Is it any surprise female photographers feel uncomfortable?

Introduction

I had a mystifying experience on the Sony A7iii group run by SonyAlphaRumors.

Someone posted a photo of some ladies dressed in sailors outfits. The photo and pose weren’t to my taste but it was “safe for work” from a photographic perspective so the photo itself wasn’t the problem. What I found insane was the responses to the photos from the so-called amateur and professional photographers in the group, some of which run photography businesses.

What was so bad about the responses?

There were comments like “sexy bitch” , “she needs less clothes”, and similar comments. When confronted about them comments, the justifications were equally as horrendous. People responded with various excuses:

  • I needed to “lighten up”
  • Some said we’re all sexual creatures so these responses were natural
  • Be sensitive to the idea the different cultures thought sexism was okay
  • Needed to accept the internet was a bad place and if I wasn’t happy with it, I should move on
  • some even went as far as to respond to my comments about female photographers in the group who didn’t like it couldn’t hack it in the real world because “they don’t have the skills” .

Let’s be clear, it wasn’t everyone in the group, there were a lot of people who agreed the comments were out of line, but the stench of the these people in the group was more than I could bear so I left the group. Personally, if I was running the group, I would have banned about 20 people. The admins have different ideas on sexism in the industry and would rather see it flourish than weeded out as after a couple of hours, no one had responded to the complaints.

I’d like to address some of these responses individually:

Different cultures view sexism differently

There are human rights and there are human rights. There aren’t varying degrees of “okay” , or to put it into perspective with something like racism, it’s not okay to only be slightly racist. You’re racist or you aren’t, one is okay, one isn’t. The same applies to sexism. It’s not okay to only be slightly sexist.

So what do we do when we have a multicultural group at different stages of maturity? I think the worst outcome is to assume to lowest common denominator is correct, because if we took today’s world, the lowest common denominator would potentially mean being okay genital mutilation of women, stoning gay people, or that forced child marriages are okay.

From my perspective, if you want women to feel comfortable in a group, you have to meet the modern expectation of 2018 and treat the group the way women have the right to be treated in 2018, simply put, treat them as equals.

We’re all sexual creatures

Did you join your photography group for porn or for photography? Personally when I join a group called Sony A7iii, I joined it for discussions about the A7, not discussions around the female body. I’m pretty sure there would be better options available if you wanted porn so why are you obsessed with sexualising models in a photography forum? These are professional models, not porn stars.

The simple rule of thumb for these situations is if you wouldn’t be comfortable about someone saying it about your daughter, then it’s not appropriate.

The internet is a bad place

No, the internet is fine. The internet is a good place populated by bad people. There are people on the internet that are douchebags because they think they hidden by anonymity and because it’s easy to make comments hidden behind a keyboard that they wouldn’t say to someone’s face.

If we run the groups, we can set the rules. If they run the groups, we can leave the groups, not lower ourselves to them by staying there. I urge you to do the same. If you see sexist behaviour, complain about it, and if the admins don’t react, leave the group. There is no reason to support groups that condone this behaviour.

If females can’t handle the comments it’s because they don’t have the skills to hack it.

Ah, yes, believe it or not, this beautiful little line came up during discussions and the person in question who made it was a mediocre amateur photographer, not a top-notch professional. I’m not saying a professional would have justified it, but when the average female photographer is better than you, this is really the dumbest possible line you could make. The female photographers I know are top notch professionals, published in women’s fashion magazines, something 99.9% of these amateurs will never be able to achieve in their lifetime. As a result, these comments were laughable and embarrassing for the person that made it.

What this comes down to is comfort, not skill. Irrespective of the skill, if women think they are being treated as objects rather than professionals, they will feel uncomfortable. Like they don’t, I wouldn’t want to be in a group where females and males hit on me, or make sexual comments about me or my images. I’m happily married with 2 beautiful kids.

Conclusion

I know there has been a lack of structure in this, because it’s mainly addressing some of the laughable responses by individuals. I’ve seen a lot of people say that the reason there are a lot less female brand ambassadors is because women are less outspoken on social media, and brands are looking at mouth pieces for their brands. After seeing the systemic sexism in social media, is it any surprise that women aren’t as outspoken? Why would you be outspoken in an environment where sexism is inherent?

We as a community have a duty to weed it out, and ensure that female photographers have an opportunity to flourish, and the way things look right now, that isn’t possible.

As a father of two daughters, I want to know that when they are grown up, they have the same opportunities as their male counterparts, and can do so safely without fear of being treated as less. Let’s ensure we make that happen.

Alternative Groups

As a side note, if you’re a female Sony user, I’d recommend the A7/A9 Professional Series Group run by Hanna Saba. It seems to be run with far more consideration for female photographers

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