Stop pathologising selfies

19 Sep


This is a really important point.

The aggressive anti-selfie schtick is really seen on image sharing sites like Imgur where guys will post sexualised photos of women all day long but the minute a woman posts one that isn’t related to a story and she’s an “attention whore”. Both sets have posted the photo(s) for the same reason – sexual gratification – but the minute they suspect a woman may get some pleasure or benefit, all hell breaks loose.

Part of this is because the posters are most likely still focusing on women through the male gaze – inanimate objects who only come to life to service men in some way or another. But there is power in that. Men get to choose when and where and in what capacity women come to life. Men demand women stick to that for male pleasure and benefit only.

The old “tits or get the fuck out” adage is a corrective – not that the men only view women for their sexual pleasure, but to remind them that men decide how women are presented. It’s a barked demand of power – we decide when you will come to life and any intellectual or sexual evidence you’re an independent actual person. The demand of “tits or get the fuck out” tells them to shut up and submit.

Any deviation from this – women posting photos of themselves for themselves – is pathologised as a new mania, a neurosis showing decaying morals.

This is often seen in people criticising women’s selfies. Over on Twitter, one account finds a man saying “women who post topless selfies are nothing but sluts” (etc) and includes a topless or sexualised selfie of the dismissive author. It’s simple for how easily it highlights the hypocrisy and emptiness of the moral pathologising.

The true concern is in technology becoming not only an equaliser but exposing what has lain in plain sight: women exist.

Not only do women exist but they take photos. Perhaps for themselves, for pride or happiness or a need for attention (a good portion of why we express ourselves on social media). Astoundingly, women feel and desire pleasure. To deny this from our politics and lives is to, again, deny women.

And when women remind you they exist and dare to do so with few apologies, it disrupts the power men have often assumed and pressed.

And when women present themselves for sexualisation without men involved, that independence can be uncomfortable for men. Because when an actual woman presents herself, she’s reminding them that she not only exercising choice in publishing a photo of herself, she will probably exercise the same choice in what man she will want (if she does at all).

Sometimes I think the greatest threat with women’s selfies isn’t that they remind men that women exist; it reminds them the women might not want them.

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