Content Warnings for: online abuse, threatening behaviour, body shaming, discussion of weight
Lindsay Bottos, ‘Anonymous’ (2014)
Modern feminism has placed great emphasis not only on the importance of self-love with tags like #bodyposi and #blackout trending every day, but on giving marginalised individuals a spotlight from which to shine and speak out about their experiences.
Unfortunately. despite the rise in these feminist attitudes, as Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says in her TEDx talk ‘We Should All Be Feminists’, girls still :
“… see each other as competitors —
not for jobs or for accomplishments,
which I think can be a good thing,
but for the attention of men.”
Young girls and boys are introduced to certain negative practices very early on in their adolescence. Concepts like ‘bitching’, ‘who wore it best?’ and even sex-shaming are rife among many different media, the majority of which focus on a woman’s appearance or behaviour. Studies have shown that young girls are severely affected by the media’s portrayal of beauty ‘ideals’. Sadly, their self-esteem is also all too often damaged by women much closer to home. If peers and relatives hold just as much prejudice and even engage in such bullying because of it, then they are no better than an oppressor. When children view these women of authority in their lives commenting on other women’s appearances or behaviours, they believe that these practices are right and will emulate this negativity.
In the digital age, so much of what we do and who we are can feel validated by the amount of likes or comments it gains. The way to break the chain of perpetuating insecurities is therefore by doing something simple, beautiful and inspiring. Taking a ‘selfie’ can be an incredibly empowering thing. Regardless of how many attempts to get the lighting right, outfits or products you try out or how many images end up being deleted, noone can deny that a ‘good’ selfie makes us feel good. This is a really valuable and worthwhile practice. To glean some self-love from a photograph, no matter how little, is an amazing feeling and to achieve that within a culture that constantly tries to mock and belittle people, particularly women? That’s powerful.
It is important however to remember that it only takes one comment to shatter that self-esteem, one that may have taken years and a lot of courage to cultivate.
Artist and photographer Lindsay Bottos created a project called ‘Anonymous’ last year when she grew tired of receiving negative messages online, most of which were left nameless. Many of the spiteful comments made to her focused on her appearance and the selfies she had posted.
Lindsay said about the project:
“The act of women taking selfies is inherently feminist, especially in a society that tries so hard to tell women that our bodies are projects to be worked on and a society that profits off of the insecurities that it perpetuates. Selfies are like a ‘fuck you’ to all of that, they declare that ‘hey I look awesome today and I want to share that with everyone’ and that’s pretty revolutionary.” (Source: Buzzfeed)
So how do selfies apply to being a good feminist or feminist ally? In the same way that one negative comment or piece of writing can destroy someone’s self esteem, one positive one can perhaps build or even create confidence in that individual. What ‘Anonymous’ shows is only one side of the power of social media but if anything it demonstrates a need for an opposing force. one that raises people up and encourages them to believe in themselves.
A few seconds out of your day to tell a colleague, family member or perhaps even just an online follower something good about themselves or what they are posting can really make their day, and you are doing so in a world that may be telling them that who they are and what they do isn’t good enough.
Showing that hate-filled messages are all too common on the internet and emphasising how truly inappropriate it is, Lindsay is working on a follow-up project this year (cw: possibly NSFW) detailing the backlash she received after ‘Anonymous’ went viral. You can keep up to date with all of her work on her tumblr blog.
What do you think, are selfies an empowering and feminist practice?
Is anon hate linked to the media and beauty ‘ideals’?
Let me know in the comments below!