It’s OK to love your selfie

By Copy Editor

About 20 young women from the Alpha Chi Omega sorority at Arizona State University attended a Sept. 30 Diamondbacks baseball game in Phoenix when two MLB announcers mocked the girls for taking selfies. 

“That’s the best one of the 300 pictures I’ve taken of myself today,” one announcer said as some of the girls’ images were placed on the screen for a television shot. “Hold on, gotta take a selfie with the hot dog, selfie with the churro, selfie just of the selfie.” 

Media messages constantly tell young women their outer beauty is valuable, but women are often criticized or shamed for highlighting their appearances through selfies and social media.

Women who take selfies and are confident in their looks are usually labeled as narcissistic or egocentric. The mass media and many men expect women to be unaware of their beauty, as exemplified in One Direction’s hit “What Makes You Beautiful,” which describes a girl’s blindness to her beauty as her most attractive quality. People continue to romanticize beautiful women with low self-esteem.

A Jan. 9 experiment conducted by Claire Boniface, a 20-year-old London student, elicited negative comments from men when she agreed with them after they complimented her looks on dating apps. Almost all men reacted negatively and attempted to retract their compliments. Perhaps the men were surprised by her confidence, considering only 4 percent of women around the world consider themselves beautiful, according to a 2013 Dove Products survey. 

“Some men believe they have the power to tell women what they are, without considering that women have already acknowledged this themselves,” Boniface told Huffington Post  Jan. 14. 

Selfies can be used as a tool to empower people, including young women, to define themselves rather than be defined by the “old media,” which is traditionally male-dominated.

“Selfies make possible a vast array of gazes that simply were not seen before,” Peggy Phelan, an art and English professor at Stanford University, said in an Aug. 11, 2014, Time Magazine article. 

Selfies enlarge definitions of beauty, are a direct representation of a person and, when paired with social media, have the ability to bring a diverse array of body types, races and gender expressions into the spotlight. According to a 2014 Dove study, 55 percent of women believe social media has the biggest influence on the current standard of beauty.

Selfies can also be a form of self-celebration, or they can document a moment in a person’s life. There are plenty of angles and filters that can skew a viewer’s perception of a selfie, but it still has the ability to normalize the less than glamorous moments.

Women have created hashtags like #NoMakeupMonday, promoted by Demi Lovato, to encourage girls to embrace their natural beauty by posting unedited selfies with no makeup. Young women across the nation are redefining beauty through selfies by accepting their flaws and flaunting their bare face on social media.

“There [are] many forces trying to make people, and women especially, feel bad about how they look,” said Christine Love, creator of the selfie-editing app, Interstellar Selfie Station, in a 2013 interview on The Daily Dot. “I’m happy selfies [are] a huge phenomenon, because it’s a serious blowback to that.” 

Selfies can be empowering and positively impact one’s self-esteem, but there are negative aspects for those who become obsessive by constantly taking photos and checking the amount of “likes” their selfies receive. Because mass media often pass distorted images of beauty as normality, both women and men feel the need to live up to unrealistic standards of their appearance to reach perfection. Some people have the idea their number of “likes” determines their worth and validates acceptance from peers. 

A U.K. website called Feel Unique, sponsored a survey of 2,000 women between the ages of 16–25 and found women spend about 45 minutes a day taking selfies, which adds up to around five hours a week. 

If this seems excessive, remember that women feel an overwhelming amount of pressure to mimic flawless appearances found in mass media. 

If people were exposed to natural beauty more frequently, like those posted in many selfies, it is likely people would begin to change their perception of beauty to a more realistic standard, which would lead to self-acceptance and prevent the need to spend vast amounts of time taking the “perfect photo.” 

Before you take snap judgements about women who take selfies, take out your smartphones and give it a try. Selfies have the power to document, represent and celebrate lives.