I bet you have seen the photo above. Last week it was the viral image du jour for about four days after being posted on Facebook on a page called Women’s Rights News. The “conversation” of name-calling and childishness that seems to make up most social media discussions ensued, with “real women” yelling “YES”, and thin women yelling, “And ain’t I a woman,” and nutritionists calmly asserting that fat mannequins would lead to acceptance of fat in our society.
Other than to say that I think mannequins should be 5’1″ , be a size 8 and be 58 years old just like me, I can’t add a lot to that conversation. It has died down now anyway, but I’m sure it will resurface at a later date with the same old, same old.
When I was a kid there was a game we played at school called “Gossip”. It took about 5 or 6 kids to play. The first kid thought up a sentence and whispered it in the ear of the second kid who whispered what she heard in the ear of the third kid, and so on until it reached the end of the group, and the last kid said the sentence out loud. By the time the sentence got to the last kid it was, of course, nothing like the original sentence, and we always laughed as though we’d not know that the end result would be so twisted.
And that brings me to what passes for news reporting today.
By the end of last week, whenever that photo popped up in my internet reading, I just skipped over that article or blog, thinking I’d read it all, but when it appeared on Worn Through on Thursday I decided to read. Arianna Funk presented a side of this photo that I had not noticed, and that is the origin of the photo.
When the person at Women’s Rights News posted the photo, she or he only said that it was from a store in Sweden. After the photo picked up steam, it was reported by some news site that read “Sweden” and saw “H&M”. It was then widely reported that the photo was recently taken in an H&M store, but then H&M denied that the mannequins were theirs. Finally, four days later, a reader informed the Huffington Post that the photo was from another Swedish store, Åhléns.
So every news agency updated the story, but by then everyone had lost interest and had moved on the the next hot topic. But no one had reported who actually took the photo, and when. At this point I’ve got to stop and wonder why none of the reporting groups bothered to do an image search? Google can magically read a photo and detect its presence on other sites. I’m guessing that by the time anyone thought to search for it, the photo was so splattered across the web that the original source was deeply buried on page 537 of the search results.
But eventually ownership was claimed, by Swedish blogger Rebecka Silvekroon who had taken the photo and posted it on her blog in 2010. That’s right, this “news” item was originally posted two and a half years ago. Silvekroon is now trying to reclaim her lost fifteen minutes of fame by making a website devoted to the issue of body size in mannequins. I wish her well, because I really think the person who took the photo from Silvekroon’s site without a mention of her was not only stealing, but has also deprived internet readers of the entire story.
In our facebook/pinterest/tumblr culture, images become separated from their original context, thus losing much of their meaning. In this case, the point could be made that larger mannequins have been used in Sweden for at least two and a half years, and it does not seem to have made Swedish women any fatter. Or the question could have been asked, why are the mannequins accepted in Sweden and not here in the US where women are heavier, on the average, than are Swedish women. But instead of bringing up some fresh issues that are valid, we were inundated with the same skinny vs. fat debate.
Not that the debate is not valid, but why do we insist on the same old single-faceted arguments?
All this has taught me a lesson. Had Silvekroon watermarked her photo, it would have been impossible to ignore that the image came from her site. I’ve resisted watermarking my photos, first because I fear it would be distracting, and secondly because I don’t take my photos very seriously. I’m not a photographer, and I know that the quality of what I present here is not going to win a prize of any sort. But, the photos are mine, and it does irritate to see one of them on another site with no mention of The Vintage Traveler.
So after years of resisting, I’m seriously thinking about watermarking all my original photos. Do any of you use a watermark program? I’m looking for ideas.
Photo copyright Rebecka Silvekroon