Playing the Gossip Game

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


Filed under Viewpoint

35 responses to “Playing the Gossip Game

  1. This post makes me SO happy!! Going to post this in my FB page, thank you! 🙂
    And as for the watermark metnion, ‘listen’.


  2. I dont water mark but I should and may figure it out soon. Hubby is the photo guru around here.
    The original issues at hand here are all valid and brought to mind a thought I had not long ago while out running errands at the most popular big box store.
    Are people just not trying to at the very least be healthy because all they see is what’s accepted by the masses?
    The 20 or so motorized carts in the front of the store, so no worries even if I get to be over 300 lbs I will still be able to get around.
    A reverse of the mentality of what is thought of as “normal” in society???
    Believe me I’m no Twiggy, but I try to eat healthy and I have learned from my many mistakes regarding diet and the garbage we put into our bodies.
    Sorry, a deep seated issue within me regarding society was triggered. I will hush now…LOL


    • No, please don’t hush! All aspects of the issues presented are open for discussion and all opinions are important.


      • Thank you for the permission to contribute more to the discussion, your allowing the conversation is refreshing.
        As for the watermark issue I do have something to add after discussing your blog with my Hubby. It is free advertising and marketing for even if someone “shares” it. Hubby claims once you learn how it only takes a couple minutes to do. I guess that means Hubby will be teaching me soon. 🙂


        • The quick and easy part sounds good to me.

          I’ve known for a long time that the comments are at least half of the value of a blog. I enjoy reading the different perspectives that posters have on topics, and rarely a day goes by that someone does not post something that makes me think or see something in a new way.

          As long as people are respectful or the ideas of others, then I encourage all to post at will.


  3. Great post, I totally agree with you about the 5’1″ size 8 mannequin! As for watermarking, it is always on my mind. As an artist it makes me shiver to know my images are out there being shared with no original source listed but I have not yet watermarked my work, I see that about half of the artists I follow do and half don’t. I’d love to know more about the pros and cons.


  4. My first impression was … WOW … what sexy looking gals! Didn’t realize at first they were mannequins. The debate for or against will go on always…it has already been “forever”. Kind of like tomato or tomatto!

    However, if you are a fashion designer…your designs may look and hang better on the slimmer models.

    Regarding the subject of copyright? If you are a photographer” Yes, this is your lively hood…Definitely copyright. It is a very simple procedure.

    I have seen my creations, figurines, mannequin heads, on ETSY, Pinterest, EBAY, Ruby Lane, etc with no mention of artist, designer, photographer. This bothered me at first….but after much thought, decided it was more important that my creations be SEEN and ENJOYED.

    People do not see their innocent act as stealing…(some would copy my descriptions, poems and stories.) They just like what they see and decide to use it.

    I decided IT IS TRUE, that IMMITATION is the highest form of COMPLIMENT. As a plus, often when someone copies YOUR work, it sets creativity alive in their OWN lives. Even starting with a spin-off of your design. Creativity grows when shared….it does not end or run out.

    To quote Erma Bombeck: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left…and I could say I USED every gift you gave me.”

    I hope my comments are not too out spoken…You said to tell us how we feel on the subject. Thanks much.


    • Absolutely not too outspoken. I appreciate seeing this issue through your eyes.

      I agree that people do not see it as stealing, but a person’s intellectual property is often just as valuable as any other property.

      And I love that Bombeck quote.


  5. Fashion Witness

    Thanks for getting this discussion going. For some reason the photo reminded me of a time when the costume shop where I was working ordered an entire case of “One Size” bikini briefs; they turned out to be so tiny that only one, very petite, woman — out of a dozen of us — could have actually worn them. She explained the problem to the rest of us: ” ‘One Size’ doesn’t mean ‘one size fits all.’ It means ‘We only make one size.’ “


  6. Teresa

    Such a tricky issue! I’ve watermarked a few of my images (with Photoshop) in the past but in the end decided not to keep doing it. I’m not an artist and in the end I think if you put something on the internet it’s going to get shared.

    It does however, always annoy me when I see an image of mine on someone else’s blog without credit. I always credit my sources and wish more people would do the same.


  7. I make a strict habit of watermarking all my photos. One of my early blog portfolio pictures was stolen and used as someone else’s store merchandise – I quickly updated my blog with watermarked versions including a disclaimer in the post. (It took them a year or so to finally remove my picture from their store and replace it with a really badly made version of my dress.) I’m always worried that someone will track me down as the source if they are unhappy with another person’s version advertised with my photo as the example. But I love it when my photos get around – as long as there’s a watermark! =)

    My biggest problem with the whole fat vs. skinny debate is that someone is always made to feel bad about their body shape. I’ve known skinny girls who hate themselves because of the mean things people say to them just as I’ve know overweight girls who hate themselves just as much from the teasing. (I myself have been accused of not eating enough because I just don’t gain weight.) You have to know your body and do what’s best for yourself. Learn to dress with confidence and don’t worry about what others think or what advertising says you should care about.


  8. Thanks for reading Worn Through and continuing the conversation here–there are many important sides to the story, about copyrighting, intellectual property rights, body image in America (and/vs Europe), and surely more.

    Great blog and great commentary!

    Contributor and Book Review Editor
    Worn Through


  9. I saw this image last week, but didn’t have the time (or enough interest) to see what it was all about. Glad I waited so that I could get the true story!
    It’s one of my pet peeves, too, that I see so many vintage ads and fashion photos on Facebook and Pinterest with no info regarding source or context.
    I put my blog URL on a few of my blog photos but don’t make a regular habit of it.


  10. I think that it is marvelous that you tracked down the original photographer in this story. It was easy to find out that this was not an H & M store, as there were news articles that pointed this fact out, but it is true that none of the articles I found mentioned Rebecka Silvekroon.

    I always watermark my photos and scans. Try Picasa; it’s free.


    • I can’t take credit; it was Arianna’s post that revealed the truth. I think that I just assumed that someone at Women’s Rights News was responsible for the photo. I should have known better.

      I’ll look into Picasa. Thanks for the recommendation.


  11. The only downside of watermarking is that I understand that google search tends to avoid images with watermarks–but this may be a good thing. As for what to watermark? When I see photos from earlier publications, whether ads or editorials, I don’t think that the website or blogger has the right to put their name on it. The original publication, photographer, or designer should be credited in the watermark, unless the blogger is using it with permission from the original source. Don’t you think? But original photos taken by the blogger? Yes, those should be watermarked.


    • Yes, I do agree. I don’t consider vintage ads or magazine covers to be mine, so I would not watermark them, and the same goes for photos taken by others, even if I have permission to use them. That material is simply not mine. But probably 80% or more of the photos I use here are my photos, and as you say, having them buried in google search isn’t necessarily a bad thing.


      • Have to throw my two cents in here. Normally I would agree with you about watermarking only personal photos and not scans of magazine covers and the like. I always give attribution as to where the cover/ad was found or originally published, and I think it’s pretty clear that it is not my work. The only reason I watermark all of my scans is because I’ve noticed that covers and ads that I’ve scanned and did not watermark have ended up on other blogs and websites, and I find that sort of borrowing without attribution unethical.


        • Well, if everyone did the right thing – gave their sources – then we’d not have a problem. I can see why you want to let people know that any image you worked on originated with you. So would I, but even if I just put my name or blog address on the image, it looks like I’m claiming copyright.

          It’s just one of those issues that in the way the internet operates (free for all “sharing”) there really no way that it going to be fair to everyone.


          • Actually, it would appear that you were claiming copyright only if you used the copyright symbol, the year, and your name as the watermark. A watermark of just the name of your blog is not an official copyright statement. According to the Berne Convention, which the US has agreed to, copyright belongs to the original artist/composer/writer, even if there is no copyright symbol, as soon as the pen hits the page, so to speak. Few people realize that copyright protection starts from the moment the work is produced. But yes, giving credit and attribution to the source is sometimes problematic, and it would be best if everyone credited others’ work consistently. What I find most problematic here on the web is people who claim works that are in the public domain are theirs to copyright.


  12. petasvintageblog

    Thank you so much for that post you forget how things can be twisted in this world!


  13. I had not seen this photo or heard about this, so I must be living under an internet rock! Maybe that’s a good thing. As to the mannequins, I think they’re lovely, and it’s nice to see a size other than the usual that we always see in stores here represented. I find the assertion that a larger size mannequin will suddenly make us all fat beyond ridiculous, as (here in the US anyway), we’ve managed to get quite a bit larger (and developed all kinds of eating disorders) all while stores have been filled with traditional “non fat” mannequins. But anyway…

    I don’t/won’t watermark my photos. But I’m neither an artist nor a serious journalist. Most of my photos are of my products. If someone wants to use my photo, I absolutely would prefer they link to my shop, of course…but it hasn’t been a big enough issue that I’d want to watermark. A watermark can be removed, and unless it’s unattractively placed over the center of the photo it’s useless.

    I do wish people would post the sources of their Pinterest/Tumblr, etc. photos. Though I agree that sometimes a pretty picture on its own is lovely, having the source/additional info about that picture only enhances it. And it’s very annoying to ,see things wrongly sourced, especially when a simple Google image search would show where a photo comes from (not all the time…often you just get dozens of Pinterest and Tumblr “sources.”) I’ve pinned something before that had the incorrect source, and was very glad (though a bit embarrassed) when someone pointed out my mistake!


    • I’ve never had the desire to watermark either, though now I can certainly see why people do it. I love blogging, but the truth is it takes a lot of time, effort, and thought to consistently post, and so it is irritating to go to tumblr and see entire “blogs” that are nothing but reposted photos with not a clue of the origin.

      I did a google photo search test last night with an image, randomly chosen from my blog. It was of an early 1960s Christmas card that I posted during the 2011 Holidays, an image that I’d not watermark because even though I own the card, I do not own the rights to the image. Anyway, the search returned 63 results, most of which were on Pinterest, but others were on blogs that took the image (most likely from Pinterest) and used it for their own greeting, all without saying where the image originated.

      When I use a old card, I put the name of the company that made it if they printed their name on the back (something many did not do). In this case, the company, Rust Craft, was long ago absorbed into another company, and that company absorbed by another…


      • Funny you should mention it, I saw your immediately recognizable red holiday image scroll by in my Pinterest main page last week–without credit of course.


        • Of course.

          Not that I own the image, but I did buy the card and photograph ot scan it, and I’m using my resources to host it on my website… So a little mention would be nice. Still, this is just something anyone who shares on the internet just has to deal with.

          And it’s made me realize that I need to do a better job of recognizing artists, photographers, and such myself.


  14. I think water marking is a great idea! depending on the mark it is usually not too bad, and what are people really using your photos for?? If they need one without and asked to use them in a presentation then that is something different.


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