A correction

Several people have informed me that I was completely wrong about selfies, and since they’re all people whose judgment I respect and I wasn’t all that committed to my (admittedly hasty) view anyway, I’ve decided what the hell, they’re right. There was one sentence in the Jezebel article that did neatly sum up a certain genre of selfie that I don’t like – or rather, that I think is demeaning. But meh; that’s not very high up on the list of things to object to, and anyway it’s only one genre, and I wouldn’t want to be without selfies of people with their dogs draped over their shoulder or their cats leering into the lens.

As rorschach pointed out at the time, Chrys Stevenson has a great post in defense of selfies.

And Amy has a brilliant one full of art history and wit.

 First of all let’s back up for a moment and remember what “selfie” is actually slang for. The self-portrait has had a long and very important history in the art world. Painters have painted self-portraits or selfies if you will, for hundreds upon hundreds of years and one could even argue that cave drawings were representative of those very humans drawing on those very walls. “Look at me! I was here and this is how I looked and how I lived!” Since then, artists like Frida Kahlo have used paintings of themselves to express the myriad of human emotions. Yes, Frida wanted you to gaze upon her. She also wanted you to understand her joy and her severe physical and sometimes emotional pain.

Image above is an example of a Frida Kahlo self-portrait.

Image above is an example of a Frida Kahlo self-portrait
And when photography was invented the self-portrait shifted primarily to that new medium. Since then, artists have, over the years, made careers out of the selfie. I highly encourage you to take a look at the work of photographer and artist Cindy Sherman as an example.

If anything, Sherman took the selfie to the mountaintop and dismantled Ryan’s thoughts on the, “fucked up way society teaches women that their most important quality is their physical attractiveness.” Long before the word “selfie” was coined. Self-portraits can be feminist as fuck.

What I said before? Forget it.


  1. HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr says

    Awesome. 🙂

    I think, even aside from the fact that self-portraits are a thing, there’s something I find very feminist about liking your appearance, especially if you’re one of the many who is outside of the feminine ideal/feminine acceptable as portrayed in the media. It is rebellion.

  2. freemage says

    I’d just like to thank you for yet another example of a progressive actually evaluating their opinion and deciding, based on solid counter-arguments, that they made a mistake. It’s amazing how many people insist that this never happens.

  3. A. Noyd says

    There’s another consideration that I’m not sure was brought up around these parts, but that I saw on Tumblr in response to the Jezebel article: For women of color, selfies can be some of the only positive representations they can easily find of people who look like themselves.

  4. dangerousbeans says

    @ A. Noyd
    add trans* people to that too. my main exposure to selfies has been ones taken by trans* people, and they seem to really be celebrating the diversity of trans* bodies.
    given that, i was just baffled that someone could see selfies as negative.

  5. johnthedrunkard says

    There needs to be a more specific term for the ‘upward simpering down cleavage gazing’ selfie that does deserve some earnest snark.

  6. says

    I have a Facebook friend who puts up pics of herself skateboarding, cycling, running over hills etc. They always lift my spirits slightly. Similarly of women playing in bands. Dancing is fine as well. Anything involving an activity is great. It’s not showing off – how cool am I – but how much I’m enjoying this. Also, it makes for a better photo. An unposed action shot generally looks better than a posed shot, focussing on the appearance.

    (Actually they’re not technically selfies are they? – since it’s hard to skateboard and take a pic of yourself).

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