seem daunting, Arreola simply strives to get people to become comfortable in their own skin. Her goal isn’t for people to “become Paris Hilton” as she writes, but for people to not recoil from their reflection either.
After battling numerous insecurities, Arreola discovered that the little things that bothered her about herself diminished the more she faced them, and thus began a 365-day personal photo project in 2008.
“The hardest part of being in the media is dealing with your own image. I use to hate how I sounded, then I did a lot of radio and I listened to it. I hated how I looked on TV, but I did that and felt more comfortable. And the same for photos,” wrote Arreola on her blog, Viva La Feminista. “After that 365 project, I don’t love how I look, but I am far more comfortable saying, ‘I look good today. I look good in this outfit.’ This has helped me immensely as I have gained a lot of weight during the stress of graduate school.”
Arreola hopes that the #365feministselfie project will benefit others the way her personal project did and so far, the 2,500 pictures people have posted as apart of the project exemplify just that.
Besides the self-esteem a selfie can provide, Arreola promotes those that illustrate something memorable—a positive selfie, as she calls them. Whether it’s a young girl taking a photo with her cat or a selfie of two old friends going skiing for the first time, she commends any snapshot that captures love.
The #365FeministSelfie visualizes emotion extracted from every moment of 2014—the breathtaking moments, the disheartening moments, and even the indifferent ones. She hopes participants (men and women) will gain a new sense of self-confidence as they are invited to succumb to a raw account of whom they are—and to learn to accept that in its entirety. M