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A couple of weeks ago there was a really bad article posted on Stuff about the amount of time women purportedly spend taking selfies. (Supposedly 48 minutes a day, but since they include the time it takes women to dress and do their makeup - stuff they would probably be doing whether or not they took a picture at the end - it's pretty transparently bullshit in my opinion.) In response to this and the seemingly never-ending criticism of selfies by everyone who doesn't take selfies, my pal S decided she'd take a selfie every day. (She does great selfies where she's, like, doing stuff! Mine normally end up being me up against the wall in the bathroom, which has the best light in my house.)

Me, day 1, no filter

Anyway, I decided I wanted to join her. Actually, I've been mostly taking two a day - one without a filter, and one with a random B612 filter, usually just the same photo twice. I've been doing it for just over two weeks now, and I thought I'd post a bit about why. Not that I think I need a reason. If people want to take a photo every day because they're gorgeous, that is A-OK with me. But there was other stuff going on for me, and it wasn't just the resentment of the endless nastiness.

Selfies and Me

Me, day 3 drinking a smoothie, fancy filter

You guys know about vampires? … You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, “Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist?" And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.

-- Junot Díaz

I'm a Pākehā woman. There is plenty of me on my own TV screen and in my reading diet. That Díaz quote still speaks to me, though, and reminds me a lot of the way queer people watch television. We will watch any old bullshit if you tell us there's a lesbian in there somewhere. (I haven't seen The Celluloid Closet but there's a great gif set of a woman saying something similar.) Fat people, too - if a fat person is allowed to be a protagonist. (Blackout day on tumblr, a day where people posted only pictures of black people, was a far more powerful and meaningful version of this, of seeing people who the culture refuses to let us see.) And this, I guess, is how I feel about selfies. I love seeing these faces. I love seeing faces of people like me - women, fat women, queer women, fat queer women - and also people who aren't like me. I want us all to be reflected.

Selfies are the most direct way I can imagine for that reflection to happen.

me, day 10, in the mirror to show off my outfit, no filter

A lot of people think selfies are vain (despite the evidence that many people take selfies making faces, eating food, jumping off things, shrieking, whatever.) The perception is that people primp and fuss and do makeup and whatever, and then take a picture so they can get compliments. I don't think there's anything wrong with that (big shout-out to some of the amazing makeup I see in selfies, which is art and deserves every compliment it gets), but I don't think it's the totality of the experience. Just like people want to see themselves, they want to be seen, and not in an oh-I'm-so-pretty way. When I take a selfie it's to say I am here. I exist. Damn right, my face is publication worthy.

I think it's particularly valuable that so many women do this in a culture where women are constantly being told that they are not worthy.

Of course, this is why the media has had to turn it into something negative. Look at all these women who think they are worth seeing! Quickly, let's correct them.

They are worth seeing, though.

Day 10, me and my sister smiling

Me and Me

I'm really pretty inside my own head. I don't know if that's a universal experience or one that not everyone has. I remember vividly some of the times I realised that this was not the case outside my head, like being at a sleepover with my two best friends and neither of them being able to tell me they thought I was pretty; like the guy who told me that the only reason I didn't like the Blackhawks' ice girls was that I was unattractive and jealous.1 I also take pretty bad photos - I'm usually making a weird face or my chin is in the wrong place or I'm at exactly the wrong angle. So sometimes I feel like I'm walking through life with my outside and inside completely at odds. It can get annoying, like I want to yell, why can't y'all figure out what a babe I am? But also mostly it's crushing.
me, day 11, making a face, filter

I have found that I can get the inside and the outside to match up a little more if I dress extremely carefully and use a lot of makeup. I find it really tiring, though. I admire people who can get up every morning and do that but it's too much effort for me, and it's so clearly a gendered double standard that it bugs me every morning. I recently left a job that I disliked and was bad at for one that (so far, anyway) I like and am good at. As part of the transition process I wore a lot more makeup than I usually do (i.e., I wore some most days at work and a bit on the weekends) and so many people said to me: "Gosh, you look so much happier!" My aunt, visiting from Australia, at a family party where I had put some makeup on said that to me too. I am happier but I don't know that that is actually reflected on my face, I think that was pretty much just the makeup.
me, wearing makeup and a bold, dark red lipstick, no filter

That confusion that I have is another thing I like and don't like about wearing makeup. It's nice, I guess, to know that if I do some work I can change my outside. But it's a weird thing to think that your less pretty face is somehow a more sad face, you know? My sister wears makeup almost every day and she went into work without it one day. A coworker said to her: Can you please go and put some makeup on? You look really sick and it's worrying me. Your face without makeup looks sick? (There was a post to this effect going around on tumblr the other day, a picture of the same women. In one photo, she was wearing party-style makeup with heavy eyeshadow. Under the picture: "Why do women wear so much makeup?" In another photo, natural-style makeup. "See, you look so pretty without makeup!" In the third, no makeup: "Gosh, are you sick or something?" It made me laugh but it also made me angry.) I don't want to promote that disconnection for myself, I feel weird enough about my looks. I think that's why I'm taking two photos. The B612 photos often really wash out or change my face, and make it look like I have makeup on. I want to make that connection clear to myself.

The Faces of People I Love

On the other hand, all of my friends are beautiful. All children think their mums are beautiful, right? I know I did (I still do, actually). There is something about the familiarity of a face and the personality I associate with it that makes me feel the same way about everyone I'm close to. Like, I don't really see the bits of their faces. I see them, and I love them, so I think their faces are great, because I think they're great. (That's why you guys should definitely take selfies.)

After all those words, that's what I'm trying to do with this project, chiefly for myself. I'm trying to turn my face into the face of a person I love, the face of a person who I think is worth having her face splashed across my twitter timeline once a day. I'm trying to see myself, and be seen.

me, day 17, with my hair out me, day 5, eating a muffin, filter day 2 me with wet hair no filter

1 He didn't understand, because he was not a very nice person, that I don't have a problem with the ice girls, who are just people out there doing what everyone does to get by; I have a problem with what the existence of their job says about the organisation. More power to the individuals, who I'm sure are hard-working and talented.
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labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (Default)
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