”Did Sarah do something to her face? Check out her latest Insta,” my friend Jasmine messaged to our group chat.
I tapped to Sarah’s most recent selfie and sure enough, her eyes were bigger, her face narrower, her skin smoother, her teeth whiter, her waist smaller.
Yes, Sarah had done something to her face. She had edited it.
Sarah had edited her face.
Discouraged, I informed my group chat of FaceTune, a popular photo editing app that allows you to change virtually everything about your appearance — from the shape of your face to the size of your thighs to the color of your skin. It’s photoshop on your phone.
It’s misogyny in your phone.
There was a time when we criticized the media for photoshopping images. Remember that? It wasn’t too long ago. Outraged with the “unrealistic ideals,” we went to great lengths to explain to impressionable girls and women “It’s not real!” We blamed the editors, the industry, the patriarchy. Dove had a campaign. Someone made a documentary. Abhorred, women banded together shouting “This is not okay!”
A decade later, we’ve joined editors in airbrushing our flaws and flattening our stomachs. And in doing so, we perpetuate our own oppression: we actively participate in the disempowering practice of erasing imperfections and fusing our self-worth with appearance. And on social media, it’s arguably even more dangerous: consumers are still under the impression social media is “real” (LOL!), and I don’t see many “This photo has been FaceTuned” disclaimers out there.
Most women aren’t consciously perpetuating misogyny by whittling their waists and enlarging their eyes. And thus my intention here is not to shame; it’s to educate. And liberate. And maybe infuriate (a little).
Let’s take a moment to talk about power. Or in this case, the dissolution of it: When we edit our selfies, we take away our fellow women’s power in two ways: first, we undermine their confidence. We send them the message that they are not good enough; that they are not okay in their current form. That if they speak up, their voice will not be heard. Second, we divert their time, energy, focus, and dollars from matters of substance to matters of their appearance.
Disempowering women through media isn’t a new phenomenon. After all, the beauty, fashion, diet, and “wellness” industries make hundreds of billions of dollars abusing us into believing we’re not good enough, then selling us a solution to our self-loathing.
So from the time we’ve been aware of our appearances, we’ve learned to self-objectify. We’ve learned our value lies in our skin and our lips and our weight and our bra size and our uterus and our relationship status.
In one week, a man who’s made countless misogynistic remarks about women’s appearance will take office. A man who’s bragged about sexual assault will become the leader of the free world. Ladies, Trump wants us to edit our selfies. Trump wants us to believe we’re not good enough as we are ― that we should put your energy into our appearance and not into changing the world. Why? Because it keeps us distracted. It keeps us disempowered. It keeps us oppressed.
I’m not asking you to stop wearing makeup or stand up to diet culture or stop doing what makes you feel confident in real life. I’m asking you to stop being reckless with what you post on social media. I’m asking you to stop photoshopping yourself for your followers. I’m asking you to stop relinquishing your power and turning away from opportunities to create change.
I’m asking you to post a goddamn imperfect photo of yourself.