Thursday, 23 April 2015

Thursday Thoughts: Self(ie) Esteem

A note from Joelle... 
What's interesting about this image?
What's interesting, to me, is that when you remove the phone, the woman is posing for male attention. The sculpture was carved by a man for other men to gaze at back in the day. With her shape and pose, she's a mysterious work of art that men would stare at, praise and lust after. She's a thing of beauty and intrigue.
However, now that an iPhone has been placed in her hand, it's all about the woman. And now the woman's appeal and personality are under scrutiny of everyone, as the fact that she is appreciating herself  makes them uncomfortable.
She is now seen as "vain","narcissistic" or even "slutty". 
Interesting, right?

There are currently 261 million photographs posted under "#selfie" in Instagram right now. 
And people see that in two ways:
It's narcissistic
It's somewhat empowering

I see it as the latter. Why? Because from a young age, everyone is told to hate themselves and play down their appearance because it could make others uncomfortable... Yup, that's right. Of course we are taught to be humble, but it usually goes a dangerous step further, to the point where we find it hard to accept compliments, and constantly compare our looks to others.
Think about it. How do you react when someone compliments you on your appearance. Do you cringe and downplay their comment? Do you smile and say "thank you", but think they don't actually mean it? Do you hit back with a negative comment about yourself?

As soon as we start to develop into teens, we are bashed with stereotypes and ignorance that seemed to just arrive from nowhere, settle into our brains and ruin us from the inside-out:
Black girls shouldn't wear red lipstick, plus size women shouldn't wear white or clothes that show their arms/back. Pale white girls need a tan. Pouting in pictures means you're a bitch. Wearing glasses makes you look too serious/nerdy. Never smile with your teeth (especially if you wear braces or have a gap tooth). 
Lads, don't wear tank tops if you don't have toned arms. And don't even think about wearing skinny jeans, unless you want people to question your sexuality.
Women, don't wear low-cut tops because it either offends other women, or gives men the wrong idea. Blah, blah, blaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

We then turn to magazines, forums, advice columns and YouTube tutorials in attempt to fix something that isn't (and was never) broken, instead of having the confidence to take a mere picture and like what we see. We are too blinded and confused to realise that we are enough. Our faces are enough.

For me, selfie culture is about acceptance, self-expression and documentation. 
Despite all the bullshit that's fed to us on a constant basis about how we should look/behave live, for that one moment we accept how we look. We express ourselves in a way that no generation before us could. And we can someday look back at how we used to look and laugh/cry/smile/cringe. It's like a little virtual photo album.

Today, many people of the older generation dismiss selfie culture and call the younger generation "vain" and "vacuous" for posting them. 
But I have a question for them... 
Who raised this current generation?
Why are 64% of UK 11-14 year olds saying they are "lacking in body confidence?"*
Why are 47% of UK teens saying that their negative body image stopped them from taking part in everyday activities like sports, or even raising their hand in class?
Answer me that, please.

I was the same. I didn't like the way I looked one bit as a  young teenager. My hair wasn't straight enough, my skin wasn't clear enough and my makeup attempts never looked as good as the model's in the mags.
 I wouldn't have ever dreamed about taking a photo of myself and posting it online (not for the sole purpose of a new display pic). That would have been too stressful, having just me in a photograph. I rejected compliments because I honestly didn't believe them and thought people were taking the piss.
So I have to hand it to this new team of shameless selfie-takers. They are embracing how they look and sharing it with the world. That is amazing, seeing as we are constantly told to downplay our views about ourselves.

For the first time ever, we are taking back our own faces that were once automatically owned by other people we had never met and will never meet. 

Finally, we are taking our beauty (doesn't matter if it's natural or not) into our own hands, literally. That should never stop being celebrated. 

If you want to pull a goofy face, fine. If you want to show off your on-fleek brows that took you an hour to perfect, super! Life's way too short to sit around wondering if people will think any less of you for being happy with how you look. It's none of their business.
So, switch on that front-facing camera and look at how fucking awesome you are.
The female sculpture may not be alive, but if she was, she'd be rooting for you.

* stats from www.selfesteemteam.org
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