WHY THE WORLD NEEDS MORE UNFLATTERING PICTURES


I'm unsure what I love most about this picture.

Maybe I love it because I'm not smiling and that's a rare thing to capture in a photo. It could be because there are magnificent rolls and stretchmarks that are unapologetically visible. It's possible that I love it because it speaks to the sentiment that "I'm fatter in real life" which makes me grin. Or, perhaps it has to do with the fact that my hair looks fucking phenomenal. More than likely, it's a combination of all of the above.

Regardless, I adore this image and I'm thrilled that I can view it through such a loving lens.

In all honesty, this is exactly the kind of picture I would have immediately deleted when I first started blogging, but things have changed in the last five years. I was unaware that my partner snapped it during one of our porch hangouts and when he showed it to me... I was stunned at how beautiful I found both myself and the image. Instead of being repulsed by my authentic body, I was entranced. This was an unexpectedly  pivotal moment for me.

It's striking in it's black and white contrast, sure. But I also loved how few boxes it checked when it comes to what we collectively imagine when we talk about "flattering" photos.

Sonya Renee Taylor, who founded The Body Is Not an Apology (seriously visit this site if you haven't already and buy her goddamn book too!) has been posting "unflattering pictures" for years and now hundreds of people have joined in on this "Bad" Picture Monday challenge.

Her reasoning behind this concept is simple: "Shame is ugly. YOU ARE GORGEOUS."

The "Bad" Picture Monday site explains:

As you read this, 300,000 people on-line are untagging, deleting, burying deep in the recesses of the junk folder, pictures they consider “bad”. Social Networking has created a digital army of perfect smiles and brilliantly coiffed heads who all believe the only pictures that should be seen are the ones where we look “good”.  “Bad” Picture Monday reminds us that there is no “bad” way to inhabit a body
GUYS. I am a huge proponent of selfies

I encourage everyone to take them, post them, share them and repeat this process until the end of time. Many skeptics ask if this suggestion is actually perpetuating negative body image; causing obsession with likes and perfection instead of focusing on day to day empowerment.

Erin Tatum who wrote "Selfies and Misogyny: The Importance of Selfies as Self-Love" says:


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"Unsurprisingly, there’s no shortage of outcries from those who believe that selfies are emblematic of our collective cultural decay in a world oversaturated by social media. After all, they argue, does the world really need to see 10 photos of you posing in the mirror of a public bathroom? [...]
However, it’s not a coincidence that many of the unsavory personality traits associated with a selfie obsession – being superficial, vain, lazy, or desperate – are also commonly used as misogynistic insults against young girls.
You may think selfies are silly, but they actually reveal a lot about society’s continued tempestuous relationship with feminism."
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(I'll add: and with marginalized bodies as a whole)

So does selfie culture inherently harm us? Not necessarily.

The danger doesn't lie in the act of posting images of ourselves, but it can morph into something negative... it all depends on HOW we share them.

The harmful part of selfie culture can come from sharing pictures of ourselves that we alter before posting. I'm not talkin' about lighting or clarity, but of running them through Facetune or another app that distorts our appearance in a way that attempts to align us with our cultural standard of "beauty". Sharing those photos- the ones that aren't REALLY us? It's then that the likes and hearts reinforce that we aren't enough just as we are. That's a really shitty experience. Don't do that to yourself, okay?

But there IS other option and it can be life changing: when we share unedited, authentic and "real" photos of ourselves we are not only publicly saying "THIS IS ME WORLD, WHATCHA GONNA DO ABOUT IT?!?!" but additionally, any support that is given online reaffirms that our bodies are definitely okay the way they are. At the very least- we don't die of anticipated shame when sharing a body that we don't see praised in the media. That's a great experience in and of itself as well.

Of course, I'd love for our need of validation to disappear completely. But we're not there yet, and I'm okay with taking baby steps as we figure out social media and it's power.

It's important to remember that there is an even bigger outcome that comes from selfie culture: we are flooding the internet with our diversity. Companies are no longer the only ones dictating the bodies we see; we play a part in that narrative too. We are leading the body image conversation more than ever before. YAY, US!


BUT I ALSO WANT US TO TAKE IT ONE STEP FURTHER

I want more "unflattering" photos; not just unedited images. I want to see more I wanted to delete this SO HARD but I didn't and shared it instead photos. I want to see pictures that take a moment to contemplate before sharing... and then to see them posted anyways.

There is a surprising amount of empowerment and freedom in this. Erin continues:

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"The real anxiety with girls and selfies is that selfies might provide girls with the means to create their own positive image of themselves, thereby severely diluting the impact of outside opinion. 

If your confidence comes from within, you can’t be controlled as easily."

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I've made a point to try and share "trash-bin worthy" photos of myself since I began blogging. Posting double chins while jumping, cellulite highlighted on my legs, close-ups of my sideburns (courtesy of PCOS), nearly naked photo shoots captured by other photographers and other images that I've had to take a deep breath before hitting publish. Honesty was important to me, sure, but... it was more selfish than that. It was a visual way to personally shove shame aside and watch myself survive millions of people seeing my body as it is every day.

It's amazing how much braver you become with every "post" button you hit. I'm finding that with each step that I take outside my comfort zone, the bolder I become.

Which brings me back to the picture at the top of this post.

I present to you: my stomach covered in visible stretch marks. Rolls that form under a tight bra. My face without the "smile" that we often demand of women. My lack of "good-naturedness" that is expected from fat folx to compensate for our body size.

It's me, in a serious and candid moment. Here I am, just as I am. Offering this publicly and without an apology.

And now? Now it's your turn, my friend.


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ETA: Remember that the concept of flattering is a social construct- a term used to personally assess how closely we (or someone else) can match our cultural beauty standards. Those beauty standards by the way? Also a fabricated social construct. In short: fuck. Flattering.


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