Just take it from clinical psychologist Bart Rossi:
“Today too many people are interested in making a statement about themselves on the internet and creating an influential existence. Selfies, when used to excess show a lack of depth and a shallow personality.”
The article linked above goes on to say:
"When a female expresses herself in a half-naked selfie with an obscure musical lyric underneath, what is she saying about herself? It is a clear attempt and reach for reassurance of her appearance and attention and offers a complete lack of substance."
Let’s unpack that for a moment: in this analysis, posting pictures of yourself online or caring about how you look are direct symptoms of being an unintelligent Barbie-vampire hybrid who feeds on symbolic Instagram hearts instead of blood.
These hard-hitting journalists and professional White People Offering To Play Devil's Advocate have created arguments that hinge upon the following contingencies:
- Young people, namely girls, take and share photos of themselves with the explicit endgame of attracting the attention and approval of other young people, namely boys.
- An interest in makeup, clothing or social media indicates a lack of intelligence.
- A girl's sense of confidence in one’s own appearance indicates a thinly-veiled void of nothingness where her heart should be.
Call me crazy, but I don’t rely on the opinions of walking sausage casings stuffed with privilege to determine my own self-worth. Just because you want to tell women not to feel good—and remember: if you do, don’t you dare show it!—that does not make you a champion of the Authentic Self, or a defender of clichés like It’s What’s On The Inside That Counts. It does not make you deep or wise. It makes you annoying, and usually it makes you misogynistic, too.
This way of thinking sets us up to believe that the female body ought to be a source of shame, and that any kind of control women can enjoy over their own appearances is vapid, shallow and dangerous.
In many ways, the selfie has been appropriated and exploited because it allows the subject to also become the viewer; that is, the girl taking the selfie can manipulate the angle, adjust her smile, choose a background, apply a filter, you name it.
Thusly, many people have called this process "fake," and have claimed that the perils of selective sharing on social media can have averse effects on users’ mentalities.
But let me submit to you that the ability to upload or delete can give people a valuable sense of autonomy.
Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted this gem the other day:
When you train your mind how to think, you inoculate yourself against those who desperately want to tell you what to think.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) April 8, 2016
Well, when you decorate and position your body the way you want, you can inoculate yourself against those who want to tell you what is acceptable, what is ideal, what is sexy/beautiful/lovable.
We all move through the world with a sense of Being Watched. Now, I’m thinking specifically of the dynamic between the male gaze and the false female accountability placed on sex appeal, but this does apply to everyone. When you wake up every morning, you ostensibly make a decision about how to present yourself. Maybe you do this without realizing it. But regardless, every detail—from matching your socks to brushing your hair—submits a piece of evidence to the people around you: all members of this particular species that has evolved to become a race of subconscious detectives.
Depending on how painfully aware of this state of Being Watched you are, this can have any number of negative outcomes in the way you try to self-manipulate; an interest in makeup and clothing is the least of our worries.
The video “LIKENESS,” directed by Rodrigo Prieto and starring Elle Fanning, attempts to visually represent what it is like inside a teenager’s mind who is afflicted by an eating disorder. The jarring and disturbing images of women and men that appear in the beginning of the video were directly inspired by magazine advertisements and photoshoots that the director’s daughter, who suffered from bulimia, has seen.
With all of the expectations that both women and men are held to in our society, with the ever-increasing pressure to be perfect (but only perfect in a very specific light, held to a very specific standard), I can hardly imagine a young girl taking a picture of herself that she actually likes enough to share as a cause for uproar.
Being a girl is hard enough. I would say that probably at just fourteen years old, most girls understand real sadness. It seems so young to us now, but it felt really old at that time. I remember feeling like such a veteran. In my mind, I had some some shit, man. I had felt some feelings. By this point, I'd already been told how to be, and I had realized that I was not measuring up. And for me, a privileged white girl, I can imagine I got off quite easy in that department.
Worst of all, when you're a girl, by fourteen you've probably already been in a situation that made you feel sexualized. Let that sink in. From the top of my head, I can think of three moments in my life, before the age of fourteen, when someone crossed a line with me—when I felt not just seen but also threatened. This is not abnormal.
And so with all this in mind, if a girl still manages to love herself (or at least pull together some semblance of confidence for the few minutes you need to take some cute pictures with the snapchat dog filter), then this is a fucking triumph.
Believe me, I have not always held this opinion. For many years I was among the population of naysayers and Holier Than Thou Old Souls, and I would roll my eyes aggressively every time I scrolled past a selfie. I would critique it and question it and wonder why exactly it was so necessary to post—especially, god forbid!, if the girl’s entire Instagram feed consisted of solo shots.
For a long time, I had to actively remind myself not to be jealous or think unnecessary rude thoughts when I saw girls killin’ it—either on Facebook or when passing them on the street or whatever. How fucked is that? Why did I think for so long that if another girl was pretty or confident or kind or powerful, it meant that I couldn’t be?
This undoubtably came from a place of deep insecurity, and learning to love myself allowed me to walk past girls on the street and silently applaud them instead. The relationship you have with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you will have.
I have spent a long time actively retraining my brain to battle this self-immolating logic. It is a curious and very upsetting indication of our society’s opinion of femininity that many women have found themselves conditioned to hate members of the same gender identification.
I mean, take the phrase “I’m not like most girls,” a classic/nauseating staple line in our teen romance dramas: the Cool Girl (to borrow a phrase from the genius monologue in Gone Girl) comes along and shows the Strong Yet Sensitive Boy that he can fall in love after all! She eats burgers and watches football and doesn’t nag when he wants to have guy time! What a catch.
I think the reason why the phrase “I’m not like most girls” annoys me so much is because women have been conditioned to feel like they must disassociate from the female gender in order to be recognized as interesting and worthy human beings, and if that’s not fucked up then idk what is.
And this condemnation of femininity certainly does not only affect girls. Men who suffer from eating disorders are rarely ever taken seriously or treated, and that’s if they have the courage to even tell anyone at all. Men who identify as bi or gay, people who present similar to men but identify as gender fluid or agender—or even anything not explicitly and stereotypically Male—are ridiculed and consistently devalued.
Also, this nugget of wisdom I came across some time ago but regrettably do not have a source for:
Straight men repress their feelings so severely that then they come across a girl (who’s been socialized to be Empathetic and Nurturing) they find that they can tell this girl about their Feelings ! Everything’s great she’s The One ! When in reality they just have a normal human bond but actually connecting with anyone is so foreign to men and their emotionally barren male relationships that it seems like something great and wonderful. So now the girl is put on a pedestal that she’ll eventually fall from because she’s a human and not a Male Feelings Receptacle and everyone loses everything bc fathers refuse to cry in front of their sons.
The war on Selfie Culture, and just generally the war on self-confidence, is a particularly gross attack on femininity. Fashion and an interest in appearance have long been dismissed by the general population as an indication of low self-worth or air-headedness. Which is not even remotely the case! All you need to do is have a good cry at the graduation scene in Legally Blonde to realize that.
Dudes, don’t get me wrong, you can post selfies too. Post a hundred! Post a million! I don’t care! As long as you’re not out here condemning girls for the same thing, I’m all for it.
But more than believing in the obvious (that boys should stay in their damn lanes), I am not here for pitting girls against each other. I am not here for assuming girls exist entirely to make themselves appealing to men and that, therefore, girls are all inherently in competition.
Ending girl hate does not mean you have to get along with every girl. It just means that you stop tearing girls down for being girls, that you let go of your internalized misogyny and jealousy, that you don’t hold other girls to the arbitrary gender roles you’ve been trained to abide, that slut-shaming is finally put to rest and at the very least we allow girls the opportunities to chase feelings of self worth—in whatever way they choose.
In conclusion: you’re boring if you shame girls for caring about how they look. You’re boring if you’re mean to girls who like themselves. And this goes for ALL girls: Black, Asian, Hispanic, Muslim, disabled, short, tall, ugly, pretty, fat, tiny, muscly, Victoria’s Secret models, girls with body hair, girls who want to be housewives, girls who run shit, girls who never talk, girls who wear heels to school, girls who like to skateboard, gay girls, bi girls, girls who don’t always feel like girls, girls who are told they don’t look like girls, girls who like to post Kim K-esque nude selfies and girls who choose to cover themselves head to toe and everyone in between.
More than anything, we need to support each other. If you find a shirt that you love and an angle that flatters your bone structure, then by all means, post away! I’m not interested in competing with anyone. I hope we all make it.
As my roommate always says, “if Elle Woods can graduate law school, we can make it through this.”