A Selfie By Any Other Name Would Be Just as Despised…

It’s remarkable how many news articles and magazine features seem to need to crowbar into their story something discussing selfies. It seems to be regarded as a guaranteed way of getting readers’ attention – particularly if the article is bemoaning some kind of dreadful new selfie-related behaviour (kids getting head lice ‘due to selfies’ being one of my favourite recent stories), and then enables readers to chime in with their own stories of selfie-hatred and disdain for Those Types of People. A trend I’ve noticed over the past few months is the habit of coining new selfie-related terms, so I thought I’d make a list:

Belfie: perhaps the original variant, meaning a selfie of one’s behind. Articles about this new term and trend are a great excuse to collect numerous images of bottoms.

Delfie: a photograph of a man’s genitals.

Elfie: the person who takes a selfie-like photograph of the subject on their behalf.

Felfie: a selfie taken by a farmer. Hailed by some journalists as a valuable means for countering the problems of isolation some farmers face as part of rural life.

Gelfie: a selfie in the gym. Viewed as the ultimate in narcissism, yet to me this displays a type of honesty that is missing from other similar images of the self. To look like this, the images states, I had to work hard. Visibly working on one’s appearance, however, is often cause for ridicule – one need only look at the fashion for ‘natural beauty’, and the mockery of ‘fakeness’ to see how artifice must be concealed and denied. The gym selfie is therefore a rejection of the coercion to hide this effort, this deliberate transformation – “I didn’t wake up like this” it says “I had to do something about it”.

Melfie: either an image of a mother, or a male subject.

Nelfie: a nude selfie – which, as I’m writing in my thesis at the moment, is arguably the most logical of all selfies, in that it embodies the coercion to speak of one’s sexuality as a core component of the ‘truth’ of one’s identity (Foucault, 1978). Additionally, it is a response to and acknowledgement of postfeminist rhetoric which defines empowerment in relation to sexual confidence. Helfie: a photograph focusing on the subject’s hair.

Pelfie: an image of one’s pet (so not strictly a selfie at all, but just a way to draw attention what you’re doing), or a photograph of oneself eating a pie.

Shelfie: another early variant, this time as a rejection of photographing one’s face, in favour of one’s bookshelf. The binary opposition between appearance and intellect is reinscribed with pride, and the shelfie-taker has managed to present their identity for social validation without making themselves vulnerable to criticism. Performs the same role as selfies, but pretends that it’s better.

Refie: an image with a member of royalty, or taken whilst running.

Telfie: images either taken on the toilet, or with a tractor.

Velfie: a short video clip of oneself.

Welfie: either a workout selfie, or a term to denote someone who takes a lot of selfies.

These terms not only reflect a wish to define specific activities – if it were only that, we would have special words for other types of photography too. Instead, these cutesy terms contribute to the overall mockery of selfies, by establishing it as a photographic practice in which fads are so abundant that neologisms are required simply to keep track. The ultimate test of this is quite simple: read out any of these definitions to someone and note their reaction. Laughter at these terms, and a roll of the eyes, is a means for ratifying and joining in with the more generalised attack on young women’s photographic practice. “A ‘Belfie’ you say? Ha! What silly thing will they think of next?”

 

 

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