#SeeMySelfie is a month long social experiment/photography project in which participants explore self representation, acceptance, audience and identity through the medium of self portrait. The project is a collaboration between Girl Gang Manchester and Girl Gang Sheffield, running nationally for the month of May, going on to be an exhibition and photography book later in the year.
I love the concept of Girl Gang and have done some work for the Sheffield group before by writing some poetry for their Tarot Cards. (I have the most random and weird job and I love it!) So the guys from Manchester got in touch with me to talk to me about their latest project #SeeMySelfie and to ask if I would be involved. I loved the concept and thought hells yeah!
“Are selfies a powerful space in which women can reclaim and celebrate their own image? Or symptomatic of the narcissism of 21st century culture? Do they allow women to publicly exude self confidence and explore their identity creatively? Or do they reinforcing the idea that a woman’s image is her most powerful asset?”
The month long social experiment exploring self portraiture, self representation and self-acceptance asks members of the public to join the group by taking a selfie every day of May using their prompts as a stimulus, from ‘Eyes closed’ to ‘worst angle’, you are encouraged to get creative and share your take.
Though we are half way through May, you can still get involved, it’s not too late. Simply sign up for the daily emails at email@example.com
If you want to share your pictures either every day or occasionally, you are asked to upload them using the hashtags #SeeMySelfie and tag either @girlgangmcr @girlgangsheffield, include your thoughts/feeling about the picture or the process of taking it in the caption of the photograph. This can either be a few words, a whole essay or even a poem/song, whatever you fancy.
The project has been an interesting one so far, I thought it would be simple and a bit of fun but the daily provocations have actually been quite challenging and it has pushed me emotionally and mentally. The idea of a selfie is a pretty self obsessed and egotistical thing, we share images of ourselves more now than ever before. But this project shows that selfies can have a purpose, they can make you think, they can be social and they can do good.
The challenges so far have been:
Day 1 – Introduce Yourself
I’m Sam, 34, ever changing body, ostomy bag, writer, speaker, so bad ass… My surgeries have made me feel proud to be still standing, they remind me that I have one body and it is a miracle. My selfies show the world that I have no shame. I’m in my 30s, half Indian, northern, covered in scars, plus size and have an ostomy bag. I’m as far from the media ideal as you can get, but fuck that. I love my self(ies).
Day 2 – Selfie with your eyes closed
Today we got our new chickens – it’s been a year since we had some and so it’s super exciting. I grew up as a city girl, but I’ve grown into a country woman. This beady eye is looking out for me.
Day 3 – Try something new
I thought I’d try a selfie of shadows and silhouettes…
Day 4 – Look how you feel
I feel gobby. I speak out about things that people feel uncomfortable about. I was always told I was a loud mouth, I just decided to put it to good use.
Day 5 – A selfie just after the shower
For 6 weeks, my sister and her family from Australia has been staying with us. There’s 8 of us in the house meaning not enough hot water to go round… She goes home today and I’m devastated. I’d have all the cold water every day to get to hang out with my big sis. Today is going to be a tough one
Day 6 – Take a selfie from your best angle
Ok, best as in most attractive? Then this probably isn’t it. But I took this photo at 7 this morning on a walk with my dogs and the husband. I love that it shows my terribly uncoordinated dress sense. But mainly I love that for the first time in ages I felt well enough to be up and out walking at 7am. Xx
Day 7 – A selfie from your worst angle
I really dislike my many chins! I always try and pose in a way that hides them. I also hate photos of me looking sad, I tend to be all toothy grins or silly faces. I’m surprised at just how uncomfortable I am at sharing this photo.
Day 8 – A selfie in a place you wouldn’t normally take one
After such a grim start to the year, I wouldn’t have believed I’d be in a bikini, eating ice lollies and sunbathing in the garden of our own home in May… But here I am!
Day 9 – Your most commonly used selfie pose/expression
I feel happy, confident and at ease in this photo.
Day 10 – The first selfie you take
I’m a bit hungover today, spent the morning working, this afternoon is house cleaning. I don’t wear makeup or fancy clothes when I am in the house, and as I work from home I can most often be found in comfortable clothes without my hair or makeup done. I love wearing nice clothes and getting glammed up but I just don’t feel the need to do it every day.
Day 11 – A selfie which shows your whole body
I don’t feel like taking a selfie today, I’m sick. I have a lingering chest and throat infection because my immune system is so fucked that I can’t shake bugs off. I also have a blockage in my stomach. I don’t have a large intestine so sometime food gets stuck in my small intestine and can’t come through my stoma – I’m tired and feeling sorry for myself. So you get a photo of my whole body, but not my face.
Day 12 – Take a selfie highlighting your best feature
I have a heart birth mark on the sole of my foot, and I was thinking it represents my best feature, my heart. I think and hope that I am kind, caring and full of love. I hope that when I’m no longer on this planet, that those who know me would say I was kind.
Kindness is totally underrated yet always necessary ❤️
You can follow the rest of my month of #SeeMySelfie on my instagram page, do search the hashtag though and see all the other people taking part. I feel like I have ‘met’ some really interesting people in the past couple of weeks, just through viewing their selfies and I can’t wait to see what is still to come!
Quentin Letts wrote in his Daily Mail column this week about a ‘talkshow war’ between Andrew Marr and Robert Peston. Andrew Marr had a stroke a year ago and Letts decided to name him “Captain Hop-Along” because apparently journalism now consists of reverting to a 10 year old school yard bully. Mocking disability is NOT OK… how ridiculous that in 2016 we even have to say that.
The whole piece is filled with jibes over the presenters looks, age and ability, I felt as though I was reading something by Katie Hopkins. Or the mean bully I knew as a child.
“Sunday mornings just became a little madder and more metropolitan… we have Andrew ‘Captain Hop-Along’ Marr growling away on BBC1, throwing his arm about like a tipsy conductor.”
Speaking of his stroke to the BBC, Marr said “had affected “the whole left hand side of my body, which is why I’m still not able to walk fluently. I do a kind of elegant hobble is the best I can manage – my left arm isn’t much good yet and I’ve got a lot of physio still to do”
Why do we still allow the discrimination of disability in mainstream media? I know a few people who have had strokes whose lives have been turned upside down, they have a tough recovery and have to fight to regain their lives, which many do.
Marr (whether you like him or not) is an inspiration to the 110,000 people who have a stroke per year in the UK. Returning to work and carrying on his on-screen performances was an important step for those with a disability who want to lead normal lives. Whether we like it or not, disability is a stigma and Marr is doing a great service to many.
The Stroke Association says “All strokes are different. For some people the effects may be relatively minor and may not last long. Others may be left with more serious problems that make them dependent on other people.
Unfortunately not everyone survives – around one in eight people die within 30 days of having a stroke. That’s why it’s so important to be able to recognise the symptoms and get medical help as quickly as possible. The quicker you receive treatment, the better your chances for a good recovery.”
It’s not funny and it’s not ok. Mocking his speech and movement is a sign of ignorance, stupidity and generally of being an arsehole. Quentin Letts should be ashamed of himself, even children understand that laughing at a person’s disability is morally wrong. We can throw words around like free speech, and I stand for that notion wholeheartedly, but just because you CAN say something mean doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
I think Letts should apologise, not only to Andrew Marr, but to the community of people who have had a stroke, who do not need to be called names and mocked but celebrated and supported.
Yesterday was a whirlwind of awesome! I appeared on ITV’s morning show This Morning and got to meet the very wonderful Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby and talk about my all time favourite subject, poo!
I was invited on by TV and radio personality Judi Spiers, who along with her husband, invented a product to help people to change ostomy bags. I reviewed the Riksack for them last month and they had been invited onto the couch for National Bowel Month and asked me to go with them. Hooray!!
The researchers got in touch and had seen my blog and thought I would be great on TV, which was a huge compliment, almost as exciting as when they told me that Philip had been reading my blog and loved it! Arghhh!!!! So, if you are reading this now Mr Schofield, hiiiiiiii you are a living legend and a total fox!
I got the train down to London the night before after a traumatic decision over what to wear on the telly box. I asked my awesome followers on Facebook for advice and advise they did… Over 300 of them, though unfortunately all saying different things!! In the end I went for a flowery dress by Lindy Bop which I felt comfortable in and also felt fab in. Of course, I also wore my sparkly, gold boots.
I got picked up in a car from my hotel and taken to the studios, hilariously there were some paparazzi hanging out and they got excited as I pulled up. Unfortunately they were super disappointed when I got out of the car, I still waved and smiled just in case! (HA!)
The staff at This Morning were all lovely, very welcoming and trying to put you at ease, there were drinks and pastries and snacks but I didn’t eat as I didn’t want my stoma farting and bag filling up on live TV. I went into hair and makeup where I was attended to by #MrFaceMaker and then back to the Green Room I went.
I filmed a pre recorded piece where I changed my ostomy bag using the Riksack, I was hoping to be the first stoma on live TV but alas, they cut that part out of the live show. It was a bit odd to change my bag in front of strangers, the team were very sensitive though and made sure it was just a producer and a cameraman. After changing my bag, I asked the producer what she thought, she admitted that she had been concerned as she was squeamish and was worried that it was going to be difficult to watch, but she was amazed that my stoma was so small and not nearly as terrifying as she had imagined.
This is why I do all the things I do, to change perceptions and break those taboos.
So we then went onto set (which is much smaller than you imagine and all in one room) and I met the King and Queen of daytime TV, Philip and Holly. Philip came over and kissed me and welcomed me to the show and I went over to Holly… and curtsied.
WTF? Whyyyyyy would I do a curtsy?? I was just a bit star struck and then I laughed and said “Oh. I just curtsied” THEN CURTSIED AGAIN!!!
This is why I shouldn’t be allowed out in public.
Anyway, they had a laugh at my weirdness and then we sat on the sofa, I was with Judi and surgeon Mr Ian Daniels and off we went…
The interview went quicker than you think it will, it seemed to be over in a flash and then we were done! I wish I had said more but the slot was about the Riksack product and about signs and symptoms of bowel disease and bowel cancer and so it was important to get that info out.
I loved every minute of it and would love to do more TV as though it is terrifying before, it is so enjoyable once you are there doing it. It is hard to get a lot of info into a 7 minute slot, especially when there are three people being interviewed it is nigh on impossible to say everything you want. So apologies for not getting a bit more So Bad Assness out there!
Holly is as beautiful in real life as she is on TV. Seriously, I was a bit in awe of her and she was really sweet and lovely. She was very friendly and complimented my dress and they both congratulated me on this blog and my work in disability. Philip is a total fox. I loved him in the early 90s with Gordon the Gopher and can’t believe I got to meet such a famous celeb. He was really friendly and put you right at ease. People have asked me to dish some dirt on the two of them, but I cant! They were just lovely!
I am really proud of myself. The past few years have been hellish and there were times when I was in HDU or crying in pain in bed or leaking and feeling like a monster when I felt so low that I couldn’t imagine going on. So to be on live TV four months after my last surgery was a HUGE milestone.
I do what I do to make others understand what life with an illness or disability is like, I do it to break taboos, to educate, inform, support and inspire. I do it to make a difference. I do it because I need a reason that I have had to go through all this.
I didn’t plan for my life to be a series of battles, of medication, surgery, illness, pain and suffering. But this is the hand I was dealt and so I will use every single one of these things to help others and make a difference in the world.
I’d like this post to just say ‘BECAUSE FUCK YOU!”
but I’m going to try and be a little more level headed. Which is difficult when I’ve just read a post on mumsnet by a charming person called Frikkadilla…
I should probably pop a warning in here to say this post is ever so sweary! If you’re offended by f-bombs, you should probably step away now.
Still here? Then let the rant commence.
Ohhhh FrikkaDilla… How I’d like to really show you my bag. Close up. Rammed in your face.
Let’s go through the points.
“Those Facebook photos with Stoma pictures. Am I wrong to really not want to see this?”
Well, no. We have a choice in what we view on social media. If you don’t want to see these images, turn off your fucking computer.
In life, unless you wish to walk around with a bag over your head, then you will see people with disabilities, people who have medical devices that are part of their lives, people who are different to you. If you don’t wish to see people with medical problems, I’d suggest you fuck off and live in a cave.
I have family and a friend who needs this piece of medical help however I keep being surprised (no…shocked) when I see people posting photos of themselves showing their bag off.
‘I’m not racist because I have this one black pal…’ Oh sorry! I thought we were all giving ourselves shitty excuses to say terrible things!
I’m sure your family member and friend must feel so supported by you and your desire to get people with an ostomy to hide away!
Your “surprise” and “shock” make me howl, you have the whole of the Internet at your fingertips and a photo of a woman in a bikini with an ostomy bag have affected you this much? Blimey! Let me send you a few links to some really shocking stuff. There’s this one video, at band camp…
I’ve even seen a woman on the beach in a bikini showing one off (Facebook photo)
How very fucking dare she? A woman went on holiday and wore a bikini??? No way!
You get that we can’t take the ostomy bag off right? That it’s something worn all day every day, it’s not a fashion statement, it’s a health device that allows us to still be alive!
People with an ostomy are like anyone else, they go on holiday, they wear human clothes, they own cameras and they are allowed on Facebook…
I just don’t understand this need to show it off. Why are they doing it?
Firstly, it’s none of your god damned business what other people choose to do.
Secondly, people are ‘showing it off’ because it is a part of their body, a device that can’t be removed and so most people are just trying to live their lives without embarrassment or fear of nasty, small minded bigots like you. They are sharing a photo of them, in their full glory.
Would you like all people with a disability to hide away? What about those attention grabbing amputees showing off with their missing limbs? They need to wipe their Facebook photo albums, right? Or even worse, those drama queens in wheelchairs!! All their photos are just chair, chair, chair!!!!
That was all sarcasm, in case you didn’t get it. As you don’t seem to get much do you Frikkadilla.
Those of us who do show off our bags, and I’m talking about myself here do it for many reasons. I can’t speak for others but I’ll share just a few of mine.
• I want to raise awareness of something that affects over 100,000 people in the UK alone.
• Any illness to do with poo tends to be seen as embarrassing and taboo. This makes sufferers feel ashamed, isolated and depressed. I want to help end this taboo.
• I find it helps my recovery to share my story including photos of myself. I feel like I’m regaining control of my life after 13 years of illness, medication and surgeries.
• I am proud of my body and myself. I’ve been through hell and I refuse to let people like you body shame me.
• I want to show my kids that whatever humans look like, they are awesome. That I’m not ashamed of my imperfect body, because it’s perfect to me and they should love themselves no matter what society tells them.
• I make a difference to people’s lives by doing what I do. I get 50,000 views a month on this website! And I get hundreds of messages every month of people telling me that I am helping them through their journey. Who have you helped today Frikkadilla?
• Because I look fucking amazing! My size 16, scarred body with an ostomy may not to be your liking, but I think I look shit hot! (No pun intended!)
• I own my body, I don’t have to live by anyone else’s rules. I have full ownership and if I wish to share photos of it, I will without shame, bullying or fear.
• Because fuck you.
Thanks to everyone else on that mumsnet thread (that admin decided to pull because it was so shitty) who told Frikkadilla alllllllll the reasons why she was wrong/stupid/ablist/a cotton headed ninny muggins.
I read the post and was fuming but the responses reminded me that most people are awesome and just a few in this world who are dicks.
In 2015, I decided to stop dieting. I’d been on a diet for 10 years. 10 YEARS!!!! And it was the shittest diet ever because year on year, I started January heavier than the year before.
I went through cycles of starving and binging, salad obsessions and chocolate gorging. I’d lose weight, lose interest and gain the weight back along with a few more pounds.
Well last year, I decided my poor old body had had just about enough. I’d had 3 surgeries in 18 months, a Stoma, a Jpouch, 2 hernias and a lot of meds and treatment. I decided that it was pretty wonderful that I was even still standing and so I should give it a break from messing with food.
Diets don’t work. You follow the rules and lose weight, but any short term food deprivation only leads to temporary weight loss. If you loosen the reins and return back to your former ways, you will gain it all back.
I started thinking about why I was dieting. Did I want to be thinner, or was it just what is expected of me as a woman? The more I thought about it, the more I realised that I’m actually very happy in my skin. I like my big body, I think I’m soft and beautiful and hella sexy.
But we aren’t meant to say that are we? Especially not if we are ‘plus size’. We’re meant to be ashamed and apologetic. We’re meant to strive to be ‘better’. But what if ‘better’ has fuck all to do with the number in the back of your dress? What if ‘better’ isn’t about being a size 6?
Humans are all different sizes and shapes, yet we strive to be like a very narrow, Western ideal of beauty that comes from fashion and media. It comes from air brushing, the use of very young models, the use of extremely thin models. The pressure on women to conform is HUGE. To look more like a tiny percentage of women. Isn’t that silly?
The funny thing is that my lack of dieting last year, means I start this year lighter than I was at the start of 2015. It’s the first year that my weight hasn’t gone up and I truly believe this is because I took the pressure off myself, I refused to diet but that doesn’t mean that I decided to eat everything in sight!
When I diet, I am constantly thinking about food. I think about calories and my next meal, I dream of food and look longingly at cheese boards. This year my focus was on other things, I don’t want to waste time thinking about food when there is a whole world of awesome to be thinking about! My lack of dieting made me more in touch with my body, eating when I’m hungry and stopping when I’m full. Never denying myself of food but enjoying it and savouring it.
I’m learning all the time to love my body. It’s not easy, I do cave in sometimes and see photos of myself where I’m surprised by my size. But that’s usually because I’m viewing myself through someone else’s eyes. My confidence is dented when I think that someone else is looking at me and thinking about my shape. In my head, I am Beyoncé. And Zooey Dechanelle. And Thandie Newton. And Superwoman. And Marilyn Monroe.
I’m a bad ass version of all those women blended into one shit hot mega babe.
And so it surprises me sometimes when I see a fat, 34 year old mum in gardening gear.
But you know, I do love my body. Are there things I would change? Yes. Do I want to be healthier? Yes. Will I diet ever again? No fucking way!
Healthy eating and exercise are wonderful, I think we should all eat delicious, unprocessed, bright, colourful, mouth watering food. I think we should all move our bodies and take part in exercise that is fun and makes us happy.
We only have this one body and so it is really important that we take care of it by giving it the fuel it needs and working our muscles to keep us mobile. Our physical health is vital.
But so is our emotional health, so take a moment and think about making your mind and spirit healthy too. Acceptance and self love. Celebrating not demonising. Give yourself the affirmation that you are beautiful. Because beauty isn’t about looking the same as a 14 year old size 0 fashion model, it’s about your unique and bloody brilliant self. It’s about kindness and humour and confidence and love whether you’re a size 0 or a size 32+!!
This new year, you will be bombarded by adverts telling you that you aren’t enough. That you need to buy their products to change yourself to fit in.
Fuck fitting in.
If you want to make a healthy change to your lifestyle, then go for it! But think about the long term lifestyle changes you might want to make, be aware that short term diets DONT WORK LONGTERM. Find a physical activity that you want to do, do it with friends, make it fun, enjoy it!
If you don’t want to diet, don’t be led to believe that you must. Enjoy your body, celebrate your brilliance and love yourself.
I was invited onto Sheffield Live TV again to talk about this blog, Crohns and Colitis UK, Scope and the work I do.
I LOVE doing TV and radio, I used to get SO nervous but nowadays, I just really enjoy the experience.
Take a look!
This morning I got a message from a Facebook follower letting me know that she’d just seen me on The Wright Stuff!
I popped on channel 5 +1 and hit record and saw that in a discussion about whether able bodied people should use accessible toilets, that my open letter was mentioned along with a photo of my big face! How exciting!!
He does stumble of the name, saying IBS then Inflammatory Bowel Disease. I think it’s a genuine slip of the tongue but always good to clarify that there is a difference between IBS and IBD.
Others have commented that he says I sometimes use a colostomy bag, and feel annoyed that this is incorrect.
I used to have an ostomy, I currently have a Jpouch but I’m going back to an ostomy, so it’s fair to say that I have times of using an ostomy bag. I know it could be read as though it’s something you pop on and off but if you think about it, though some ostomies are permanent, others are temporary.
It’s easy to get angry when you feel incorrect terms are used, but this is why it’s so great that we are having these discussions in the media!
A few years ago, this was all SO TABOO! I think things are getting tons better and we are having more conversations. Yes, the correct terms are really important, but let’s educate society on an illness that for so long was secretive!
I tweeted Matthew and he responded telling me his friend has an ostomy and wishing me well with my surgery.
Things are tough when you’re a poo blogger! There are some media outlets who simply don’t have any desire to talk about poo! When people are happy to have the discussion, let’s celebrate and use it as an opportunity to talk shit!
Thank Matthew Wright for sharing my story and getting people talking. If he’d ever like me on the show, I would be more than happy to be #thepoolady and talk shit on TV!
Kylie Jenner, you dick, a wheelchair is not a fashion accessory or a way to show how quirky you are. Shot by Steven Klein for Interview Magazine, the star of Keeping Up With The Kardashians is on the cover sitting in a wheelchair.
As if this is OK? Disability isn’t something to play at, it isn’t a prop or a way to show ‘another side of you’. It is a reality that affects millions of people, not a joke or a fashion shoot.
Beth Grossman, Head of Policy at disability charity Scope, told The Independent: “If Interview Magazine wanted a glamorous, sexy wheelchair user on its front cover it’s a shame they couldn’t use someone disabled.”
“Having a non-disabled person in a wheelchair, as a provocative fashion prop, will offend many disabled people. It’s rare that we see aspirational and authentic reflections of disabled people in advertising and the media.
“If we’re going to challenge assumptions about disability, particularly about sex and disability, we need to share real-life depictions and experiences.”
There is a HUGE lack of people with disability in the media when you think that around 15 per cent of the world’s population, or estimated 1 billion people, live with disabilities. They are the world’s largest minority. (According to the UN).
15% of the population… So where are the 15% of TV presenters, models, politicians, movie stars with a disability? Yes, things are improving but it is still a problem that we don’t see a proper representation in our media and this needs to change.
What doesnt help is people with such celebrity status playing at having a disability. It is offensive, it is wrong, it is not OK. What bothers me is that this image will have gone through so many people’s hands before making it onto the cover and they either didn’t think it could offend, weren’t bothered, or hoped it would be controversial and increase sales. Interview has since told E! that their intention was to “create a powerful set of pictures” and “certainly not to offend anyone.”
I know this won’t offend everyone, there will be those who say it doesn’t upset them in the slightest and that it is “PC gorrrnnnn mad” but I know I am not alone in being pretty appalled that this happened.
Ablism is rife and I think it important to stand up against the use of disability as a prop for able bodied people to promote themselves as something different.
I’m not feeling very well this week, I’m on day two of sofa dwelling with a hot water bottle and painkillers. I’m waiting to see what the hospital think but I’m dropping weight quite quickly without trying, I have stomach pains and feeling exhausted and sorry for myself.
ANYWAY, I have very little headspace and I’m watching a lot of Netflix and it got me thinking about all the ‘classic’ films I have have never seen. You know the ones, those that when mentioned in the pub, everyone goes ‘Ohhhhhhhhhh that’s a CLASSIC mate!’
So here’s my list. Let me know if I really should watch them or if they are over-rated cack!
1. Rocky. Any of the Rockys…
2. The Princess Bride
Literally no idea what this is even about but people talk about it alllll the time.
A friend recently told me he was abandoning our friendship because I haven’t seen this movie! I am tempted, I do love Bowie but now it’s almost fun to see the shocked faces of people when I tell them I haven’t seen this weird 80’s classic.
4. To Kill a Mockingbird
I’ve read the book and I have tried to watch the film several times and just can’t get past the first half am hour of dullness. Sorry (not sorry!)
5. The Matrix
Started it probably 10 times. Fall asleep as he chooses which pill every time. Every time.
Turns out I don’t care whether he takes the red or blue pill.
Here’s looking at you kid… Nope. Never.
7. Gone With The Wind
I’ve seen Wind in the Willows, does that count?
8. Dirty Harry
Is it a bit shooty? I don’t know. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve seen any Clint Eastwood films.
Not the old ones, not the new ones.
Not Dawn of the Rise of the Fall of the Zoo of the Forest of the Planet of the Apes.
Is it about roller blading? See that sounds fun, but I don’t think it is, is it?
This is such a classic that I feel that I have seen it but I just haven’t. Though I do like breakfast and the name Tiffany so maybe I should try.
I love Bruce Willis so I’m not entirely sure how I have missed this series of films, it almost feels too late now to get into them.
Yippy ki yay motherfuckers…
Nope. No idea.
I do have actual regret at not seeing these films. I will put them on my to do list.
Is it? Is it??!! I don’t know. This film is on every Christmas but I’m too busy watching Elf on repeat.