The 365 feminist selfie project? I’m with the man on this one.

So you may not have heard, but us women of the internet have ourselves a new project for 2014. The 365 feminist selfie project is the brainchild of Veronica Arreola, author of the blog Viva La Feminista. She has challenged women everywhere to take a picture of themselves every day and post it via social media onto the internet; the idea being (I think, though it isn’t terribly clear) that through this process of seeing and being seen, we can more fully accept and empower ourselves.

I will confess, the first introduction I had to this idea was via an article, written by a male blogger, questioning its purpose. Just what did selfies have to do with feminism exactly?

Oooh, I thought. A man coming along to tell women how they’re doing feminism all wrong. It was time to break out the popcorn. Women everywhere were about to get very very angry. I knew this because my initial, unthinking reaction was to be angry too. Just who did this man-troll think he was, throwing his privilege around?

Until I read the article properly and realised – with some small degree of embarrassment – that I agreed with him.

Now the bulk of my selfie experience has, I admit, been acquired through the medium of Facebook; most significantly my teenage sons timeline. It would appear that snapping an (often provocative) selfie, posting it onto the internet, and then inviting every single friend, acquaintance, and friend of a friend you ever had to give it a score of one to ten, is a common – and actively encouraged – passtime amongst his female peers.

And I am not about to start shaming them for that. After all it’s no illogical way to behave when you have been socially conditioned to believe that your burgeoning sexual attractiveness is the only real mark of your worth – the only real power that you possess. Who wouldn’t, under those circumstances, be tempted to seek the reassurance that they were “hot” or “cute” or “gorgeous” and therefore at least counted for something? But never the less it makes me want to cry. I despair of the damage we are doing to our young women. There is such a hollowness in all that pseudo, mocking confidence; in the arched backs and pouting mouths. Please, they seem to say. Come validate my existence, for I am nothing without your gaze of approval.

But not so, apparently, with feminist selfies. Stick a feminist label on a selfie and it automatically becomes something entirely different. A feminist selfie exists to challenge our common cultural notions of beauty, to shift the boundaries of that beauty in order to make room for all women, so that every single one of us can – finally – feel worthy. “The point of feminist selfies are to show — and see — real women” argues Arreola. But wait, my sons classmates are every bit as authentically female as you or I. So are the famous women we see being objectified in magazines. Being older and more ordinary looking does not make you any more “real” or valid than anyone else. “Conquer that fear of seeing yourself,” Arreola goes on to urge. “We might look at ourselves to put our contacts in, even make-up on, but taking a selfie and posting it means REALLY looking at yourself”.  No. No it doesn’t. It means posting a picture of yourself on the internet and inviting others to look at you. And I fail utterly to see how that in any way furthers the quest for womens equality.

I’m sorry. But I like my feminism a little more radical than that.

Reclaiming the selfie? How about reclaiming our bodies from the male politicians who seek to remove our reproductive rights and force us into continuing with unwanted pregnancies? What about reclaiming our right to safety from a judicial system and rape culture that routinely allows perpetrators of sexual violence to go unpunished? What about equal pay? Or decent, affordable childcare that allows more of us to go out into the world and empower ourselves through financial independence?

What about trying to teach our daughters by example, that a way to develop real self esteem is through rejection of the notion that our worth is in any way dependent on how we appear physically to others.

I mean really. Taking pictures of ourselves and posting them on the internet?

I think we can do better than that.



About Gappy

Blogger and single mother of three. Likes cake. Hates Jeremy Clarkson. These are my principles - if you don't like them, I have others.
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12 Responses to The 365 feminist selfie project? I’m with the man on this one.

  1. Steve says:

    I agree. Merely posting images on the internet does not influence how the viewer will perceive you. Any image on the internet is the same as advertising imagery – even when it is trying to relay something worthy – it ends up being cheapened and scammed because, like images in advertising, images on the internet are horribly reductive. They become “product” and “currency” whose worth is ultimately determined by the mindset of the voyeur. And that mindset is rarely positive.

    • Gappy says:

      A woman tweeted me to argue that the project was a way for marginalised women to become more visible. But I don’t buy it. I stand by my view that it’s a sop to an image obsessed culture, just a bit of a gimmick, and that its value in feminist terms is severely limited. What can you tell about a person from a photo after all? Not always very much.

  2. mistressofboogie says:

    This sounds weird I agree, nowt feminist about it. It’s a bit like the Dove ‘Real Beauty’ shit: larger women in bra and pants but still (sigh) just more photos of women in their underwear. i do remember reading, tho, about a woman who realised that, whilst she had a shit load of photos of her kids and husband, she had virtually none of herself with her kids. And then realised that many women are the same – because they don’t like having their photo taken because they don’t like the way they look. Women were effectively erasing themselves from their children’s recorded lives. So she started a project to get women to include themselves in the photos – not to publish on t’internet, just for themselves (I think – I’m hazy about the details!). That to me was actually a valid thing and could be considered a teeny bit feminist..? Made me think anyway; I have virtually no photos of me and my kids. Or I didn’t until I started doing selfies with them!

    • Gappy says:

      That’s true of me too! Loads of photos of the children – none of me with them. That’s a really interesting point about effectively erasing ourselves from our childrens recorded histories. And of course I can see the value in encouraging women to include themselves more in family photos.

  3. Jess says:

    Although I don’t have any particular investment in the feminist selfie thing, I’m not sure that participating in it excludes anyone from also pursuing the other, nobler goals that you describe.

    • Gappy says:

      No – of course you’re right – it doesn’t. My issue with it though, is that it’s being sold as some radically feminist act, to take selfies and post them on the internet. And I see that as part of a whole worrying trend towards a kind of ‘feminism-lite’, where anything gets to be ‘feminist’ so long as a woman is doing it. This isn’t what won us the vote, and it isn’t what will win us any further gains towards equality IMO.

  4. bingo says:

    I get that context matters. There are recurring issues of privilege, a tradition of marginalization, and a whole host of other stuff.

    But how did you feel when you realized that your initial dislike of an idea was purely based on the gender of the person with that idea?

    When was the last time you wrote about something, and felt the need to preface it with an apology, explaining that you know you don’t really have the right to talk about this subject because you’re a woman and thereby lack understanding? And women, as a group, are like staggering drunks when talking about this topic?

    I know this sounds a bit attack-y, but its really not my (magical) intent. The questions are sincerely, if rhetorically, asked. So that it’s stated, I’m not drawing an equivalency between this and the social forces you discuss in your post.

    • Gappy says:

      My understanding of your comment is that you are insinuating the man who wrote the article I linked to was somehow cowed and oppressed by his potential female readers? Am I right? It’s not really what my piece is about. But I’ll answer anyway.

      When there is a history of one group oppressing another stretching back through all recorded time, does it not strike you as a little ridiculous that a member of the oppressing group might come to lecture members of the oppressed group on how they might best liberate themselves? That could easily be found offensive and insulting right? Well there you go.

      • bingo says:

        No, that isn’t what I was implying. I compliment you on putting the word “oppressed” in my mouth, though. It makes me sound unreasonable and petulant.

        I was more interested in your reflections on whether you ever found yourself in the situation to say the kind of thing he said. If I might put a few words in your mouth as well, I take it your answer is “never”?

        I was actually more interested in the first question, personally.

  5. I’m glad it’s not just me who doesn’t really get it. To me it the same as posting what colour bra you’re wearing is somehow going to stop cancer. It’s not raising feminist awareness, it’s just posting pictures which people do anyway (unless you’re me).

    • Gappy says:

      Zactly. It’s just… gimmicky. The founder of the project is not at all clear on what she’s trying to achieve with it either from what I have read. Women appear to have lots of different reasons for wanting to be involved – which of course is fine – but a radical feminist campaign it is not.

  6. SimpleGoddess says:

    I just found you today and I think I’m in love, with your words. :)

    I had an immediate bad taste in my mouth when I first learned of the 365feministselfie campaign on twitter. I do not post my image on twitter or Instagram at all for reasons of personal safety. My real full name is not associated with my twitter account in any way and I’ve asked my friends to never use it when addressing me, even if their twitters are locked. The blog I hope to start soon will be the same, only my gender and perhaps the state I live in will be part of my profile. This was a lesson learned almost a decade ago after negative experiences with a particular fandom’s message boards and public events.

    I joined twitter to learn, to express thoughts and share ideas, to ask questions, to communicate. My photo is not needed for any of those things. I have had men harass me for not posting a photo, men who genuinely seemed to have a hard time absorbing my words, my ideas, without being able to judge them against my face. Women have never questioned my desire to remain mostly anonymous on twitter.

    At one point, I half heartedly joined this project with a bit of sarcasm. I would post photos of my new workout shoes, or the screen of the stationary bike at the end of a long ride and add the tag. I wanted to post accomplishments, not my good hair days. But honestly, it got boring and I have better things to do than waste time taking pictures I don’t really care about.

    I’m glad that I’m not the only feminist woman who feels the way, and I’m very happy that you spoke up about it. :)

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