Monday, January 6, 2014

The Campaign for Real Profile Pictures

Saw this article on mamapedia called I Hide When the Camera Comes Out. Ouch, did it strike a chord. So of course I'm guilty of this, and a lot of women I know are also. But we have good reason. The world has imprinted on us this dislike for our bodies, pressing it on us until we bear it like a fossil of all the women who came before us, women who were valued only if they were beautiful.

In fact, I would argue that it is socially unacceptable to be okay with having your picture taken if you are a woman. You are supposed to protest and hem and haw about how awful you look. It takes courage to just stand still and let someone snap the picture.

Like the author of the article, I have a mother who doesn't want her picture taken. And as she does, I grieve for the photographs of her that I lose because the world tells her to be ashamed of how she looks. I understand how she feels, and I do not blame her for it. I have felt the same way.

But beyond losing just pictures, I mourn because I don't want to just see images of my mother. I want to see her. Her warmth, her humor, her silly personality.  In many of her pictures, she simply looks blank or uncomfortable. She may have a forced smile at best. I long to see who she really is so that I can have it always.

So for myself, my children, and all the women who come after me, not only will I stop avoiding pictures, I will mug for the camera. I will laugh and scowl and wink, and I won't try to arrange my face into an expression that is least objectionable.

They will see me in sweats, with my hair askew, without makeup. I will not hide behind people or large objects. I will smile even if it makes my cheeks chubbier and my chin wobble. I will have an expression on my face! I will proudly take selfies. I will show myself. I don't want to just accept being photographed, I want to revel in it. The world should know my weirdness.

I don't expect it to be easy. I have a lifetime of inhibitions to overcome. But I'm kinda looking forward to breaking through the discomfort and seeing who I really am through the lens of a camera.

My son is graduating from high school this year, and I want to be in as many pictures as I can. Maybe I will photobomb the graduating class. I just want to be remembered for who I was instead of as another woman stunned into a painful expression by a camera.

P.S. I will also be changing my carefully selected, when-I-weighed-about 50-pounds-less profile picture into something that more reflects the real me. I also am starting The Campaign for Real Profile Pictures. If you are tired of avoiding the camera, I challenge you to put up a photo that reflects the real you. It doesn't have to be your best or your worst picture, it just has to be you on that day - peaceful, angry, smirking, sad, playful, hysterical, laughing - just make it one that you look at and recognize yourself.