Anybody who has access to a camera and the internet is guilty of taking a selfie – or three hundred. The ability to transform yourself digitally into an image that represents who you are and how you want the world to perceive you is a useful and very powerful tool, especially when this image allows you to challenge social expectations or traditional gendered barriers.
We’ve all seen the series of images aptly named “Period.” by Rupi Kaur, depicting photographs of women in various stages of their period. These images, labelled ‘taboo’ by social media and society alike, were created to tell a story, one that every biological female has experienced at least once in their lives and are made to feel ashamed of.
Nancy Baym and Theresa Senft define the selfie as a photographic object, one that
“initiates the transmission of human feeling in the form of a relationship“.
“A selfie is also a practice—a gesture that can send (and is often intended to send) different messages to different individuals, communities, and audiences.”
This definition rings especially true when considering the possibilities the selfie has from a political standpoint. Rupi Kaur used her selfies to challenge what isn’t and what should be acceptable in society, bringing to light the utter lack of control we have of our own bodies and how hurdles such as these should not be hurdles at all – just a normal, human function.
Selfies offer women the ability to control their own representation, one not defined by the laws of gender roles or assigned sexes. This form of empowerment is especially important as it creates awareness and understanding about gender and the way it is socially constructed within the confines of femininity and masculinity. Although some may argue that the presence of sexualisation regarding women is too present within the selfie phenomenon, it stands to reason that the representation of ones own body or sexuality is a benefit that is rarely presented in society, and one that brings a sense of empowerment and fulfilment that might not otherwise be possible without it.
While of course there are cons to every social experiment, like the rise and fall of self-esteem in an individuals quest to be seen as ‘perfect’ in a picture, fixated on using their bodies as a means of acceptance – the possibilities that being able to take control of your own self-representation has opened is numerous, inspirational and empowering. And besides, there are many other forms of media that provoke the same negative reactions (magazines, television, advertisements), without the opportunity to be controlled or to be manipulated into something positive.
If you had the choice to portray yourself as you truly are – wouldn’t you take it?