Selfies as Practices of Care-Taking (and Giving)
Keywords:Selfies, Care, LGBTQI , Fat Activism, Body positivity, Neoliberal, Participatory Research
Research on selfies finds that negative feedback in comments and the currency of likes reinforce and police dominant feminine or masculine beauty ideals, including binary gender ideals. For example, Döring et al. (2016) analysed 500 Instagram selfies to explore if they conform to gender stereotypes as identified in Erving Goffman’s 1976 Gender Advertisements. The study revealed that gender stereotypical behaviours found in adverts are repeated in selfies, and that some of the behaviours feature in selfies more frequently than in magazine adverts. The prevalence of dominant beauty ideals in selfies is demonstrated in #bodypositivity and #curvyfit posts that tend to depict slender female and muscular male bodies (Webb et al, 2017). However, selfies are an important mode of self-presentation. Research on queer and fat activist selfies has highlighted their role in enhancing visibility, raising awareness of oppression and challenging stereotypes. In research with trans and gender-fluid Tumblr users, Vivienne (2017) found positive comments on selfies helped promote body acceptance and that users viewed trans and gender-fluid selfies as defying industries that promote binary beauty ideals and capitalise on consumer’s insecurities. In my book Consuming the Body: Capitalism, Social Media and Commodification I argue that fat activist selfies challenge dominant modes of self-presentation and looking. This paper will draw on my research into selfie taking practices, and also a participatory research project around queering the gender binary (Bois of Isolation co-produced with Dr AC Davidson) to identify methods of producing creative selfies that evade commoditisation and discipline (#EmpoweringPresence, new project), and consider selfie taking and sharing as practices of care.
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