© 2023 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Selfies In 2015: A Woman Thing?

Art imitates life in this 2015 addition to London's Madame Tussauds: a wax figure of Kim Kardashian, taking a selfie — naturally.
Tabatha Fireman
Getty Images
Art imitates life in this 2015 addition to London's Madame Tussauds: a wax figure of Kim Kardashian, taking a selfie — naturally.

In 2015, the selfie rage did not taper. And we learned something interesting about the "art form," as some might call it. It appears to be dominated, and shaped, by women.

The five most popular people on Instagram are women. Kim Kardashian (ranked No. 2 after Taylor Swift) came out with the first book dedicated to selfies (hers). And a debate brewed over what the selfie says about females.

"I think girls, to be honest, they take a lot of nude selfies," said Kim Kardashian, talking with Jimmy Kimmel, about her new book, Selfish (replete with boob and butt shots). "Some of them, you know, I'll look back and think, 'Why did I complain about feeling fat? I liked the way I looked then.' It's taught me to be a little easier on myself."

Kardashian also came out endorsing the selfie stick, which, she argues, by taking pictures from farther away, makes you look skinnier.

Comedian Amy Schumer trashed the stick.

"Selfie sticks are the most disgusting development that human beings have made in a long [time]. I'm so infuriated when I see someone with a selfie stick," she told Vanity Fair.

Schumer also released a music video and hashtag, #GirlYouDontNeedMakeUp, encouraging fans to post skin that's bare in a different way. Another selfie campaign, #ILookLikeAnEngineer, encouraged young women in tech to show that there are ... young women in tech.

One of the most prominent public selfie-shaming moments, too, fell on women. At an Arizona Diamondbacks game, sportscasters Steve Berthiaume and Bob Brenly mocked a group of sorority sisters who were posing for pics instead of watching the game. The video got nearly 53 million views.

In this uncut version of the video, however, you can see a key, but omitted, detail: Right before the sportscasters roasted the selfie sisters, fans were asked to take selfies as part of a commercial promotion.

Even in academia, selfie mentions are on a steady uptick. About 2,000 scholarly articles referenced the concept this year, according to Google Scholar, and many of the papers examine women's self-representation, with titles like " Virtual Lactivism: Breast-feeding Selfies and the Performance of Motherhood."

Really, Men Aren't As Into It?

And so the question arises: Are selfies really a woman thing, or do men do it, too — just without the same scrutiny?

In November, some men weighed in. In a satirical video called " Instagram Husbands," they shared horror stories of being turned into human selfie sticks by wives or girlfriends.

NPR tracked down the man behind this viral video, Jeff Houghton. And he says he limits himself to about five selfies a year.

"For me it just kind of feels weird to take pictures of myself," Houghton says.

But when asked to take out his phone and go through his photo gallery, the picture changes.

It turns out he took a selfie with his son building a Lego tower just a couple of days ago. Then another, at a new boutique hotel, of himself in a bathroom, "with good lighting," he points out. Before that one, "someone at work had a selfie stick and I took a picture."

As he keeps scrolling, the Instagram Husband comes to a realization: "I bet I'm going over my five per year idea. ... You busted me."

Terri Senft, a media scholar at New York University, says we still do not know, in any rigorous way, if selfies really are more of a woman thing.

"If you counted, for instance, every group party shot or every shot from a GoPro camera or every shot that includes some kind of extreme sports or guys playing instruments, I actually think you'd find a relative parity," she says.

Senft says it could be men and women are both into it — maybe just in different ways.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Aarti Shahani is a correspondent for NPR. Based in Silicon Valley, she covers the biggest companies on earth. She is also an author. Her first book, Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares (out Oct. 1, 2019), is about the extreme ups and downs her family encountered as immigrants in the U.S. Before journalism, Shahani was a community organizer in her native New York City, helping prisoners and families facing deportation. Even if it looks like she keeps changing careers, she's always doing the same thing: telling stories that matter.