A few days ago, I published a soft-focus, slightly fuzzy photo of my one year old over on my personal blog. In the photo, she’s playing with her big sister’s wooden dollhouse.
The photo was shot from from the side, slightly to her back, and oh yeah, in the photograph, my baby is TOTALLY nekkid.
As I do with about 90% of all blog posts that are primarily composed of one or more photos of my children (as opposed to posts where I wrote something substantive that might also contain a photo, but the photo isn’t the primary content for the post in question) I closed the comments on this photo post when I published it, meaning that readers were unable to leave a comment on the post itself. But one person was so bothered by the fact that I published a fuzzy photo of my baby in which her bare bum is visible that she left a comment elsewhere on my blog referring to the post with the photo. Her comment read:
I cannot comment on the photo posted after this as the comments are closed, so I am commenting here. You have a lovely baby. She is very cute, but please please stop posting pictures of her completely undressed. The world is full of depraved people (hello Penn State !) and it makes me cringe to see it even though yes, she is very cute and an innocent lovely baby. It’s really not appropriate in a public blog.
Obviously this commenter is well-intentioned and respectful, and truly believes that I should not have published a photo of my baby in which her bottom is not covered with a diaper. She is expressing her concern for my family’s well-being in making her criticism, and while I disagree with her, I appreciate that concern, as well as the thoughtful way she expressed it.
But I DO disagree with her.
I’ve blogged before about my point of view that just because some sick people see babies as sexual objects doesn’t mean I am going to treat my own baby like she actually is a sexual object – which she most certainly is not. There is nothing sexual whatsoever about a baby’s bare bum, or a photo of a baby’s bare bum, and thus, in my view, there is nothing inappropriate about publishing a cute, soft focus photo of my baby, sans diaper.
I certainly am well aware of the fact that there are mentally ill people in our culture who DO have sexual interest in babies. I do not deny this. However, there are also many people who are sexually aroused by other totally benign and non-sexual images of things like photos of 8 year old girls’ feet or photos of animals – or even photos of babies WEARING diapers. However, no one is suggesting that we should not display or publish photos of our children’s feet, our pets, or our diaper-clad infants and toddlers.
Another argument against me publishing a photo of Baby G. without her diaper might be that the photo represents a violation of her privacy that she will later resent. I respect the fact that some folks might feel this way, and I also respect that the choices they make in their own families may be different than my choices, but I simply disagree – respectfully.
Given that I do not believe there is anything more “private” about a baby’s bottom than , say her upper arm, I don’t believe there is anything more invasive about the specific photo I published than one I might publish on Facebook or Instagram of her wearing a cute sundress at the park. (Of course, some parents would find the idea of a girl of any age being photographed in a sundress at the park to be inappropriate and potentially provocative, but that’s not how I feel about it.)
Obviously, as my now very tiny daughter grows out of her babyhood, the “privacy zone” will grow along with her, and our views on how she is photographed, and whether or where those photos might be shared will evolve and change. That’s the natural course of things for most families, I think. But for now, SHE’S A BABY.
I realize, of course, that there are some people who decline to publish ANY photos of their children online at all – whether that’s on a blog, Facebook, an online photo-sharing service like Flickr, or anywhere else – because they believe that online display of photos represents an invasion of their kids’ privacy or rights. But these days, most parents I know do, in fact, publish at least some photos of their children online in some form or fashion because that’s simply the way we display family photos in 2011.
And as for that – the sharing and displaying of children’s photos on Facebook and blogs by proud parents these days – I don’t see that as any different than the way my parents and yours allowed all all those pre-internet-era photos our generation of kids to be published in all those years worth of school yearbooks, as well as the way our parents proudly allowed our photos to appear in the local newspaper when we gave that speech at Rotary Club in 5th grade, or after our team won the high school basketball tournament. Yes, perverts could take yearbooks home or collect newspaper photos of teenage girls in basketball shorts, but that didn’t mean our parents didn’t allow us to appear in these kinds of publicly disseminated photos.
While different parents make different decisions on these issues, I believe that we are pandering to a sick view of babies and very young children as sexual objects when we start lumping things like a a sweet photo of a baby in her own home without her diaper on, taken and displayed by her proud mama – a photo like the one I published on my blog – with the truly dangerous and degrading images of kids that we all know exist out there online, and to which 99.999% of us object and would do anything to prevent from being created or published. To paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous utterance in the Jacobellis v. Ohio obscenity case, child pornography may be difficult to define with complete specificity, but like most of you, I know it when I see it, and that photo of my diaper-less one year old playing with a dollhouse “is not that.”
READ MORE FROM KATIE OVER AT MAMAPUNDIT (HER PERSONAL BLOG)