Selfie culture: vanity or self-expression?

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Anyone who knows me well knows I post a LOT of selfies. On the days where I do my makeup (which is almost everyday) I take at least one selfie and post it on either instagram, Facebook, or tumblr. I sometimes post more than one selfie a day.I love it. I’ve been doing this since I started transition back in May 2015. However, I am generally very self-conscious of the image this projects to people who follow my social media accounts. I think often of: what do they think of me for posting so many selfies? Do they think I’m vain? Narcissistic? Shallow? Full of myself? Prideful?

Perhaps I am all of those things. But perhaps I want to carve out space in which it’s ok to be a little vain. After all, it brings me pleasure to take and post all these selfies – and who am I harming? I increase my pleasure and no one is harmed – sounds like a win-win right? If a little bit of vanity causes one to engage in acts that make you happy without hurting others – why not? Vanity has been thrown at femmes as a derogatory label since forever and us femmes have had to fight to protect our self-expression.

And that’s how I see selfie-taking – as a form of self-expression. I see makeup as a form of self-expression. Combine the two together and you have the hashtag #fotd (face of the day), which is my favorite hashtag. It legitimizes and normalizes the practice of selfie-taking.

Some people might have noticed that trans people early in transition post a lot of selfies. I am a good example of this. Part of it is documentation so I can look back on this special time in my life where my facial features are literally changing before my eyes. And part of it is just allowing myself to express femininity in an unfettered way, something I wasn’t able to do prior to transition. It gives me an excuse to put on my face, something I take intrinsic joy in doing – I enjoy the artistry of it – the infinite ways to paint your face.

Some might say “Oh well Rachel just posts so many pictures because she is pretty and has passing privilege and thus she’s just being vain, shallow, and narcissistic in taking so many pictures”.

And to this I say: so what? Again: who are we harming by taking selfies? And this brings me to a larger social commentary: why aren’t women allowed to think they are pretty after being told they are pretty? Ever notice that? Pretty women are not supposed to acknowledge their own prettiness. But after awhile, after hearing the same compliments over and over, you tend to hone on such things. And why should we play the demure little girl who isn’t confident in herself? Is it because women are held to unrealistic beauty standards that the acknowledgement somehow hurts women who are not pretty? Is it because vanity is a multi-billion dollar industry of plastic surgery? Perhaps – but it irks me that women are expected to live up to these high standards but not acknowledge their own attractiveness when they do meet them. But I am pretty sure I am pretty. Unless hundreds of people have been lying to me this whole time. And not to mention that it does seem possible for humans to look in the mirror and determine fairly objectively their own level of attractiveness.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to claim that pretty women are some kind of super-oppressed class of people who need special protection. I raise this issue because I’ve noticed that women, especially trans women, who have less self-confidence tend to post a lot less selfies. But on the other hand, some of the most popular beauty bloggers on the internet are not attractive by the standards of Western society, specifically Hollywood. Beauty is not just about your raw physical features. It’s also about your personality, your grooming standards, the way you carry yourself, etc.

So this post has been about defending the existence and validity of selfie-culture for all those selfie-takers who get shit from others for “taking too many selfies”. Take as many selfies as you want. Post ten selfies a day on Facebook. Or more. Post 20 a day. You do you. Don’t let the threat of social judgment deter you from the practice if it makes you even the tiniest bit happy. And usually that’s why I love selfies: You get to see a picture that makes the selfie-taker happy in some small way. I love seeing selfies of my friends. I wish my friends would post more selfies. Maybe the world would be a better place if we spent more time posting selfies.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Selfie culture: vanity or self-expression?

  1. I love this. I also post many selfies without shame. Each one is a celebration of being able to look at that image and see the woman I never thought I’d get to embody. It’s very easy for people who aren’t interested to scroll on by.

    Like

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