The Power of the Selfie

My name is Lauren Ferri and there are 3,323 photos in the ‘selfie folder’ on my phone.

The Selfie is something that has been criticised continuously as something that involves vanity and self absorption, even a ‘cry for help’. There was even a TV show about a self obsessed, narcissistic socialite created in 2014 (available on STAN, and not about Kimmy K) called, you guessed it, Selfie.

What exactly is it about the selfie that makes them empowering? Time Magazine stated that over the past year, “the selfie has pushed its way into our collective consciousness like a pop song you can’t get out of your head”. The article also stated that much of the conversation around the selfie has been judgemental – they’re narcissistic, humble-braggy, too sexy or another way for girls to judge each other or even seek validation of their self-worth.

There’s always opinion and conversation around the danger of selfies, with recent examples around how the selfie can be addictive and even in some cases, the cause of mental illness.

By nature, selfies are narcissistic, but it’s definitely questionable whether or not that’s a good or bad thing. This leads us to another question, can the selfie and this so-called narcissism be used for good? The answer, you may be surprised, is yes. Selfies are known to hold power that conveys political messages about ones self, social fabric and society. One example of this empowerment is the #FeministSelfie.

Our culture places immeasurable value on a woman’s looks and beauty, and now women use selfies to show the world what women really look like – no airbrush or makeup. Imagery can impact our perception of women, and we can overturn sexist tropes through mass media.

Bennett (2014) states that these selfies upend notions about who is ‘good enough’ to be deemed popular – and these break through media gatekeepers and decide they are perfect as they are. Selfies, although some may hate to admit it, are a very important factor for modern day feminism. Jessica Bennett, from Time Magazine states nine ways that the selfie is empowering women.

  1. Selfies push back against traditional beauty norms
  2. Selfies take advantage of a platform that girls rule
  3. Selfies allow women to own their flaws
  4. Selfies give girls control
  5. Selfies showcase faces not normally on display
  6. Selfies are a form of social currency
  7. Selfies challenge a notion that you need a reason to be seen
  8. Selfies aren’t about what you look like, they’re about what you’re doing
  9. Selfies force us to see ourselves.

As seen in the #FeministSelfie craze that overtook the internet, selfies can be seen to be an outlet for feminist expression. The #FeministSelfie movement pushed back against the beauty ideal, through images of ‘real women’. The #365FeministSelfie project on the other hand encourages women to take selfies every day for a year, no matter how they look.

One such ’empowering movement’ is Kim Kardashian’s recent nude selfie posted on Instagram – I’m sure you know the one I’m talking about. Helen Razor argues that her ‘feminism’ isn’t really feminism. Razor argues that Kim is not a signifier of feminism, and the only thing that Kim Kardashian is, is a signifier of herself.

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“Once you’ve put your image on a credit card and openly admitted that your body functions as a marketing tool, you ain’t the same as me, dacks down on Facebook waiting in the dark for empowering “likes”. Not all bodies function solely as bodies. Some of them are logos.”

Selfies push back from conventional standards set by society aimed at women – therefore making them a political action. Women who post selfies reclaim themselves and represent themselves in the media the way they want to be represented. Selfies are empowering because it gives women the power to show the world that every woman isn’t a white, skinny, picture-perfect model.

I’m not – but I’ve still got 3,323 photos in my selfie folder.





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