Well hello! Welcome to the plethora of new readers I have gained recently. It’s so good to see that there are more people out there ready to think outside the dominant paradigm when it comes to bodies and weight.
Before I go on any further, a quick zine update – it’s shaping up nicely. I’m just waiting on a few artworks to come through, and then I can finish work on the layout, with production following after that. I shall continue to keep you all posted.
So today I want to talk about selfies. For those of you who don’t know, the word “selfie” is colloquialism for a self portrait, mostly these days taken by smart phone and uploaded to social media, like Facebook or Instagram. With cameras ubiquitous in phones, especially now that many have front facing cameras, and most of us having connectivity to the internet, selfies have become something of an everyday occurrence. I’m sure you’ve all seen one. If you haven’t, here’s one I took yesterday:
Selfies get a lot of criticism. They’re considered vain, posing or childish. They’re ridiculed, especially selfies of women, and in particular selfies of fat women. I know mine get stolen off my various social media sites and posted other places for ridicule, because “OMG look at the gross fatty, she thinks she’s people!!1!”
But that’s not going to stop me doing it. People have been taking self portraits of themselves for centuries – be they photographic or other media. Do I need to list some names of some famous self portrait creators? Frida Kahlo. Van Gogh. Rembrandt. Da Vinci. Warhol. Basquiat. Vivian Maier. The list goes on and on, and right back through history. Have a bit of a Google around and you’ll see everything from the brutally critical to the utterly whimsical.
Self portaits and self examination are important and powerful. There are several reasons why I take and share selfies.
- Until a few years ago, I never allowed anyone to take photos of me. I was so used to being shamed by people for my weight that I believed I wasn’t worthy enough to be seen in photographs. Now I’m proud of who I am and am happy to participate in photographs (with my consent – taking photographs of me or anyone else without our consent is douchey, don’t do it) and part of that is from playing around with taking photos of myself.
- I don’t see people who look like me in the media. Fat women are not represented in the media, unless it’s to vilify us. We’re not represented anywhere in a positive light unless we represent ourselves. As Junot Diaz wrote “If you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.”* If posting my selfie on my Tumblr or Twitter or blog gives someone like me some representation, as a fat woman, then it’s worth it.
- Looking at yourself a lot from different angles and in different lights and colours helps you remove self criticism. If you never see yourself, you never see yourself as “normal” (because as my dear friend Ian always says, “Normal is what you are.”), so seeing yourself helps you get used to yourself. I’ve found I’m far less self critical since I’ve been taking selfies than I was before.
- My friends near and far like to see me. They like to see what my new glasses look like, or what colour I’ve dyed my hair, or just to see my face. Just like I love to see them.
- It’s valuable to have a record of yourself through your life. It’s healthy to look at how you change and grow through your life. I look back at old selfies and I realise how far I have progressed in life, both externally, in things like my job and where I live and things like that, but also internally, how I feel about myself and how I present myself to the world. Selfies tell my story.
- Because I discovered, on regular self examination in my self portraits, I’m kinda fucking awesome.
Self portraits, be they taken seriously with skill and care, or a spur of the moment capture of yourself for fun, are part of being human. Since we first worked out how to scratch on a rock face or in the dirt while looking at our reflections in water, we humans have been taking self portraits to tell our stories, to examine ourselves, to share with our loved ones, or just for fun. It’s not vanity to want to see yourself represented, either just for yourself, for those around you or in the world at large. It’s part of marking that you are a member of humankind.
Have fun. Pose. Share them with your friends or share them with the world. Get used to seeing yourself. Find your own awesomeness.
*Thanks Lonie for posting this one on FB this morning and reminding me of an awesome quote.