But Instagram is also an excellent case study in the "myth of self"—offering a chance for women to tell a story about who they are that is nevertheless subjective and crafted (consciously or unconsciously) by an understanding that they are still being looked at.
Instagram exists at the nexus of ego, artistic impulse, and immaculate self-conception. Vincent’s Annie Clark, Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein, and Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon—I include their band names here only to emphasize that these are the three biggest women in rock—are interesting because of how they square with traditional depictions of women in media, their evolution as musicians, and online harassment for women writ large.
We are sold the myth of what women in entertainment are supposed to look like every day, and the fact remains that no one has ever revoked an advertisement or magazine cover because it physically misrepresented a (perfected) female icon.
Airbrushing is designed to flatter and romanticize reality—but it’s also an act of deception, however benign.
As a contrast, the impulsive, documentary-quality of Instagram makes it feel like the only corner of the Internet where women can choose how they are portrayed; they can flatter the male gaze or subvert it.
An interesting dimension of fame is that female musicians are in the unique position of having access to photos that other people of take of them; as such, their choosing to include photos from the press alongside, say, selfies with their dogs represents a new, highly-tailored way to curate their image.
When she makes jokes about a "butt[hole] repair shop," her corny charisma gives viewers the impression of intimacy through what is actually a smartly crafted, albeit sterile collection of photos. For Brownstein, Instagram feels like a sanitized echo of the mainstream media that an older version of herself may have rebuffed: There are photos "behind the scenes" of the television shows, photo shoots, and vacations that Sleater-Kinney’s music seems to implicitly reject.
By that I mean this: When a product doesn't perform as advertised, it is taken off the market; when an academic misrepresents his research, he is stripped of his title; when a media icon lies about a simple detail of his personal experience, he is suspended without pay.
Image via Instagram The female image has long been a central, divisive aspect of popular culture, and the increasing ubiquity of Instagram has changed public perception of female music icons in complex, often conflicting ways.
From Kim Gordon to Beyoncé and the leagues of female artists in their wakes, women have never had such an honest and real opportunity to portray themselves in the media: In a culture rife with airbrushing and paparazzo, Instagram is perhaps the only place on the Internet where women can project an image of their own design and control.
When it comes to portraying women, music media buys into the ideas of glamour just as much as the fashion industry, and Instagram feels like an opportunity to supercede the romantic manipulation of photo-doctoring.
Airbrushing remains one of the few lies in the commercial economy that's allowed to remain unchecked even after the public is made aware of their own deception.
It says something about what women want to add to their own narrative every time a distinction is made between what does and does not get shared.
And yet, the aforementioned trio of artists seem just as obscured by Instagram as by popular media. Vincent rarely appears in her own photos, often choosing to hide behind pictures of humorous objects that make it feel like the image is a shield—there are no personal incursions here. " she comments under a photo of a can of Easy Cheese™.) Carrie Brownstein and Kim Gordon are similar in that how they are presented in social media fails to square with their archetypal presentation in the media, although the two go about it in different ways.