Hang on guys, I’m about to get deep and meaningful on the topic of selfies.
What is a selfie? Why do people take and post selfies? Is it empowering to take selfies? And why do people immediately criticise Kim Kardashian’s motivation for her revealing selfies when a male doing the exact same thing won’t incite the same kind of controversy?
Senft and Baym (2015) deems (I never expected to read a journal article telling me what a selfie is) the concept of the ‘selfie’ to be a:
“a photographic object that initiates the transmission of human feeling in the form of a relationship (between photographer and photographed, between image and filtering software, between viewer and viewed, between individuals circulating images, between users and social software architectures, etc.)”
Last year, Kim Kardashian posted a selfie to her Twitter account. The only thing covering her were black censor bars. As expected, this caused a wave of criticism to flood her way. She was attacked for being a bad example for her children, called narcissistic and attention-seeking, and a torrent of other names that an influential woman in the public eye would be used to seeing in their comment section.
Kim Kardashian got to where she is for owning her sexuality, that’s what her whole brand is based upon. So it should come as no surprise that she would post a nude selfie to show off her fit body not long after having her second child. She’s happy and confident, so what’s the issue?
Society has a big problem with double-standards, especially when it comes to women. Why are women slut-shamed for showing skin whilst a man is praised for exuding confidence for doing the exact same thing? In 2015, designed Marc Jacobs accidently posted a private picture to his Instagram account. Jacobs laughed it off. And so did the public. His photo wasn’t met with condemnation. But when the celebrity iCloud nude photo hack in 2014 happened, victims such as Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton were attacked for the existence of these photos in the first place, nevermind that the photographs were sent between consenting partners in private and the fact some creep hacked into their accounts with countless other creeps now scanning the web for the leaked photos. It always seems like it’s the woman’s fault though they are the victim of criminal behaviour.
It is interesting to compare the reaction to Kim Kardashian’s nude selfie that she willingly posted and the reaction to the nude photo hack. Both condemned the actions of the women taking the photos. One was willingly posted and one was posted without consent – same backlash.
MOTIVATIONS AND BRANDING
Why would someone want to post a selfie? I think to do so, you need some level of confidence. You are effectively putting yourself on show for everyone to see. Whilst I don’t judge people who are happy to do so (except those who take a photo in their bathroom with the toilet in the frame?? I will never understand), it’s not something I particularly feel comfortable doing myself. I don’t have an Instagram account and the photos on my Facebook page are pretty much made up from friend’s uploads and my snaps from holidays (no bathroom selfies for me).
For someone who has built a following for simply posting on their social media, they need to create a persona appeals to their fanbase. In essence, they brand themselves to influence follow to partake in the lifestyle that they are selling. Companies have found how influential these people can be and use them to advertise their products, like the subtle example below of Teen Mom 2’s star Chelsea Houska.
In a sense, when we use online platforms we brand ourselves in the way we want those who follow us to see us as, regardless if there is money involved or not.
In our tutorial this week, we were asked if Kim Kardashian’s nude selfie can be classified as ‘feminist’. The way I see it, she isn’t hurting anyone and she posted the image of her own accord. Whilst it is not something I would do, all the power to her. If that makes her feel empowered, then good on her. The negativity that stemmed from the photograph comes from people who think that women can’t make choices based on their best interests – this goes for both men and women. The more a selfie that shows the female form creates backlash, it emphasises why the post was necessary in the first place. The selfies, in general, don’t hurt anyone.
Rutledge, P.B 2013, Branding with Selfies, Psychology Today, weblog post, 24 November, viewed 11 March 2017, <https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/positively-media/201311/branding-selfies>
Bonnington, C. and Katzowitz, J. (2015). The sexist double standard of leaked celebrity nudes. [online] The Daily Dot. Available at: https://www.dailydot.com/via/marc-jacobs-bieber-john-legend-nude-photos [Accessed 11 Mar. 2017].
Senft, T.M & Baym, N.K 2015, What does the Selfie Say? Investigating a Global Phenonmenon, International Journal of Communication, vol. 9, pp. 1588-1606
Bonnington, C. and Katzowitz, J. (2015). The sexist double standard of leaked celebrity nudes. [online] The Daily Dot. Available at: https://www.dailydot.com/via/marc-jacobs-bieber-john-legend-nude-photos/ [Accessed 11 Mar. 2017].