Two weeks ago, as soon as I got to work, I received a notification from Instagram that someone had left a comment on one of my photos. Curious, I clicked on the notification and was taken to one of my more recently posted images of a gorgeous woman who happens to be larger than a Size 4. Beneath that photo, some douchebag idiot, who apparently had nothing better to do that morning, took the time to leave the following comment:
And, yes, that is how he spelled it.
I immediately deleted his comment, of course, and then went out of my way to block him from ever being able to see another post of mine on Instagram. I’ve deleted comments and blocked people on Instagram before, usually on the grounds of them being perverts, but this particular comment really made my blood boil.
For one, what was this guy trying to achieve by passing judgment on my model like that? Did he actually expect me to reply with, “Oh my gosh! You’re right! She IS a curvy girl! My apologies, sir. I’ll try to only post photos of thin women in the future?” Because no. Fuck that.
Did he just want to make sure that I was aware of the fact that he considers the gorgeous woman in my photograph to be “overweight” by his own, fucked-up standards? Because I couldn’t care less about his or anyone else’s idea of body perfection.
Or, perhaps he thought my model would see his comment, feel ashamed of herself, and then maybe that would inspire her to lose some weight? Because, I can assure you, that is DEFINITELY not how that works.
The main reason why this guy’s comment upset me so much, though, is because I see it as a reflection of an ongoing problem that has been bothering me for many, many years. In the world of fine art and boudoir photography, it is very common for many photographers (especially male photographers) to only post images of thin, beautiful models on their websites and social media. I am also very aware of the fact that whenever my boss or I post images of our thinner clients to our business’ Instagram account, those images usually receive a significantly higher number of “likes” and comments than the images we post of our curvy or plus-sized women.
So, which came first? The chicken or the egg?
Do some photographers prefer to only post photographs of thin women on their social media accounts because that is what the public prefers? Or does the public prefer to see photos of thin women because that is what most photographers choose to feature prominently on social media?
And while we’re asking questions, if photographers, especially fine art and boudoir photographers, would actually post more images of women whose body types and other defining characteristics did not necessarily fit the standard criteria of the professional modeling industry, would this (could this?) eventually change how the public views and defines beauty?
I truly believe that the answer is yes, and this is why I will ALWAYS celebrate all body types on my own social media accounts. I mean, just look at how Jennifer Lopez’s amazing booty has completely redefined what people consider to be a beautiful body shape! I’m old enough to remember a time when big booties and bubble butts were far from desirable traits, but now some women are actually paying for butt implants! All because one day, in the early 2000’s, the media decided to start drawing attention to, and even making POSITIVE comments about, the size and shape of J. Lo’s derriere. That is literally all it took to change the public’s mind about big booties.
Anyway, all of these thoughts are what inspired me to post a naked mirror selfie (the same one you see here) on Instagram that same evening, followed by a brief, albeit hot-headed, rant about what had happened earlier that day and my opinion that more photographers should post more images of “real women” with “real bodies” so that illiterate douchebag commenters will stop judging curvy women. By the following day, that post had become one of my most liked and most commented-on Instagram posts to date, which felt really good, I have to say. I normally do not put my thoughts, feelings, and opinions “out there” because the last thing I want to do is spark a debate on social media or, God forbid, offend anyone, but it felt good knowing that other people were responding positively to what I had to say.
And then, it happened.
Around noon the next day, a good friend of mine, who is thin and has had to deal with people telling her that she’s “too skinny” her whole life, decided to leave a comment on my anti-body-shaming post that basically called me out for using the phrases “real women” and “real bodies,” because she pointed out that thin women are also real women, and their bodies are real bodies. And you know what? She is absolutely correct, and I could not have been more ashamed of myself in that moment for not being more careful with my words before I posted them publicly. After all, as a boudoir photographer who has photographed literally thousands of women of EVERY body type and heard about their individual struggles with body image for years, I am well aware of the fact that naturally thin women are body-shamed just as much as larger women, and I DEFINITELY should have known better than to use language that could have been misinterpreted as a suggestion that their bodies are not also “real bodies.” However, in my defense, I did feel like my intention behind the use of those phrases was clear when I wrote the post, especially given the surrounding context, but apparently, and unfortunately, I was wrong.
If my friend had reached out to me privately to make me aware of this issue, of course I would have immediately corrected my original post, and then I would have apologized and thanked her profusely for preventing me from unintentionally offending any other readers. However, because she made her comment publicly on my Instagram post, and because Instagram now notifies everyone who has commented on the same post about other new comments, I felt like there wasn’t a whole lot I could do at that point to save face. I didn’t want to simply reply to her comment after changing my original post, because then her accusation towards me of basically body-shaming thin women would have still been visible to the public. I also didn’t feel right just deleting her comment because I knew that some people had already seen it. I was also very anxious about the fact that every single second I spent trying to decide what to do about this issue was another second that her comment was visible to the public. So, I guess in a panic, I felt like my only choice was to delete the post entirely.
Anyway, don’t worry. My friend and I had a discussion about the whole thing, and I guess all is well. She apologized for not contacting me privately in the first place, and I apologized for being careless with my words, especially if she felt personally offended by my post (which she said she did not, she just felt the need to speak up for any other thin women out there who may be sensitive to the phrasing I used).
While I am glad that this “incident” (if you want to call it that) didn’t turn into a feud between me and my friend, and I do actually appreciate her making me aware of how my words were being interpreted. I am still VERY bummed about the fact that I had to delete a post that I was growing increasingly proud of (aside from the use of those two phrases, of course), because I do still very much believe in the message that I had finally found the courage to “put out there.” However, if I’ve learned anything at all from this experience, it’s that, unfortunately, my original instinct to stay away from making opinionated posts on social media is ultimately the best choice because the potential drama they can cause is just not worth it to me.
But, with that said, if I ever DO feel the need to make another opinionated post on social media, I have now also learned that there is an option to disable the comments on Instagram. 😉