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

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver, BC. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, Quillette, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and is now exiled in Mexico with her very photogenic dog.