The term “selfie” first appeared on an Australian website in 2002. Since then, this form of photography, self expression and sometimes silliness has taken over social media. People can take these sort of self-portraits in any mood. After taking the photo, people can choose to do whatever they want with it: they can send it to a friend, keep it for themselves, delete it, or post it on social media. If they choose to post it, they have even more options! Captions, filters, even emojis: we can portray ourselves however we feel in the moment thanks to the selfie. Never before have people, especially women, had so much control over how they are portrayed. The selfie gives modern women a great advantage in finding and expressing their identities.
I asked a few friends to submit selfies that made them feel confident and beautiful, and I loved the results. Each girl interpreted this task in her own way. I was happy to see that my friends looked bright, beautiful, and proud, but I was even more thrilled to hear what they texted me about the experience. “I actually really loved this,” shared one friend. “It forced me to go go through my camera roll and pick something I really liked and it turns out I had multiple!” Girls today aren’t limited by how other people choose to portray them. We can find pleasing ways to express who we truly are, even if just through a simple selfie.
Rowan Blanchard, a young actress, commented on the power that the selfie can have in modern female expression. In an interview for Coach, she explains, “I love when a girl takes a selfie in public, she’s literally in control of how she wants to look and how she wants to be portrayed. There’s such power in that.” Blanchard goes on to explain that women have too long been portrayed solely by men, and the selfie opens up the platform for women to take ownership of their own images.
As teenagers, we are surrounded by strict beauty standards that are nearly impossible to achieve. I used to frustrate myself by comparing my beauty to the beauty of the women and girls around me wondering: “Am I pretty enough?” I did not look like the beauty standards that I saw in magazines and movies. Over time, I’ve changed my attitude about my own beauty. Instead of wondering if my appearance will live up to my friends or to the actresses on TV, I see selfies as a way to inspire others to focus more on our unique beauty and less on beauty standards. By being unapologetic in self love, I am able to take small steps towards a more feminist future where girls are not shamed for feeling beautiful in their own skin, and where a woman’s portrayal is not dictated by men. So who owns the portrayal of woman today? The power lies in the pen, the voice and yes, even the iPhone.