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Operation Flawless: Selfies against Big Beauty

In case you’ve forgotten, a couple of months ago, Erin Gloria Ryan of Jezebel wrote a ridiculous article declaring selfies to be a “cry for help” and the ultimate anti-feminist act. Our own Surly Amy responded, schooling Ryan on the importance of self-portraits throughout history.

Selfies give us the power to control the way the world sees us. We show ourselves at our best. We show the world that THIS is how we see ourselves. This is how we want to be seen. This is who we are. We are able to filter out the moments we don’t want them to see. And we can carefully manage our image, setting the standards for how we are seen.

And because of that, selfies can also be a powerful tool for women who want to change the way the world tells us we should be seen. We can use selfies to call bullshit on the expectations put upon women to look and behave properly. We can take images of ourselves that defy the current standards of beauty and femininity. And we can use those images to tell everyone that we are not afraid to be less than perfect. To admit that we are flawed and to own that. To embrace the moments where we refuse to or “fail” to achieve conventional beauty.

I am a woman who has spent most of her life being embarrassed and ashamed of my body, the way it moves and the way it looks. I’ve written about how I will never ever love my body, despite regular reminders that if I can’t love my body, I can never be happy and I can never love myself.

That, my friends, is simply untrue. While I do struggle with loving myself at times—I think we all do—I still accept that I have a lot of greatness to offer. I’m smart. I’m insightful. I’m funnier than anyone else you know. I’m powerful. I’m strong. Instead of focusing on loving my body, I choose to focus on loving who I am.

But while I am dissatisfied with my body, the fact remains that I am still considered conventionally beautiful. And I know this. And I take steps to ensure that the world sees that about me. I use makeup to enhance that. I wear clothes that make me look like my body isn’t a hot mess of disgusting hanging, puckered, and wrinkled excess skin and stretch marks, but rather a body with pleasing proportions. I like looking good. I like the benefits of it. I like the attention it brings me. I’ve been groomed my entire life to understand that being beautiful is always a fight worth winning. It’s a fight worth dying for. Beauty. Is. Everything.

So while I benefit from from being born with genes that gave me an aesthetically pleasing face, when I flaunt that, it hurts other women. Other women are fighting to achieve the standards others set for them, many women are failing. Not because they’re doing anything wrong, but because the standards in and of themselves are bullshit. We don’t get to pick our faces. We don’t get to pick our bodies. We work within the confines of what we were born with, and without fail, it leaves us feeling like we are lacking.

Because of this, I’ve used the internet to sometimes show myself in ways that are unattractive. Sometimes silly. Sometimes simply being makeupless.

But I feel like I can do more. I feel like we can use the selfie to combat expectations. We can use it to control our images but maybe we should use it to unabashedly show ourselves. Shameless. And flawed. Stand up and declare that our flaws are what make us beautiful, and not the work we do to visually appease others.

For the next month, I will be doing a selfie project I’m calling #OperationFlawless (a reference to Beyonce’s feminist anthem “Flawless” which declares “I woke up like this, flawless”) where I will be taking a selfie of exactly how “flawless” I look when I wake up in the morning. I will be photographing myself in bed, however I look. I will also be sprinkling in other photos of myself in less-than-flawless form.


And I encourage you to join me. Let’s tell society that we are comfortable enough with ourselves that they cannot shame us into only projecting the images of us that they want to see. The ones that we think we control, but are really a submission to oppressive beauty standards that hurt to hold ourselves and others up to.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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