There’s a bunch of posts circling social media. They aren’t new. The sentiment isn’t new. But the approach is new because times have changed. So what are the posts? It’s men mimicking how women take selfies on social media. And they’re as funny as heck. Well, right up until you deconstruct them. Then they become yet another way that men shame women.
You’ve probably seen the posts and maybe you’ve even laughed at them yourself. Men making duck faces with their head cocked to the side. Men holding the camera high as they pose, hand girlishly on hip. Oh so funny when men do these things because it’s so funny when women do these things.
This isn’t new. To get a laugh, men have always donned a flower apron and picked up a feather duster. Or mimicked the sway of a woman’s hips when she walks in heels and a pencil skirt. Or made a point to effeminately stick up their pinkie finger when someone hands them a tea cup or a martini glass. And don’t forget how they mimic how women talk. Simpering. Wheedling. Breathless. Vapid. It never gets tired.
Still not sure what I’m talking about? Google “men mimicking women.” You’ll get page after page of funny (*funny*) pictures of men taking pictures of themselves in the way that women do. Because I know there is always that one person who says, “well the women do it,too,” I invite you to do a second google search: women mimicking men. The results, in case you’re curious, are the same results as if you had searched for “men mimicking women.” Apparently women engage in “reverse sexism” (whatever that is) so infrequently, google doesn’t acknowledge it in their search results.
Think I’m being all sensitive? Ask yourself this: if you swapped “women” with any other equity seeking group, how would those photos look? What would “white people mimicking black people” look like? Is it still funny? How about “straight men mimicking gay men”? Is it still a knee slapper? Anyone want to turn their Instagram into a place where we can all have a good laugh at how ridiculous any equity-seeking group looks when they are live within their tightly defined culture?
Now ask yourself which scenario is funnier: plantation owners mimicking slaves in the cotton field OR slaves mimicking plantation owners cracking the whip? Which would have got someone killed for insubordination?
Because this is the real issue: the photos the men are taking belittle our culture and maintain the power imbalance. These aren’t pictures of men feeling sexy in a dress. These are pictures of men mocking women feeling sexy in a dress. It’s not ok. It’s a power play that can only be done when the master reminds his inferiors of their place, that his behaviour is the only acceptable culture. That “normal” is what is defined by the winners, not the losers, in the pecking order game.
So what can we do about it? If you’re a woman, keep taking your photos. Positive body image is a struggle for women as a culture, so keep showing what it means to feel strong, beautiful, and free. Other women need to see it so they can have permission to eventually feel it. Your photos are your art, regardless of who the subject is. You have the right to express your vision of beauty and to feel proud when you achieve it.
As for the men. Stop mocking us. It’s disgraceful and it weakens you. Strong arm power plays are not funny.
And for all of us, when you see these photos, don’t repost them. Don’t participate in a shaming culture. It’s not entertaining to the women who learned that posting their first pretty selfie makes them vulnerable.