Why I use #prettygirl on my selfies
So I’ve been mulling over how to respond to the above post I happened upon a few days ago. My first reactions were shock and then anger, as it was on a fellow queer femme feminist’s blog, who had just previously posted about a group of high school girls rebelling against a sexist high school Valentine’s Day game. But there were a lot more emotions than that and it’s taken me this long to really sift through them.
What I really felt was shame. This short, quippy one-liner made me feel shameful for calling myself pretty.
Very recently, I started tagging my selfies with #prettygirl at the suggestion of a friend. We were taking pictures and when deciding what to tag it with, she said, “Pretty girl.” I was surprised and asked, “Why?” and she said, “Because you are.” Let me repeat that. I was surprised.
I’m 22, have been told all my life I’m beautiful and I should try being a model, and yet, most days I’m still insecure about the way I present myself in the world.
And that’s the crux of my discomfort with this post. Women are constantly bombarded by impossible beauty standards and expectations from a very, very young age. These messages are so strong and overwhelming that some Tumblrs feel the need to apologize for even posting a picture of themselves, even if they fit conventional beauty standards. Just look at tags like #sorryfortheface. So what does it say when someone who is supposed to be on our side of the battle instead wounds us in the most subtle and lingering of ways, shame?
It’s an act of bravery to call myself beautiful even on the days I don’t believe it. And there are many days I don’t. By posting selfies and tagging them how I want to be read, I’m claiming space for self-confidence, body-love, and feeling okay with imperfection.
When we label ourselves as beautiful without waiting for the comments to assure us of that, the typical “You look gorgeous!” or “So pretty!”, the response shouldn’t be to shame or make fun of it. And to imply that there is a age cutoff for when we transform from insecure, self-discovering young people to confident, self-sufficient adults who have no need to tag “pretty” because they already know they are beautiful, is a very privileged, judgemental stance.
While the selfie is now a social media staple, I’m sure there’s many, including my parents, who believe taking self portraits is an act of narcissism, an over-obsession with oneself. I choose to look at it as a revolutionary act of self-care and self-discovery—and looking at how many lovely faces greet me every time I open my Dashboard, I know I’m not the only one.
I also know there are feminist arguments that we should completely abandon claiming or discussing “beauty” at all, since it will always be fraught with sexist, racist, ableist expectations. I understand these, and would love to hop on the bandwagon, except that in my life as I live it now, “beautiful” and it’s sisters “gorgeous,” “pretty,” “stylish,” and “lovely” have very real weight that I can either let bow me down, or use myself to build me up. It’s me being my own cheerleader. Not asking for attention. Not being narcissistic. I call myself a #prettygirl not because I’m insecure, but in spite of it.