What I've Learned From the #365FeministSelfieChallenge
In the last nine days, I have witnessed strangers discuss body image, hairstyles, pregnancy, teeth straightening, and the desire to make sure their children have plenty of photos of their mom. These are not just random conversations over Twitter, rather they come from captions of the thousands of photos submitted for the #365FeministSelfie challenge.
The #365FeministSelfie challenge was a wacky idea I had sometime around Christmas and fully formed when I saw a mother and her 3-year-oldish daughter taking selfies in the burger joint we were eating lunch at just before New Year’s. They caught my eye because they were having fun taking selfie after selfie, making funny faces. The girl reminded me of the silliness my 10-year-old daughter had back then… and honestly, still does. Then I thought about how awesome those selfies would be for them in a few years. How much I love the ones I took with my daughter over her years.
In the week plus that the challenge has been on, I have followed the hashtag over Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter and seen so much. One woman remarked that her 31 weeks pregnant pic made her realize she had not taken as many photos as she thought she did over her pregnancy. The challenge means a fully documented final month. Another woman posted a selfie, confessed she hated her limp hair and for recommendations on how to style it. After a healthy amount of comments, she is off to the stylist to get a cut that will flatter her. Teeth! I had no idea how many people rarely smiled because their teeth embarrass them – but they still have beautiful smiles. It should be no surprise that I note that lactivists have taken to the hashtag. Hell, they are pioneers in the #feministselfie field! One photo that touched me for its fierce courage was a photo of a fat woman sitting cross-legged in front of a mirror. Courage I still do not have.
While men are participating in the challenge, it is overwhelmingly women in the pool and it is awesome. I am sure someone has counted up how many times a day society and the media tell women that they are not good enough. From diet ads that play between songs on our commute to commercials for weight loss TV shows that I fast forward the DVR through, I know far too well where my body’s flaws are.
Last month I received a dress to review from an online shop. It did not fit me AT ALL. My first thought was, “Of course not, fat ass.” My daughter was excited to see how it fit, so I showed her and said, “It’s just not cut for my body.” I let my best friend have the dress who is about two sizes smaller than me. It did not fit her either. What started as a moment to fat-shame myself turned into a lesson on how some clothes are not made for every body. We are taught to believe if something does not fit, we are fat, versus finding a better-fitting piece of clothing.
What I have learned just two percent of the way through this challenge is that selfies are empowering for a lot of people, but in vastly different ways. The woman who looks perfect to you is worried about her nose. Perhaps selfies are only of someone’s face because they worry about their stomach. Yes, it is all corny, but it is also true.
Sure, there are people out there that take vapid selfies. But we cannot throw all selfies out with the bathwater. Because if Frida were alive today, she would so be the Selfie Queen. And van Gogh would filter the hell out of his selfies. Not all selfies are art, but they aren’t trash either.
To everyone who is participating, thank you. Thank you for thinking that my wacky idea was worth your time and effort. I am humbled to see so many smiling, crying, sad, worried, and laughing people on my phone every day. This past week has been overwhelming in so many ways.
Veronica I. Arreola
Viva la Feminista: http://www.VivalaFeminista.com