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James Tarry's photography blog. Ramblings from a photographers over active mind. Email now or call +44 (0)7855 742 633.

Discussion: Comments and body shaming.

I've written before about the increase of 'abusive' comments on photography forums/blogs, or actually just about any form of website where comments are possible, but I've witnessed this turn from "the work sucks" to "body/look shaming". In recent months body shaming has been on the increase in general and a great example of it being widely used is The Daily Mail, one of the most read media outlets in the world. On any given day you can click open The Daily Mail Online and see 10+ articles and hundreds of comments slagging off someone's looks/figure/dress. It doesn't just end with Daily Mail though, most newspapers fall into this vicious "journalism" and it's rubbing off across social media too.

Take Instagram, you can regularly see comments being disparaging about the model, often these are about their features, clothes or how whoever would or wouldn't have sex with them and sometimes they go as far as mentioning rape! But it's not just models, Wedding photography posts aren't safe either often poking 'fun' at the bride and just last week across all forms of media you could see large numbers of people "calling out" Amy Schumer's "ugly face and fat body", and how Serena Williams "looks like a man and must be packing a penis under that skirt", when Pirelli released their new calendar shot by Annie Lieberwitz.

Below is an example from one of the leading photography blog sites on the Pirelli campaign. Sadly this was not an isolated case and thankfully there was a lot of people standing up and screaming back, but as usual it is an unmoderated free for all. 


This is obviously a wider issue than just on photography posts, for example there has been several 'memes' floating around making 'fun' of an A-listers facial features, all of which I personally find unfunny, but there they are, all over (mostly) my Facebook page timeline and viewed (presumably) as 'fair game' because, well, "they are famous and in the limelight, its not going to hurt them".

Back to the comments: I genuinely feel there has been a shift from a normal discussion comment. Its gone from "harmless and interesting" to a comment basically saying how much you "hate the work" (as discussed here), to where people will now be overly aggressive and personal to "win" on a thread. In my own case it was an innocuous comment on a photography gear page that resulted in someone calling me a "f-ing Hipster" and "to F off back to Shoreditch where I belong" all because they didn't agree with my opinion on a camera recommendation for someone.

That 'hipster' comment was presumably a judgement based on a photo of me on my social media page, as a few months ago after medical advice from my doctor to cover my head as much as possible, I wore a hat in the hot sun of Bilbao. I then changed my AVI's to a photo of me that I actually liked wearing the aforementioned hat and which subsequently people have liked to take the piss out of. These have ranged from simple 'insults' like calling me a "hipster" or general 'pokes and jokes', all of which have usually come about because someone has taken umbrage at something I have said online. In the real world I happen to have a lisp, I also cannot pronounce the 'th' sound and it comes out as a "fff", as a result that's always being laughed at or emphasised by strangers and so over the years I largely have kept to myself, try not to speak too much and often mumble when out in public, I hate being in groups of people having to make small talk. As an added bonus I also happen to have an underlining medical condition which means I often go through my days in pain or discomfort and my clothing choices have always been based around that. They aren't trendy, tight or hipster and granted, they probably make me look a bit rough around the edges but they get me through the day in comfort. Because they or I don't seem to fit a mould I am always and have always been told that 'I'm scruffy' or that 'I look like I don't care about my appearance' and am often having jokes or 'banter' made in my direction....and honestly, it really *blanks* me off. 

Now compared to what most people get dished out on them on a daily level my personal experiences online and offline probably don't really sound like anything too bad, but if you have any insecurities about yourself and they get pointed out (online or otherwise), they automatically become magnified and can become mentally damaging, this is why this topic is particularly touchy for me. You can see just how bad those seemingly 'jokey' comments are taken with me, when I have battled personal demons most my life, now imagine it as someone else. Maybe as a young teenager trying to find themselves in the world, how must they feel when he/she reads similar and worse splattered all over public forums? It is going to have an effect.

Banter is only banter if the other party is in on the joke.

So, how do we go about tackling this? Well, not doing it and thinking about others feelings first of all would be ideal, but I'm guessing talking about it is a good start and so that's what I've done, now over to you............