Spark Post: The Selfie

Lately, the feminist blogosphere has grown consumed with the concept of the selfie. Theories abound for its impact on self-esteem, body image and celebrity culture, among other things. At the crux of the discussion lies the question of its merit: are selfies good or bad for women?

On the one hand, they allow girls to assert their existence, claiming their right to “speak” by generating media and proliferating their presence.

On the other hand, the basis of that assertion is their appearances: they’re channeling society’s gaze, reaffirming the idea, as discussed by John Berger, that women exist to be looked at. Yet there still seems to be some subversive agency in women’s ability to control their images through selfies.

Does women’s agency in taking selfies claim a new territory for women? Or does it represent another iteration of the male gaze, as women internalize the societal imperative to value, above all else, their being-looked-at-ness? Can we designate the as selfie definitively detrimental or progressive for women?

Cited: Berger, John. “Ways of Seeing.” From Jones, Amelia, “The Feminism & Visual Culture Reader,” New York: Routledge, 2003


3 thoughts on “Spark Post: The Selfie

  1. Emily Silberstein

    I think you raise some excellent questions here; can a woman, by owning and, perhaps, even flaunting her own positive feelings about her image, empower herself? Is this only enhancing the objectification of females? Are we, as women, supposed to ignore the fact that we are constantly held in someone else’s gaze, or are we supposed to harness this power and channel it to our advantage? I tend to think selfies can be a progressive step for many women, as it asserts that they are proud of who they are and how they look, so much so that they allow the image to circulate and be the object of many people’s gazes. I think that, while it certainly may play up the notion that women are inherently valued for their looks, it also allows the individual to capture herself–how *she* wants to be seen–and therefore control the image upon which so many may be gazing. It gives some agency to women, at least, to be able to declare how they want people to view them.

  2. kellykenn

    Personally, when I post a selfie it is an expression of my confidence–I know I look nice, and I want other people to notice, too. I look nice for myself, not for anyone else. I am the subject of my own gaze, and inadvertently the subject of those around me. I’m both asserting my confidence and subjecting myself to male (and female) gaze. Whether I want people to know that I look hot or I want to flaunt my professionalism, I am aiming for a certain reaction through my post. However, people post selfies for many other reasons, such as seeking a feeling of societal-acceptance as a means to self-acceptance.
    I like the way that before me, Emily said that selfies “allow the individual to capture herself how she wants to be seen.” While this is true, I think girls post a lot of body-selfies in bikinis, low-cut dresses and the like and expect to be called hot and sexy but don’t expect the objectification that, in society, also comes with it inherently. Those kinds of pictures have a certain stigma, and it’s hard to get people to listen to your argument. I have a lot of girl friends who ca be very different from the pictures they post. I also know for a fact that people have a false opinion of them based off of those images. Quickly enough, she has becomes “the sight” that Butler discusses; the object of vision. All in all, selfies can be good and bad, progressive and transgressive; they do not fall under one category. If women understand the different sides and outcomes and manipulate those things so they are used in their benefit, women can assert themselves in a good way, towards a new territory for women.

  3. amaliad2013

    I think discussing the selfie through a feminist lens is really interesting. The selfie came onto the scene with the invention of the iPhone’s front camera, but even before that, there was the infamous MySpace mirror pic selfie that dominated people’s newsfeeds. They can be called narcissistic or they can simply be a way of showing off a new haircut, but either way, they are part of a new culture in which we share every aspect of our lives via social networking. There is something that draws women/girls in particular to selfies — maybe it is the plethora of Instagram filters that make you look that much tanner, or give your eyes that extra pop that might warrant a few likes. Some people are saying that selfies are a way for women to control how they are seen by the world, which I completely agree with. Others are saying that selfies are self-objectifying — doing to themselves what the male gaze does to them. I personally think that this is overanalyzing the selfie – I think the majority of women who post selfies are not thinking about how they are viewing themselves through the male gaze, I just think selfies are an easy way to take a picture and a lot of times they are just done out of boredom. I also think that men take equal amounts of selfies, so what does that mean?


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