The Real Reason That Arizona Baseball Selfie Video Is Obnoxious

There’s a video currently blowing up Facebook timelines everywhere of a group of young women at an Arizona Diamondbacks game posing and taking selfies. The game announcers zero in on these young women and instantly start clowning on them despite the fact that the camera was scanning the crowd looking for exactly that situation as a promotional tie-in for their sponsor T-Mobile (which is kind of an odd way of getting fan participation if you ask me, openly mocking those who participate.) The reactions I’m seeing are pretty uniform in their disdain and eyerollery which I have no shortage of either, but for pretty much completely opposite reasons.

I think this video moment does state something important about how we act as a society, but I disagree with what most of the people sharing it seem to think that statement is: that selfies are a gross modern form of extreme narcissism. When people side with a couple of men who from a distance are ogling and dissecting in tedious detail the behavior of a group of younger women they don’t even know, women who are ostensibly enjoying a moment of leisure away from school or work, women who paid admission to an event to hang out with their friends and drink beer and eat churros in relative obscurity, women who had no plan to become momentarily famous as the temporary object of the male gaze, when we side with those men, what are we siding with?

Those men are being paid to do a job and that job is to cover a baseball game. Baseball games are long and tedious events but there’s no limit to the statistics and information those guys can cram into a break in the action. It’s what they’re paid to do. When they choose to not do that, when they choose instead to focus on a bunch of women minding their own business in the stands, why do people inevitably take their side and jump on the “Oh, college girls and their selfies, ugh…” bandwagon instead of saying “Dude, do your job and quit staring at those women.”?

Our modern obsession with criticizing selfies is mostly targeted at young women even though there’s no shortage of pictures of young men flexing in front of a mirror trying to capture their own perfect moment. Facebook and Instagram are filled with those too. Forget for a second the liberating politics of The Selfie, the freedom of being able to capture one’s own image in a way that allows us to feel good about ourselves, to control how we are viewed by the world if only for that moment. For women whose lives and motivations and images have always been more heavily scrutinized than men the selfie can be especially empowering.

The attitude surrounding the video of the sorority girls at the baseball game just feels like gross infantilizing, a modern pile-on equivalent of “Women be shopping!” Would a video of a bunch of frat boys posing the same way get the same brand of attention? I doubt it would but we’ll probably never know. It’s hard to imagine a couple of baseball announcers spending a similar amount of time lovingly dissecting the behavior of a bunch of young men the same way they did those women. That we can assume they wouldn’t says a lot more about the male announcers in the video and how we as a society view the behavior of young women than a truck full of duck face pictures ever could.