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Physician, Heal Thy Selfie

December 4, 2013

Fat NewsDickweed

Social media has changed the way we interact with other people, including those we know and those we don’t, especially when it comes to taking and sharing pictures. With just a few clicks and swipes, we can take a photo and instantly upload it to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, a blog or any website, then just sit back and wait for the likes and the comments to arrive.

Thanks to smartphones and tablets we can post pictures of ourselves without someone else behind the camera. These “selfies,” as they are called, are everywhere. Not a day goes by when we don’t see anyone and everyone, famous or not, sharing selfies. But in this “do it now, see it now” age, it doesn’t take long for some of those pictures to cause controversy and make headlines.

I’m sure many of you have seen or heard about this story about the Norwegian model and fitness blogger Caroline Berg Eriksen who is facing a backlash for posting a selfie of her body just three days after giving birth. Some critics are saying she’s sending a bad message on body image to other women. Some are supporting her, saying what she did wasn’t meant to make others feel bad, but to be just a moment of personal pride.

To her credit, at least Eriksen didn’t put “what’s your excuse” over her selfie and she didn’t make fat-bashing comments. I seriously doubt she was trying to shame anyone. She might not realize it could be a trigger for those who are suffering or recovering from eating disorders, but I can certainly see where her picture might cause some potential harm.

The fact that people aren’t happy and are speaking out does say a lot about our society today, when women are expected to look just like they did before they had children. This is especially true if they were already thin to begin with, so that we lavish praise on those who lose the weight gained due to pregnancy and various other reasons.

Some see the selfie as a setback to women, as evidenced when Jezebel posted an article by writer Erin Gloria Ryan about how women who do them are “crying for help” and seeking external validation (mostly from men) of their appearance. That story caused an immediate reaction on Twitter by women who identify as feminists who proceeded to tweet selfies and disagree with the author’s thoughts.

I also disagree with the Jezebel article. Yes, many women do post selfies because they are looking for external validation, but there are also many women who post them because they want to show off a cool new haircut or an awesome outfit they’re excited about or just to be goofy and have fun.  Like yours truly:

Goofy Bree

My cry for help face is also the same as my WTF face.

And being a very visible fat woman, posting pictures of myself and seeing other fat women doing the same is empowering because we aren’t hiding our faces and bodies as we’re told to do over and over again. I used to hate sharing pictures of myself; now I don’t mind and I don’t care. It’s just another step on my path of being a self-accepting fat adult. If people want to pay me compliments, that’s fine. If they don’t say anything, that’s fine too.

Despite social media being around for a while, we are still learning “the rules” of what’s considered acceptable online and what isn’t, and we’re going to keep seeing these selfie controversies. Perhaps we should consider them teachable moments and open invitations to discussions about our cultures and norms, which really isn’t a bad thing.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. vesta44 permalink
    December 4, 2013 4:08 pm

    I’ve never taken a “selfie”, mainly because I couldn’t figure out how to do one that didn’t look as if some troll from under a bridge somewhere was screwing around with my camera/cellphone. But, I recently realized that our laptop has a webcam built into it, and I figured out how to use it (well, sorta kinda maybe figured it out). I’m still not sure if I’ll take any “selfies”, but it’s nice to know that I can, if I want to. As for whether people like them or not, my take on that is that if you don’t like selfies, don’t take them of yourself and don’t look at the ones people have taken of themselves. Problem solved.

  2. Rubyfruit permalink
    December 4, 2013 11:07 pm

    I like the idea of selfies and, yeah, the kind of people who want attention might use them as yet another avenue of getting it, but as far as I’m concerned, selfies are one of the more harmless ones I can think of. It does not much matter to me personally. Documentary via self-portrait has never been my thing anyway.

    But as for myself, however, I don’t take ’em because I don’t own a smartphone, and there are certain people who know me in real life who I don’t want all up in my online business. So I don’t take ’em and don’t really begrudge people who do. I can understand if some people got annoyed with people taking up their Twitter/Tumblr/Instagram/Pinterest feed with selfies, though.

  3. December 5, 2013 9:53 am

    Picture taking, whether for posting online or not, is my last huge hang-up about being fat.
    I just can’t bring myself to do it (at least not often and not publicly)- to throw my fat n happy face out there for people- strangers- to comment negatively about and make judgments about me because of how fat I am.
    See, when I walk down the street wearing that really nice red sweater, or new jacket, I don’t FEEL like a size 24 or 26, or whatever. I feel just…. well…. like me.
    When I sit down in a waiting room, or stand in line somewhere, I don’t FEEL like I take up any more space than anyone else does.
    Sitting in the uncomfortable, hard, steel-armed narrow chair in the doctor’s waiting room between two thin or average people doesn’t matter… I’m only sitting in ONE chair – just like they are- only *I* am uncomfortable, they aren’t.
    But when I see a picture of myself, even with a tan, a fresh haircut, happy and smiling, it reminds me that I’m *not* the same as most everyone else. It reminds me that the picture of myself in my head; happy, positive, lookin’ good, isn’t necessarily the reality that others see and will no doubt comment on. I guess I’m kind of into sparing myself the bs that comes along with putting your fat self ‘out there’ for all to see. I certainly admire those who can and DO do it…. they are my heroes. But I guess I’m too big a wimp for that. (No pun intended) 😉

    • December 8, 2013 8:33 pm

      Oh my gosh, I’m right there with you. I feel like I’ve come so far, but I just can’t let my picture be taken.

      You completely articulated how I feel about it too, when I just couldn’t find the right words. Thank you!

  4. Linda Ramos permalink
    December 6, 2013 11:55 am

    “My cry for help face is also the same as my WTF face.” This line had me rolling. I think being able to post pictures of yourself when fat is one of those milestones in self-acceptance. It’s that moment when you don’t give a rat’s ass what anyone else thinks of you, you KNOW you are perfectly fine just the way you are. It’s also perfectly ok if you haven’t make it there yet, btw. The Jezebel article writer lacks the understanding that a selfie can be motivated by many different reasons and generalized us all. Thanks for the great counterpoint to that.

  5. Theresa permalink
    December 6, 2013 5:45 pm

    I love your WTF face. 🙂 And this piece.

  6. December 7, 2013 5:00 am

    I just can’t make myself do it. There are some days when I have a “fuck ’em all” attitude, but there are others when I know I just couldn’t handle the attacks that would surely come.
    Fuck this dumb society anyway.

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