11/24/2013 05:53 pm ET Updated Jan 24, 2014

No Tears, Just a Selfie: A Response

Selfie. The word carries so much weight, towers over so many other words, and infiltrates so many of our lives that we ignore how ridiculous and juvenile the word of the year sounds. Selfie, something so prevalent that numerous bloggers have had to respond to its reality (this is my second post about selfies), TV personalities discuss them, and even academics have begun to write about selfies, but what so many -- particularly bloggers -- do wrong is they try to flatten the selfie into one simple easily identifiable thing.

Selfies on their own are neither good nor bad; they do not only signify narcissism nor do they signal a need to be praised, nor are they innocent images of altruism. To know what a selfie is one should perhaps ask the photographer; granted that is not always possible so perhaps one should look at a string of a person's selfies (who takes just one?) and see if a larger narrative emerges (after all, who goes to an art show that has only one picture?). When we take selfies, we act as photographer, editor, and curator of our lives, and our reasons for doing so vary.

I wrote about my reasons for taking a selfie on my blog Blaqueer in a "Fat Boi Diaries" piece and I received an overwhelming response of support for my selfies -- support I never asked for but received because, here I am speculating, so often we read about people shaming taking selfies but rarely do we read about why some of us take them. It is so popular to talk negatively about those who take selfies that it is cliche and lazy. To be purely celebratory of the selfie is also lazy and often plays into our culture's 15 minute obsession.

When writing about selfies we should specify what type of selfie we are writing about (surely selfies taken by women and queers of color to show that they are here function differently than say welfie or a drelfie); we should also own up to our own positions in the world (are you someone whose picture is always taken by others because if so you may not have grounds for criticizing certain types of selfies), and while we should discuss how selfies can lead toward increasing the objectification of people's bodies (particularly women's bodies), we should not forgot the author of the selfie. In this case the author is not dead and can be creating space for themselves. And in this case the selfie is not a "cry for help" but rather a demand of ownership: I own how you look at me, how I will be represented; I own this space; I will direct your gaze how I want; I will show you that I am here; I am not asking for visibility, I am taking it. The selfie may be a cry for recognition: see that I am here; see that I exist; see that I am queer and happy, black and beautiful, fat and alive; see that I am trying.

A selfie may just be a picture that is posted because, fuck it, I look good today, and no, looking good is not the most important thing about a person but sometimes it is nice to see it, to feel it, to say it, and show it because for some of us the journey to the camera button has been long and arduous and damn it, pressing it is a victory and sharing that photo can be courageous.