A selfie isn’t a form of protest, it’s a form of narcissism

20 March 2014

3:20 PM

20 March 2014

3:20 PM

How to protest these days? You can’t rely on our music industry to kick out a good protest song, and the film industry does a pretty feeble job. So once again, it’s down to the people. In the past few years, we’ve seen a couple of examples of how Generation Y protest: Case Study 1: The 2011 riots. Case Study 2: The 2010 tuition fees protest. Quite old school in style, and not hugely effective, but both at least showed there was still some fire in the belly of Britain’s yoof.

There’s a new case study to add to the Generation Y protest list. 3: The Selfie Protest, or SelfRighty, as I call it. It’s bloody simple, and perhaps therein lies its supposed ‘brilliance’. You can protest, without even getting out of bed. Very John Lennon. All it requires is a smartphone, yourself, and some vague political message.

In the past year, we’ve seen various examples of the SelfRighty in action. Feminist factions commandeered it for the ‘Who Needs Feminism’ campaign, in which lots of people explained why they really needed the movement. In reality, what most of them actually needed was a good haircut and some whoopee. But I digress.

An 'I Need Feminism' selfie

An ‘I Need Feminism’ selfie


We then saw it in action for the #StandbyMe protest, in which students in Sheffield protested government policy on immigration. Friends of different nationalities took selfies together, to show just how forward thinking they were by befriending people who didn’t look exactly like them.

Friends sans Frontières (Photo: The University of Sheffield

Friends sans Frontières (Photo: The University of Sheffield)

The SelfRighty then moved to Oxford for the ‘I, too, am Oxford’ movement.  Wanting to raise awareness about racial prejudice at the university, a number of students took selfies of themselves carrying handwritten signs with messages saying things like ‘No, I’m not on a scholarship from Africa’. This act of ‘bravery’ was met by a countermovement of students keen to disprove the idea that racial prejudice existed at the university. Damn straight.

A countermovement by 'We Are All Oxford' (Photo:

A countermovement by ‘We Are All Oxford’ (Photo:

And then this week, the SelfRighty was deployed again. In fact, it’s still being deployed. Type in #nomakeupselfie into Twitter, and you will find girls posting pictures of themselves not wearing makeup. Presumably this is an act of bravery because they are normally caked in the stuff. They are trying to raise awareness of cancer, which is something to be applauded. What’s not to be applauded though is how this form of protest is essentially a vanity movement.

A brave #nomakeupselfie (Photo: Tegustaaa)

A brave #nomakeupselfie (Photo: Tegustaaa)

Using a selfie to protest something is not brave. Maybe the first person to do it was brave, but it has quickly become hackneyed, and smacks of narcissism. It is about I, not We. The pretense is ‘we’re all in this together’, but that’s obvious drivel. Posting a photo of your makeup-free pout, or you, set against the glorious Oxford cityscape, with a soft-effect filter on, may make you feel better about yourself, but does it really help your cause? It raises awareness, sure – but awareness of yourself. That’s it. It’s frustrating that people seem to think it’s doing anything else.

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Show comments
  • pheebee

    I think a selfie can definitely be used as a form of protest. Adding your face to a movement on social media is probably just as effective as adding your name to a petition.

  • Marie Louise Noonan

    No. I’ve changed my mind. Lara knows exactly what she is talking about:

    She’s quite a babe, actually.

  • AZ

    This blog post is the second most stupid and jealous rant I’ve read since Randa Jarrar’s “outrage” about non-Arab white women belly dancing.
    A protest like this earned me death threats and whatnot. These things work and the author is clearly ignorant of the impact of social media and internet which gives a platform to the previously unheard. It gives you a way to COME OUT and BE COUNTED. The author is just a kid who can’t see beyond her little bubble.

  • Amanda

    This article is intended to be satirical right? It must be. No one would actually publish the opinion that “The validity of a woman’s statement is dependent on the state of her hair.” unless it was a joke.

  • pheebee

    Those female protestors might have something to say about suggesting they just need a “good haircut and some whoopee” In other words just look nice and put out. Nice one Lara

  • jamie

    kudos to you Lara Prendergast. don’t mind the begrudgers! they’re all offended and butthurt because you have A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT TAKE ON THE MATTER. (which is exactly what you’d expect from narcissists anyways.)

  • Adam

    Lara Prendergast should feel pretty embarrassed about this artice once she has seen how much awareness the “#NoMakeUpSelfie” trend has raised, and how much it has really helped its intended causes. I think it is pretty pathetic to dig so hard at something that is not only trying, but succeeding in doing good. It’s a simple and effective idea, in that anybody can do it, and everyone wants to be seen being part of the trend. So who really cares about the egos being driven by it if it means millions is being donated to cancer research or whatever people have chosen to donate to. If you’re getting so easily annoyed at charity work becoming a trend, you need some serious introspection.

    • jaja90

      “…and everyone wants to be seen being part of the trend.”

      And this is exactly the problem. This generation isn’t interested in important issues unless it’s a TREND that EVERYONE is doing. Can you see how high school that sounds? To not do something because it’s “not cool” because the majority of the people aren’t doing it? I’m all for supporting causes and charities that are for the greater good, but if it has to be a “trend” for you to participate, then you have the wrong idea. Trends aren’t a good enough foundation for a charity/cause to be built on because as we all know, trends die and they fade away.

      • Marie Louise Noonan

        You know that about an entire generation? How? Are you omniscient? The ‘selfie’ was first brought to my attention by this news story:

        Just saying, as the Yanks put it.

        • dr feelgood

          You have never heard of selfie???? I bet if you have any social networking accounts that you have a selfie there, even if you didnt “know” that was the silly latest fad name for the action of taking a stupid picture of oneself. I seriously doubt it though.

          Selfies are the most moronic,self centered ego maniacal bullshit(that big asteroid is coming to destroy us all any time…) that I have ever seen. This is talking about the most superficial, beauty obsessed,dog eat dog, warmongering pathetic society in the west. Well the USofA of course being the main offender, but the rest of the west is catching up alarmingly quick. Young people are becoming more spoiled, more entitled, have completely discredited the whole “old society” of our grandparents and think they know better, showing very little respect for their elders.

          Feminism which really took off in the 60s and 70s is another rather cocky little johnny come lately. Im not going to say i agree with the patriarchal views of the three main religions, christianity,judaism and islam but feminism has flourished at universities all over the west. Womens studies and some lunatic fringe man haters are included in most curricula. Of course there has been a concerted effort by some maniac men to set up a men’s studies body of work which hasnt quite taken off!!! Is this not totally against all intersex equality??? Selfies,narcissistic posing, facebook likes, but I was very surprised when i found out the l;arge amount of cash that was donated all on the back of these makeupless selfie chick-photos! £2million!!!! Wow, it worked. Feminism’s experiment which has been building steam since the early 1900’s has failed. Just to throw a spanner in the works here! I think women can do a lot ,if not all the jobs men do, and do them well. Men however, cannot do the traditional womens roles from the last 10,000 yrs plus. Men cannot look after children in the main(of course there are examples of men care givers doing fantastically well with children) as well as women can. Reason, we havent evolved to have the mothering instinct. Most women have this naturally. I almost have a meltdown hearing 2 children crying and there is no way i could cook,supervise,change nappies, talk nicely to them to calm a tantrum and any number of a wild variety of multitasking that women have evolved for hundreds of thousands of years to be able to do!

          I must sound like a phillistine to some, but I think that feminism has only taken off seriously since the 50s/60s. Thats 55-65 yrs ago. For at least 2000 yrs, women were treated as a below par lesser half of humanity to men! That is wrong! They are actually better than men as they showed doing mens jobs in WWI and doing them fantastically well. Are women as sure asbout mens ability to look after several children at once and be a home husband? Wish I was one hahaha

          • Marie Louise Noonan

            I saw the way the baby boomers treated the elderly, my friend.

            If they are being treated badly in their turn then maybe…

            (but then I’m not into the concept of collective punishment for perceived collective guilt which is precisely why I am NOT A FEMINIST.)

  • The Plumed Serpent

    Interviewing Myself: A Selfie Portrait
    by Patrick Timmons

  • Asmodeus Belial

    Political ‘protest’ with no risk whatsoever, and no real effort involved. Pathetic. Laughable.

    Hard to find enough contempt for this generation of young people. Really. I gather up contempt daily in order to have plenty to spread out on all the deserving targets, but no matter how much I gather up, there’s not enough for this generation of spoiled, intellectually flaccid, lazy, self-righteous, narcissistic cretins.

    • Marie Louise Noonan

      ‘Hard to find enough contempt for this generation of young people’

      Don’t worry. I’m sure the feeling is entirely mutual. In fact, I know it is.

      • Asmodeus Belial

        Don’t worry? Why on earth would I worry about what a bunch of cretins are thinking about me or anything else?

        Your response tells us everything we need to know about where you fit in the moron/non-moron map.

  • Chris Hobson

    Too many tweets make a twit.

    • Marie Louise Noonan

      David Cameron’s most memorable quote.

  • Matt

    The writer seems to be confused. She reminisces for the good ol’ protest song, i.e. a popular medium being used to convey a serious and heartfelt message. At the same time she objects to any campaign that involves a selfie, i.e. a popular medium being used to convey a serious and heart felt message.

    Of course it could be that the writer has not taken the time to truly understand the purpose and reasoning behind these campaign. She may have even failed to realise that these campaigns already recognise the narcissistic nature of a selfie and are purposely creating a juxtaposition by combining it with an important message. Alternatively, she is fully aware of how shallow her argument is but wants to demonstrate her ‘intelligence’ by disassociating herself with popular culture.

  • Fiona

    The clue is in the name. If the person in the picture isn’t holding the camera, it’s not a selfie.

    • Marie Louise Noonan

      She’s a bit dim, isn’t she?

      • Asmodeus Belial

        And you are an expert on ‘dim,’ aren’t you, my dear?

  • Seanin Ledgewood

    I really don’t agree. The reason the #nomakeupselfie became so popular was because it added some sort of fun to donating to a charity. It spreads the message virally and it reaches more people than simply sharing a link. I think it says less about narcissism and more about an online generation we live in nowadays.

    I am participating in race for life this year and my just giving page had recieved one donation after various attempts, due to me and a few of my friends #nomakeupselfie we raised £220 .

    It was also about ladies standing together and doing something together, and in the process putting a good cause against facebook nomination games overtaking things like neknomination.

    PS.Put your money where your mouth it and text JOOP77 to 70070 and an amount (£1-£5 or £10) If you would like to donate to my cause. 🙂

    • Ridcully

      The problem is that a lot of these girls aren’t actually donating anything but are simply posting their makeup-free pictures in the belief that doing that alone means that that they are “doing their bit” against cancer. One of them even had the nerve to accuse my wife, an oncology nurse who now works for Macmillan, of being a “killjoy” because she declined to take part.

    • Asmodeus Belial

      “Ladies doing something together”…while all in their own rooms, separated from one another by miles and miles. Got it. What moving, powerful solidarity.

    • jaja90

      As much as I support donating to causes, the fact that it’s contigent upon posting a #nomakeupselfie essentially shows how self-absorbed this generation is. If the cause has no impact or consequence to them, then they just keep scrolling past the “shared link.” But with this #nomakeupselfie, it basically makes it more about the person taking the selfie rather than focusing more so on the cause just so they can say they’ve done their “good deed” of the day.

      If I really wanted to contribute to a cause, I’d feel much more compelled to do something a little more substantial than post a picture of myself without makeup.

  • Leon

    What? Cheap potshots at popular culture? How brave!

    • Asmodeus Belial

      Let’s see your collection of protest selfies.

      • La Fold

        dont bother, hes the sort of dry lunch that wears a scarf indoors.

  • D Whiggery

    This is why voting age should be raised to 21 and certainly not lowered to 16.

    A few more years are needed to gain some perspective and realize that this stuff is actually quite dumb.

    Yours truly,

    Mr Formerly A. Militant-Lefty esq.

    What can I say, I was hormonal, over emotional, over sensitive and angry at everything. Like most young people I was caught in the here and now and it used to drive me mad that people wouldn’t take me seriously. It’s only later that I realized that they were right.

  • Arden Forester

    Definitely a form of narcissism. From the prime minister down. More narcissists than ever before. And most would be highly offended if told so.

    • Foolish Pride

      Labour is worse, but the UK needs Labour good and hard. Maybe after that they’ll find better Tories than Davy boy.

    • pheebee

      I disagree that there are more than ever. Its a basic human trait, only now there is a global platform for it.

  • Liz

    Says the online blogger.

    • logdon

      And you are?

      • Asmodeus Belial

        Don’t bother her. She’s doing her protest selfies for today.

    • Marie Louise Noonan

      What other kind of blogger is there?

  • Bongo

    This is easily one of the worst articles I have read in a long time.

    How are the “I, too, am Oxford” photos selfies? Most of the people in them didn’t take the pictures themselves. And most of the people who participated got out of bed, gathered in a common space and spoke up about an issue that is not discussed often or seriously enough. Similarly with the “Who needs feminism” campaigns.

    You seem to be taking issue with the fact that the people who the campaigns are about, i.e. ethnic minority students and feminists, are in photos designed to promote the campaigns. That is totally puzzling. The whole point of these campaigns is to have awareness of the issue be raised by the people who it most affects. The campaigns seek to keep their subjects at the front and centre instead of obscuring them or abstracting them away. Jumping to the conclusion that it was a vanity project seems both cynical and remarkably shallow.

    Maybe if instead of focusing on the haircuts of the people involved you actually took the issues they were highlighting seriously you’d have something more worthwhile to contribute.

    And what does this perplexing sentence mean?: “This act of ‘bravery’ was met by a countermovement of students keen to disprove the idea that racial prejudice existed at the university. Damn straight.”

    Why is bravery in quotation marks? Speaking up about racial discrimination isn’t an act of bravery? And how on earth can you disprove someone else’s experience of racial prejudice by citing the fact that you never encountered it? How did you read that as the goal of the ‘We are all Oxford” campaign when they expressly stated that wasn’t their aim?

    • flippit

      Some folk I now are currently posting naked faced selfies to promote breast cancer, though never before shown any interest in breast cancer, or any other charity for that matter, but the comments back are “You beauty” and “So brave”. Can’t help but think that sometimes it is just narcism after all, particularly when at least two of them have done a bit of editing to the photo beforehand.

    • Liz

      The female writers for this magazine seem to feel under some pressure to stick the boot into feminism. Whether this is a form of self-censorship or an editorial line that comes from it being a reactionary sexist mag, run by a certain sort of man, about a certain sort of man, for an audience of a certain sort of man I’m not sure. It’s representation of women is lamentably limited to laughing at them or licking its lips over them, and inviting guest blogs from a few of them who can be depended upon to play along and sell themselves out. Be “brave”, Lara, use your narcissistic platform for some good.

      • John Lea

        God, and you call sexists predictable! I’m assuming you think that by churning out this sort of ill-thought-out ideological crap enough times, enough people will start to believe it? And since you feel bound, for some inexplicable reason to use quotation marks unnecessarily, perhaps I should say how much I “love” the fact that you assume this magazine is run by men for men – no, worse still, “a certain sort of man”. By which you presumably mean one who hasn’t been “re-educated” at a Harriet Harman PC correction facility in North London.

        • La Fold

          So essentially Liz thinks Lara is just a pawn being used by “MEN”. Surely this belittles her and is reduces her to the role of victim, which is far more patronising and damaging than than anything anyone else has said.

          The fact of the matter is because she doesnt toe Liz’ ideological line so she has to be reduced to a dumb patsy which im pretty sure she isnt.

          If you take out the word Man and replaced it with jew in feminist ideology you’d rightly be called a National socialist..

      • logdon

        Go back to Cosmo or Take a Break whatever it is that floats your idiot boat.

      • Asmodeus Belial

        Some good? Like a few protest selfies?

        You sound like every feminist I’ve ever met. Do you all share the same brain?

    • Sarka

      I wouldn’t call either of the Oxford campaigns (saying there was racism, then saying there wasn’t), a vanity project exactly.
      However, the idea that there is anything particularly brave about speaking up there against racial discrimination, especially in such general terms – i.e. not like challenging the dean for being a racist or something – is rather ludicrous. I think speaking up FOR racial discrimination in a similar way would be brave (but not for that reason admirable!).

      • Marie Louise Noonan

        The word ‘bravery’ has been very much debased though.

  • Donafugata

    The selfie is a form of narcissism?

    Well spotted, Lara, who would have guessed?

  • Frank

    Any moment now, our glorious MPs will be doing this!

  • La Fold

    The students at Sheffield , i would place good money that although they look slightly different i.e. contrasting skin tones, i bet if you took a closer look the vast majority of them would be near identical in social and economic terms.
    Probably come from similar family and educational backgrounds, from roughly the same income bracket, have pretty much identical aspirations and employment ambitions etc.
    Doubt many of them were going to go into Pitsmoor and have a selfie taken with one of the local joy riders.

    • Foolish Pride

      Likely they share contempt for the working class blokes who make their comfy uni lives liveable. Somewhere along the line the left found that middle class college kids are more of an oppressed minority than the working class.

  • John Lea

    What a bunch of chippy tw*ts.

  • John Lea

    Great photo of stereotypical feminist. Why are they so ugly and grumpy?

    • La Fold

      Cause upper middle class white girls got to moan about something.

    • Chris Morriss

      Oh, I don’t know. The one with the glasses is cute-ish. (And the line is a part quote from a Cowboy Junkies sang, which is a nice touch).

      • James

        OMG! Did you just say she was cute-ish?

        The one shown is actually pretty mild and not as daft as most, still not great though.
        I saw one selfie with “I need feminism” that said that phone companies were sexist because their smaller phones were less powerful than the giant semi-tablet sized ones. That the patriarchy only makes powerful phones that fit comfortably into men’s hands.

        • Tim Reed

          Some of them have become so petty and sententious that it’s increasingly difficult to sort the real from the mockery.

          The most jaw-dropping is one in which a woman claims that “I need feminism because MEN can still rape even without laying a hand on a woman”.

          Evidence that the ‘All men are potential rapists’ theme hasn’t died out amongst some modern feminists. And they wonder why their movement has an image problem.

    • Liz

      Why are sexists always so boorish and predictable?

      • John Lea

        Dunno. Why are feminists like yourself always so boring and miserable?

      • Asmodeus Belial

        When I find one, I’ll ask him. Of course, won’t be relying on you to do the defining, as I’m sure anything with a penis counts for you.

      • Foolish Pride

        I take the term ‘sexist’ offensively. I am patriarchical.

    • Asmodeus Belial

      One is the cause of the other. When one is ugly, grumpiness generally follows (pay no attention to my photo at left).

    • telemachus

      I think you comment answers the question you pose well

  • Pootles

    If half of the PPE year at ‘Univ’ (does she mean University College, or the University?) are ‘minorities’, then they aren’t a minority. We need context every time the words ‘minority’ and ‘minorities’ are used. In global terms, I am, as a ‘white’ person very much in the minority; in cultural (European) terms, I’m even more of a minority; if I visit the nearest city to me (Birmingham) I am, as a Englishman, in a minority; but if I stay in my hometown, I’m in the majority.

    • Dan Grover

      Hmpph? The plural of “minority” isn´t “plurality” or “majority” – if you have a Chinese person, an Indian person, a Kenyan person and a Pacific Islander along with four white British people, in what way are they not minorities? Is it “brown people” vs “white people”?

      • James

        “Is it “brown people” vs “white people”?”

        It certainly seems that way. My student group was reprimanded by the student union for not having any minorities and told to encourage more diversity. This despite having 2 Slovaks, 3 Poles, a Lithuanian and even a Kazakh in the group. I guess they gauge diversity from darting their eyes across the room.

        • Pootles

          Indeed! And my wife is routinely taken for a ‘majority’ person because she is ‘white’. Actually she is a Gaelic speaking Islander – i.e., a minority.

          • La Fold

            And at the end of the day surely we are trying to get beyond categorising people by pretty arbitrary traits we all possess in different ways, but then again maybe thats the whole idea.
            It aint about diversity, its about gaining special preference and the power to interfer in other peoples lives.

        • Asmodeus Belial

          Precisely. To these people, a logical impossibility to be light-skinned and an ethnic minority at same time.

      • Pootles

        I’ve just been ‘moderated’, so I’ll post my reply again, but with a couple of *s:

        Or, do you mean an English person, a Canadian, an American, a Welsh woman, and a Scot – they were all in my immediate (modern history) circle when I was at Oxford. They were all ‘white’. In what way would each of these not be minorities ? Actually, the assumption that it is ‘black’ vs ‘white’ people case is probably being made by the young woman in the selfie. To tell the truth, class is probably more important an issue in Oxford. My grandson attends a prep school were Indians (almost all Sikhs, but with some Hindus and a Muslim) form the majority of his year group. As I said, contextualisation is important now. Hmpph to you too, you c**k

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          Power mad mods, what would you do with um? Offshore the entire operation to Bangalore?

        • hitchslap11

          Mostly a white, metropolitan middle class preoccupation. That and a couple of brown middle class metropolitan professional victims.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Run that by me one more time.

    • Donafugata


      Clearly “minorities” is a reference to aliens but the world and his wife has invaded and white British are now the minority in my part of Surrey.

    • Handelian

      Pootles, ‘Univ’ is, of course, University College. One wonders what the likes of Leslie Mitchell or the late Gareth Evans, among other noted dons who taught PPE undergraduates at Univ, would make (or would have made) of the grammar, logic and general vacuous posturing of the statement.

      • Marie Louise Noonan

        I’m quite concerned about their cursive script. I sympathise with their examiners.

  • Someone

    Although I have sympathy with the overall thrust of this piece, one thing which the #nomakeup selfie movement has done is raise in excess of £1m for breast cancer research (my understanding is that you simultaneously send a text which costs £3 (of which £2.81 goes to charity). It certainly beats the one glaring omission which is the height of vanity and stupidity ‘neknomination’.

    • Gareth Milner

      Begs the question of if £1m can be raised for a charity in such a short space of time, why do people need something like the “non makeup selfie” before they will donate. Very saddening to a degree that people need a latest fad to join in and that charity is becoming increasingly down to protecting your image of not being tight fisted.

      • Pootles

        Clearly the parable of the widow’s mite is lost.

      • Someone

        It might well do but hey £1m for charity is still better than nothing. I doubt the charity will mind this sum was generated through people being vain. But there again, that’s the entire premise of social media anyway. Vanity and presenting a false impression of life to assorted networks.

      • pheebee

        You may as well ask why do we need comic relief, or any other appeal to raise money for charity!

        • Gareth Milner

          Indeed, to an extent. I make regular monthly donations to the Royal British Legion and not just in November. I only wish that in some cases people were charitable because they genuinely wanted to be rather than sometimes only being so because of expectation.

          • pheebee

            Well good for you! Maybe you should post it on social media and get others to do the same haha

    • lard

      It raised money, which is great. It also showed just how brilliantly narcissistic we are. Why not share the donation link? Or a link to the cancer research page? What part did the selfie actually have in this, other than that lots of people wouldn’t have gotten involved if it didn’t give them the chance to enjoy a whole afternoon of people telling them how WONDERFUL they look sans make up, without anybody being able to give them stick for being so vain because they were JUST DOING THEIR BIT FOR CHARITY.
      Neknomination had one thing going for it: Everybody quite happily admitted they were just showing off.

      On a side note, why pick a campaign for cancer that completely shuts out men?

      • Someone

        I have no idea although it has spurred those with similar ‘sexist’ style objections to #nomakeup selfie to push for ‘C*ck in a Sock’ selfies to raise testicular cancer awareness. I despair.

      • La Fold

        Correct. At least neknominations dont have any smug prentensions about them.

      • Seanin Ledgewood

        men are wearing make for cancer #makeupselfie

        • lard

          Not many are, in all fairness. Because the thought of making yourself look like a fool for charity doesn’t go down as well as getting a hundred comments telling you how naturally beautiful you are… *for charity*

      • Marie Louise Noonan

        ‘On a side note, why pick a campaign for cancer that completely shuts out men?’

        Well, not completely. To be pedantic.

    • Foolish Pride

      Probably a drop in the bucket compared to how much the government spends on funding breast cancer research.

      • Someone

        £2 million is hardly a drop in the bucket. It’s a sizable sum of money which no doubt will be just as welcome as any other donation. As I said, I’ve no problem calling these things out for what they are (exercises in vanity), but that it has raised £2m suggests that it has done some good.

  • Bert

    iPads & iPhones are mirrors for narcissists or comfort blankets for needy dullards.
    The “i” sais it all.

    • Asmodeus Belial

      ‘Dullards’ is such a good word. It should be used more, especially in description of young people with phones pointed at themselves.