Celeste Barber’s ‘model’ poses show the extent to which women are expected to self-objectify

What do you look like when you’re eating in bed? A 100 pound, perfectly made up sexpot? Or this:

We are all willing admit that celebrity and model photos are “fake,” to a certain extent but, at the same time, it’s clear we’ve lost touch with what actual women look like, nor do I think our culture truly realizes the incredibly detrimental impact these images have on women and girls.

Young women today, more than ever before, do seem to believe that social media is the best place to receive validation, and because of our sexist culture, they also learn that validation comes through self-objectification. The “likes” girls get on their selfies translate into actually feeling liked. This is particularly dangerous when we take into account what it is that young women feel they must live up to…

This is what makes Australian comedian Celeste Barber’s Instagram account so funny and so striking: Until you see her photos, you don’t realize how rare it is to actually see “normal” (non-modelesque/non-photoshopped) women and women’s bodies online.

Even young women who aren’t Kim Kardashian FaceTune their Instagram photos to death, taking dozens-upon-dozens of selfies before choosing the one that provides the most flawless, stomach-fat-hiding angle.

In order to confront our Kardashianized world, Barber has recreated the model poses young women feel they must live up to, with great humour.

And it’s not just the impact of these images on women’s body image she’s after, but the entirely unrealistic lifestyles celebrities are selling to the masses.

“I call bullsh*t to rich, famous, privileged people portraying their life as accessible to everyone,” she explains in an interview with Runway Riot.

It’s an important message that’s often not talked about… Not only will we never look like Kourtney Kardashian or Nicki Minaj, but we will also never have access to the kind of money and, therefore, lifestyles they lead.

WE FOUND THE REMOTE! #celestechallengeaccepted #funny #nickiminaj

A photo posted by Celeste Barber (@celestebarber) on

Many will likely brush off the images Barber mocks as simply fun to look at, but they are actually quite harmful — girls learn, by consuming Emily Ratajkowski and Amber Rose’s Instagram posts, that they are constantly meant to be aware of their bodies and appearances, even when they’re just sitting around at home. Every moment is an opportunity to self-objectify — even if we’re just relaxing in the bath or, ffs, when we’re exercising. (This is rather ironic considering both Ratajkowski and Rose’s recent attempts at “fighting back” against… well, I’m not entirely sure… Sexism? Sexualization? Something…)

I'm so relaxed you guys. And smart. Totally smart. #celestechallengeaccepted #funny #emrata @zooeydeschanel

A photo posted by Celeste Barber (@celestebarber) on

Women already learn they are to-be-looked-at, and the performances celebrities engage in online in order to market themselves only amplify that, putting enormous pressure on girls and young women to aspire to an impossible and purely superficial kind of perfection that can only lead to feelings of failure.

It would be cool if these celebrities didn’t need to self-objectify in order to support their careers and it would be even cooler if they didn’t pretend that women should look like flawless, fuckable dolls at any given moment. I’d love to see women in positions of power (especially those who have recently claimed the “female empowerment” rhetoric as their own) reject this kind of imagery and messaging and go for something a little more… real.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • Meghan Murphy

    Oh god!! That is so depressing, re: Hendricks. Can you imagine?? I LIVE in the most grungy (albeit comfortable) clothes at home. My bf does not GAF and if he did he could, frankly, go fuck himself.

    • melissa

      ikr? if i couldn’t even be comfortable i my own goddam home, there’s no way in hell any guy would ever be coming over let alone living with me.

    • Kittehserf

      I can’t imagine living like that, either. Or having to be on show all the time. I like dressing up (by my standards) to go out for the day, but that just means smarter jeans and knitwear, and comfort is always central. I’m so grateful not to be a girl or young woman now. It was not as ugly, or at least so pervasive, in my youth.

  • therealcie

    I’m a heterosexual woman, but I do believe Celeste Barber is my celebrity crush!

  • therealcie

    It’s not even just today. As a teenager in the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a period of time when I wouldn’t leave the house without perfect makeup and perfectly fitting clothes in case perchance Prince Charming happened to be driving by when I was walking down the street. Of course he wouldn’t look at a dowdy girl with no makeup and ill-fitting clothing, would he? I also became bulimic at age 12 because you know Prince Charming wouldn’t look at a fat girl either. I was 12 in 1977.

  • Hornet Show

    But its crazy thinking, but how can you stop? I think Ive been self objectifying myself since the 8th grade. I consider every angle when trying on clothes and thinking about how Im sitting down. People who go shopping with me get frustrated cause if something looks bad from the side in some way, wont get it. I often thought to myself in high school, yeah I may look ok now when Im done up, but really beautiful girls look good all the time. I find it hard leaving the apartment and not being concerned with my hair or if Im broken out and not wearing make-up. If my skin is clear I dont care about that aspect. Im concerned about how I look in pjs just around my family. And everyday could change, ok yesterday I looked great but how quickly I could lose it all, feel bloated, too much sodium, puffy face.

  • Tinfoil the Hat

    This is THE BEST. If I were brave, I’d re-create these with my 55-year-old, obese body. Alas, I have been subjected to decades of shame, AND I admit to fearing the internet.

    • Hierophant2

      You are right to fear the Internet. The Internet is fucking crazy. Men issue death threats to women just for having opinions. I can only imagine what they’ve done to Celeste Barber.

  • Denise Denning

    Wonderful! Especially love the one where she’s attempting to do a handstand above a man whose eyebrows appear to be raised in alarm. Sipping chardonnay in the tub seems completely civilized, but your glasses would fog up if the water is a comfortable bath temperature and not tepid.

    • ohomebug

      Hilarious description!

  • Rachel

    Yes!!!

  • Rachel

    I love Seinfeld, but oh the sexism. I have to admit Elaine was a pretty great character and I loved seeing her get to be more ruthless and careless towards the final series. But the men, of course, were so sexist. You just reminded me of the episode where Jerry has a girlfriend who walks around naked all the time, which is great… Until she does “ugly” things like sneezing, opening a pickle jar etc and she’s no longer a perfect inanimate object to look at. They also make comment about how men’s bodies are aren’t sexy and are more about being “useful”, I can’t remember the exact words they used. Eye roll.

    • Laura Cameron

      So much yes!! I agree completely. I love Seinfeld and Elaine rocks.but the sexism always irked me.

  • Lucia Lola

    I’ve seen her stuff before and I’ve laughed. Still do. I’ve also deleted many MANY “selfies” of myself that were admittedly, just as ridiculous as the ones she’s parodying. Ugh. I learn, I learn.

    • Rachel

      I’m not sure if it’s lack of self confidence for me (not thinking I’m “sexy”), or rejection of societies idea of “sexy”, or just seeing myself as an actual human, that makes me cringe at the selfies I used to take and the thought of ever posting anything like that ever again… whatever it is… I’m grateful I don’t see myself as a fuck doll anymore.

  • stephen m

    Visions of Cindy Sherman’s pictures from the 1970s on. Feminist art that provokes thought about a woman’s image.

  • Kittehserf

    Barber looks like me collapsed during yoga. Except I’m not going through a chair arm. 😛

    As for the one she’s pointing out … WT everloving F?

  • Sally Hansen

    “This is a photo I’m recreating of @kourtneykardash. I’m pretty sure we are promoting talent, strength and women’s empowerment. Not just sex, as I originally thought.” this had me bawling XD amazing ahahahah

  • Rachel

    Ha ha I’m the same with makeup! I think I used to dread putting on tan and makeup and dressing up – but I did it all. The. Time. I wouldn’t leave the house without tan and makeup. Ever! But now I’m not sure if I’m just lazy or just don’t want to waste my time doing shit I don’t want to do. I was thinking the other day – I used to be SO obedient – always there for everyone and so “disciplined” with everything I did. Something changed in me and I just became so naughty and disobedient! I felt bad for a while…Then I thought some more and was like – oh well! Messed up to hear people go on about your hair like that. People really do see women as dolls.

    • genny

      Rachel, something changed for me a few months ago and it was RADFEM. The movement literally saved my life. I spent so many wasteful years worrying about my weight and my face and my hair, all to land a man. I would put off dating until I lost the perfect amount of weight, and I wore wigs because my biggest insecurity – inherited from my mother – was my thin hair. I slathered my face in makeup despite hating how the shit felt on my face. Then, I found FC and became a radfem. I read ‘Dietland’ after hearing the author on Meghan’s podcast and learned about ‘fuckability theory’. That’s when EVERYTHING changed for me. Today, I weigh close to 200 pounds, have psoriasis all over my face (sans makeup to cover it up), and am rocking my graying hair and selling my wigs. I feel more empowered than I EVER did wearing that disguise of makeup and fake hair. And best of all, I don’t care anything about men anymore. They aren’t worthy of me. If a good Robert Jensen-type comes along, great, I’ll acquiesce, but most of them are shit, and I don’t miss them – or dressing up for them – at all.

      • Rachel

        That’s awesome to hear you’ve made such positive changes for yourself! It’s not easy in this society! When I talked about being “obedient” I meant I was affected too much by the standards women are supposed to adhere to. I much prefer being a “rebel” and not adhering to it. Granted, I still need to work towards that goal of not giving a shit, some more. Thanks also – you just gave me a new book to read :D.