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Mind your manners on FB ... or you might not make it into the yearbook.
August 20, 2011 4:23 AM   Subscribe

I Won't Photograph Ugly People. A young photographer, building her business in Pennsylvania, does a little FB research on the high school kids she's been commissioned to photograph for their senior portraits. She makes a tough decision: she won't photograph the ugly ones..
posted by thinkpiece (211 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Before this explodes, I'll mention that by "ugly" she means "mean or cruel," not "unattractive."
posted by ShutterBun at 4:26 AM on August 20, 2011 [49 favorites]


Ettore Bugatti reportedly used to dine with prospective clients before agreeing to sell them a car...to check their table manners.

Hey, it's the business owner's decision and if she can afford to lose the clients, good for her.
posted by Omnomnom at 4:31 AM on August 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Cyberbullying can destroy peace of mind and self concept. If she can follow through with her values based decision and retain the commission, more power to her.
posted by infini at 4:34 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Before this explodes, I'll mention that by "ugly" she means "mean or cruel," not "unattractive."
Spoilsport
posted by fullerine at 4:34 AM on August 20, 2011 [19 favorites]


This is her absolute right of course and there's something to be said in her making a stand against bullying. But I find myself wishing she had used a term other than "ugly". She could have just said "I won't photograph bullies". Plus it's a little strange/creepy that she was investigating the facebook pages of prospective teenage clients.
posted by katyggls at 4:35 AM on August 20, 2011 [17 favorites]


Plus it's a little strange/creepy that she was investigating the facebook pages of prospective teenage clients.

Is it very different from Googling (aka doing your homework) before meeting a prospective client or employer or new hire?
posted by infini at 4:38 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


infini: "Plus it's a little strange/creepy that she was investigating the facebook pages of prospective teenage clients.

Is it very different from Googling (aka doing your homework) before meeting a prospective client or employer or new hire?
"

I wouldn't feel the need to google or facebook a teenager I was taking a picture of for a yearbook. I'm not sure why that'd ever be necessary. What benefit can it possibly be to the job at hand?
posted by katyggls at 4:41 AM on August 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Plus it's a little strange/creepy that she was investigating the facebook pages of prospective teenage clients.

Many (or even most) portrait photographers want their shots to capture the "essence" of the person they're shooting. Many photographers won't shoot portraits without doing some kind of interview or chat with them beforehand. So, it doesn't surprise me that one would do a quick search for a little background on an upcoming subject, especially on a site where they could see their client interacting socially, to get an idea of their personality/interests/etc.
posted by elfgirl at 4:42 AM on August 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


But I find myself wishing she had used a term other than "ugly".

I understand where you're coming from, but I'd say it's perfect. Unattractive behavior, unpleasant, mean, morally revolting. Yeah. That behavior is best described as ugly.
posted by Saydur at 4:43 AM on August 20, 2011 [14 favorites]


Is it very different from Googling (aka doing your homework) before meeting a prospective client or employer or new hire?

Yes.
posted by ShutterBun at 4:43 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you want to photograph someone in a way that includes more of who they are with props handy like footballs, chess sets, cheesy background images, or whatever? I'm speculating, but would not actually want to do that if I were a photographer as opposed to just asking the client. Then again, teens and articulation are sometimes not overlapping.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:44 AM on August 20, 2011


ETA: after seeing your additional comment --

Senior portraits usually aren't just the yearbook picture, but also include a range of shots that include shots meant to convey students' interests or style. I'd expect the sitting to have been 1-1.5 hours with several dozen poses (especially for families who bothered to hire a private photographer rather than use the school appointed one).
posted by elfgirl at 4:46 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


BrotherCaine: "If you want to photograph someone in a way that includes more of who they are with props handy like footballs, chess sets, cheesy background images, or whatever? I'm speculating, but would not actually want to do that if I were a photographer as opposed to just asking the client. Then again, teens and articulation are sometimes not overlapping."

Ok I guess I can kind of see that. I'd rather just ask the kid, because I'd feel incredibly weird creeping on their internet profiles, but that's just me.
posted by katyggls at 4:47 AM on August 20, 2011


I was all prepared to be outraged at the shallowness of this photographer, but having RTFA, I have to say I quite admire her. "If you are ugly on the inside, I’m sorry but I won’t take your photos to make you look pretty on the outside!" Wonderful!
posted by ThePowerPopFan at 4:51 AM on August 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


What benefit can it possibly be to the job at hand?

If the person doing the job has made a decision not to offer her services to a particular set of people, the benefit is determining whether a particular person is in that set.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:51 AM on August 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


A young photographer, building her business in Pennsylvania, hits upon novel way to drive traffic to her website.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:52 AM on August 20, 2011 [59 favorites]


I got the vibe that she was specifically looking for meangirl kind of behavior...

So now she has made A Statement, garnered quite a bit of free publicity, and possibly indulged in a bit of revenge-by-proxy. Hat trick!
posted by likeso at 4:53 AM on August 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


This doesn't bother me but she's going to take a hit in that community and she should make it clearer why she was willing to do that. Given the amount of publicity she's receiving, it would be good if she could quote the comments (without naming names). She mentions they were about sexuality, from which I infer they were aimed at LGBT issues, but it could be something else (i.e. slut-shaming) and it's probably not clear to other people in her community.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:54 AM on August 20, 2011


Tomorrow: "Local Starbucks Shop Refuses To Serve Coffee To Ugly People."
posted by ShutterBun at 4:55 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Senior portraits usually aren't just the yearbook picture, but also include a range of shots that include shots meant to convey students' interests or style.

Boy, things sure have changed since I was a kid. We got the one photo done by the school-appointed photographer, and if you happened to blink just when he tripped the shutter, then you found a private one and paid that person to take another photo. One photo.

Don't get me started on the birthday party thing.

Also, I crawled to school uphill both ways through the snow
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:57 AM on August 20, 2011 [20 favorites]


Re whether it's strange / creepy - as far as I can see she has only done this once though this involved 4 clients, and she doesn't seem to have searched specifically for them (I don't know enough about FB to tell how she did come across the bullying page). She doesn't mention anything about checking FB pages from now on for future clients.
posted by paduasoy at 5:04 AM on August 20, 2011


i agree.
posted by gideonswann at 5:04 AM on August 20, 2011


The hypertext goes far beyond cute to extremely misleading. It should be changed.
posted by localroger at 5:09 AM on August 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


FPp description is a bit over the top. I feel ripped off.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:09 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


In Central Pa., "ugly" is a common term to describe behavior. "Oh, yeah, she was just ugly over paying for that ticket" or "...and then I said no, and then he got ugly" would not be out of place.

Private business owner, yay, can make decisions about clientele, yay...but it occurred to me, reading this, that the photographer could also very easily have been someone whose religion objects to homosexuality--or who doesn't agree with interracial dating--or who, I don't know, hates puppies or something. I wouldn't be cheering her autonomy if I thought her decisions were bigoted, and I'm not sure I like her choices here, as much as I dislike bullying and support her right to pick her clients. Something about it doesn't sit right with me.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:14 AM on August 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


When one sees the word "photographer" and the word "ugly" in the same sentence, absolutely nobody is going to think it refers to behavior. If the FPP mentioned her name without clarifying this I'd consider it libel.
posted by localroger at 5:21 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't be cheering her autonomy if I thought her decisions were bigoted, and I'm not sure I like her choices here, as much as I dislike bullying and support her right to pick her clients. Something about it doesn't sit right with me.

Anti-discrimination laws exist (in theory) to prevent businesses from making bigoted decisions about who they serve. Do you really think there needs to be "Bullies Rights" legislation?
posted by elfgirl at 5:23 AM on August 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


"We have the right to refuse service to anyone" is a pretty common sign to see hung in bars. Such signs are there to let the management throw out people who aren't behaving well. I have no problem with a photographer having the same policy.

I do find myself wondering, however, if she's really a photographer or not.
posted by hippybear at 5:26 AM on August 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Beat me by a second, hippybear. So many of the tell-tale signs were there, although from looking at her work, it's actually quite competent (though ridiculously overpriced, in my opinion). And I suppose she can't be blamed for the fact that apparently the color orange is scarce in Pennsylvania.
posted by ShutterBun at 5:29 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Plus it's a little strange/creepy that she was investigating the facebook pages of prospective teenage clients.

Based on what she wrote on her site, she wasn't doing this. Instead she says she came across the page (although no details of how) then noticed some of the comments were from girls who had appointments booked with her. So yeah, she was reading comments on a random mean-spirited facebook page and remembered enough about her work diary to recognise the names, but that's a long way from looking up the specific people who were booked with her.

But then the post up there manages to misrepresent the situation pretty much all over. Was it purposefully inflammatory or just sloppily written?
posted by shelleycat at 5:34 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Something about it doesn't sit right with me.

Well for one thing most businesses don't make a big announcement of why they won't do business with you in particular (as opposed to all minors) much less tell your parents.

This morning I sent out 4 emails to those clients while CC’ing in their parents explaining WHY I was canceling their shoots.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:37 AM on August 20, 2011


I do find myself wondering, however, if she's really a photographer or not.

Meh. I think that boat has sailed. We're solidly into the "Us amateurs are better than you trained and talented elites" era.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:38 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Before this explodes, I'll mention that by "ugly" she means "mean or cruel," not "unattractive."

jepp. it's smart linkbaiting but it's still linkbaiting and it's kind of funny to see such an obvious attention-whoring scheme employed by a person who judges others for her supposedly unethical behavior.
posted by krautland at 5:41 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't have a problem with people boycotting morally offensive people. I think that can be good and useful. I sort of think it is childish to so literally apply beauty is only skin deep. So are we going to have cardiologists not repairing the aorta of an old lonely miser because "he never even had a heart to begin with"?
posted by I Foody at 5:41 AM on August 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


We're solidly into the "Us amateurs are better than you trained and talented elites"
era.


Well there are lots and lots of amateurs who offer what they feel are services equal to what professionals provide: house painters, movers, car mechanics, landscapers, interior decorators, and so on. If the amateur can provide the service for less and the buyer can see no difference then money can be made/saved. Face it, unless government regulations cover the situation I would think most services can and will be offered by amateurs. It is up to the consumer to decide if the service is value for money. If she is not a good photographer, her business will fail.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:46 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


such an obvious attention-whoring scheme

Wow, y'all are really uncharitable here and I'm not sure why. For what it's worth, my immediate take on Jennifer's choice of "ugly" was an assumption that the girls doing the bullying are probably close to mainstream norms of "pretty" and that calling out their own ugliness is probably the sharpest rebuke one can make to that kind of person.

Bravo, Jennifer.
posted by mediareport at 5:48 AM on August 20, 2011 [27 favorites]


"some of y'all," I should have said.
posted by mediareport at 5:49 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


A young photographer, building her business in Pennsylvania, hits upon novel way to drive traffic to her website.

and ...obvious attention-whoring scheme...

A poser miscreant, building a reputation in a web community, hits upon an age old trope to drive favorites amongst fellow smug misanthropes.

God forbid someone who stands up for something worth standing up for also uses a clever turn of phrase to bring her point home. Fuck her and all the other obvious attention-whoring schemers (I'm looking at you Rosa Parks!).
posted by victors at 5:50 AM on August 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


(I'm looking at you Rosa Parks!)

Yes, this is obviously an equivalent moral action.
posted by hippybear at 5:51 AM on August 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


Instead she says she came across the page

Yeah. She "randomly came across a page" and determined that it was created by someone using a fictitious name. I suppose that could happen accidentally. But to me it seems more likely she was specifically looking through accounts linked to a particular high school (a.k.a. researching) and found the offending page.
posted by ShutterBun at 5:52 AM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


the girls doing the bullying are probably close to mainstream norms of "pretty" and that calling out their own ugliness is probably the sharpest rebuke one can make to that kind of person.

Would you consider a headline like "Pre-school Bans Ugly Children" to be baiting?
posted by ShutterBun at 5:54 AM on August 20, 2011


hippybear: I guess I should ack that: of course it isn't.
posted by victors at 5:57 AM on August 20, 2011


Bravo to her. I am sure she was specifically checking up on her teenage clients looking for malicious behavior. And she already decided, probably a long time ago, that she would not work for people like that in any way. She probably checks on-line profiles of all of her teenage clients. So what? I don't find it "creepy" in anyway. Its the goddamn internet! It is the teenage cyber bullying that is creepy and malicious--particularly when you see, as she describes, vicious ugly text next to somebody's smiling pretty face. The lack of empathy this evokes is profoundly disturbing. I totally support her position.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:05 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, as a longtime mefite and a first time FPPoster, yikes. Apologies all 'round if it seemed inflammatory and sloppy, certainly not my intent. I was impressed by the shutterbug's active immediate response to bullying in a way that could hurt her business in a relatively small community, saw nothing like a marketing ploy in what she'd written, maybe I'm naive. And I did like the layered connotation of ugly -- for me that's language, not trickery. But lesson learned!
posted by thinkpiece at 6:09 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I understand where you're coming from, but I'd say it's perfect. Unattractive behavior, unpleasant, mean, morally revolting. Yeah. That behavior is best described as ugly.

Yes, that behavior is ugly. But she didn't say "ugly behavior." She said "ugly people."

I'm sorry, but words have meanings, and she didn't pick the best word.
posted by John Cohen at 6:10 AM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's especially important to choose your words carefully when you're talking about kids. Using a word like "ugly" plays into so many insecurities that teenagers have. The fact that I totally know what she was trying to say just makes me cringe when I see how poorly she said it. Many people won't even be able to get past the headline and will move on to something else before seeing her clarification at the end of the post.
posted by John Cohen at 6:16 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, but words have meanings, and she didn't pick the best word.

Oh please. Give her a break. Did you know that sometimes in the English language the same word has multiple meanings?
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:16 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


she didn't pick the best word

Depends how Internet famous she's aiming to be.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:20 AM on August 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Good for her. I wonder what her next profession will be.
posted by rocket88 at 6:21 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


But she didn't say "ugly behavior." She said "ugly people."

That's actually a fair point, but a forgivable one, given that she's not a professional counselor or teacher.
posted by mediareport at 6:22 AM on August 20, 2011


"Oh please. Give her a break. Did you know that sometimes in the English language the same word has multiple meanings?" says a poster named "Seymour". Probably an exhibitionist.

Oh... :-)
posted by Mike D at 6:27 AM on August 20, 2011


Dude. This is a good post. I initially had the same "whaaaaaaaat!" as I was clicking the first link, with all of my indignation at the ready, but then I read the article, and then I did that thing where I cocked my head to the side like, huh! That's not what I was expecting! And then I read the other article, and then, I thought for about, oh, 2 minutes about it, which is longer than I think anybody thinks about anything these days, and I was grateful for the whole thing.

I'm certain the word "ugly" is on purpose, and it's to good effect. At first you think she's being cruel and judging people directly on the surface, and then when you dive in there's more substance there and you realize she's pushing forward and acting with some integrity, which rarely happens these days. The whole thing is a metaphor for the point she's making: You might think you have enough information to judge someone and dislike them, but you actually don't. Words matter, they mean something, choose them carefully, and understand their consequences.

Kudos to her. I don't get what all of the sour grapes are about. She didn't fail to make her point by choosing her words carelessly, she made an excellent point that takes more than 12 seconds to understand by choosing her words carefully.
posted by pazazygeek at 6:39 AM on August 20, 2011 [28 favorites]


Nicely done. Good for her.
posted by zarq at 6:43 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know, I'm not impressed. Sure, it's her right to do this. But these are children she's serving, and children make all kinds of mistakes as they are maturing, abd for a service provider to decide to humiliate these children based on her own perception of whether they are "ugly inside" makes her, actually, the far uglier one, because she's an adult and doesn't have the excuse that it was just an immature mistake. She should keep her nose out of these children's lives and focus on building her business through real competency, not by using sanctimonious stunts at the expense of kids.
posted by jayder at 6:53 AM on August 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Sure, ugly can be applied to behavior, but its primary meaning is about looks. It's a fun wordplay when it's presented in context, as in the photographer's blog post.
If the main link above the fold said 'ugly people', and then the more inside explained it was about ugly behavior, it would be clever. As it is, it's just misleading.
posted by Gordafarin at 6:59 AM on August 20, 2011


She didn't fail to make her point by choosing her words carelessly

I'm quite sure she chose her words carefully, which is kinda what the "headline baiting" claims are about. Obviously you have appreciated the full intended effect.

"Local business bans (commonly understood term) patrons!" is intended to trigger outrage and/or intrigue. Sensationalism. Then we read the article, and find out that they were actually referring to (thesaurus definition) patrons.

The goal may be admirable (i.e. calling out bullies, etc.) but this tactic seems designed more toward drawing attention to the individual crusader, as opposed to the battle being fought.
posted by ShutterBun at 7:01 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


She didn't list their names, what town they are from, what school they go to, what they wrote, where they wrote it....she respected their privacy.

All in all, I think these teenagers - who are about to graduate and enter the wider world as adults (as they were getting senior pictures taken) - learned a very important lesson about how actions have consequences. And they learned it in a benign way. No future employer is going to google their names (and they will) and dig this up. But now they now that the internet is scary-small and they need to watch what the hell they're doing out there.

I am actually surprised how many people are siding with the bullies on this. Ugly is as ugly does.
posted by Windigo at 7:07 AM on August 20, 2011 [26 favorites]


Oh please. Give her a break. Did you know that sometimes in the English language the same word has multiple meanings?

Since you're so interested in meaning, I recommend reading my comments more carefully before responding to them. I was in no way denying that a word, including "ugly," can have many meanings. So your response is a non sequitur.
posted by John Cohen at 7:07 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


mediareport Wow, y'all are really uncharitable here and I'm not sure why. For what it's worth, my immediate take on Jennifer's choice of "ugly" was an assumption that the girls doing the bullying are probably close to mainstream norms of "pretty" and that calling out their own ugliness is probably the sharpest rebuke one can make to that kind of person.

Bravo, Jennifer.


Well said. I appreciated that Jennifer didn't go into a lengthy explanation of why she used the word "ugly" to describe the clients she refuses. (I also like that the FPP followed her convention.) It would have been tedious to explain, and she trusts that people will go with it. She means it literally, like once you know a person has been cruel then their actual appearance changes. It brings to mind a lot of questions about the nature of aesthetics and morality.
posted by jwhite1979 at 7:11 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


siding with the bullies

I don't think anyone here is necessarily siding with the un-named perpetrators of a (more or less) un-named act.

Being against capital punishment is not an endorsement of murder, etc.
posted by ShutterBun at 7:13 AM on August 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


But these are children she's serving, and children make all kinds of mistakes as they are maturing, abd for a service provider to decide to humiliate these children based on her own perception of whether they are "ugly inside" makes her, actually, the far uglier one, because she's an adult and doesn't have the excuse that it was just an immature mistake

I struggle to swallow the notion that the bullying behaviour of children can reasonably be considered a mistake. It's deliberate, malicious and extremely hurtful behaviour. Will they regret that as an adult? Hopefully many of them will. But they are not at the time they are doing it making a "mistake", they are deliberately choosing to cause others pain, and it ruins other children's lives while the adults sit by and go "Oh, it's just kids being kids".

I don't know how I feel about this specific issue (particularly the whole "ugly" thing), but I do know how I feel about the behaviour she's trying to punish and I'll applaud her for taking a stand on it if nothing else.
posted by DRMacIver at 7:15 AM on August 20, 2011 [14 favorites]


Won't someone think of the conventionally attractive 18 yr old children??!??
posted by selfmedicating at 7:19 AM on August 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


I don't think anyone here is necessarily siding with the un-named perpetrators of a (more or less) un-named act.


You're right, I should have worded it differently. Let's say that instead I am surprised by how many people are cynical about her decision to not photograph those who she feels don't represent her/her business's ethics (as she states it in her blog post).

However, there are some instances of "think about the children (who bullied other children)!" in this thread. Not a lot, but there are some.
posted by Windigo at 7:20 AM on August 20, 2011


I assume she emailed the parents because they were the ones who hired her, the paying clients. Not merely to tattle on the kids.
posted by Omnomnom at 7:23 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's a lot of trying to have it both ways in the justifications for this stunt. "She obviously meant it figuratively ... but wait, she was literally talking about their physical appearance!" "She deliberately chose a provocative wording to get attention ... but don't you dare take any objection to the wording!"

Look, if she was aware of what she was doing, she knew many people would consider an adult's description of children as "ugly" to be ... ugly.
posted by John Cohen at 7:24 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Who has said that she was literally talking about their physical appearance?
posted by mmmbacon at 7:30 AM on August 20, 2011


All the hand wringing on these sorts of issues amazes me. She comes out and says "I'm doing something that is a bit of a stunt, willful, and may cost me my business." She does it in such a way that only she could possibly suffer a backlash, not her former clients. She explains how and why she did it, admitting her own potentially flawed judgement along the way.

I hold that if all businesses conformed to these standards it would be a good thing.
posted by meinvt at 7:31 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Who has said that she was literally talking about their physical appearance?

I did.
posted by jwhite1979 at 7:31 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Y'all can complain about her word choice all you want, but I'll have to counter with the point made in the thread previously that my relatives from that area of the US - the youngest of which who would be around the same age as rhe photographer I think - have used the word "ugly" to describe bad behavior/personalities/actions for at least 25 years. (I remember because, to be honest, my siblings and I made fun of them for it.)

Even today, I still hear it today used more often to describe a person being nasty than someone's appearance (probably because I can't even imagine spending much time with people who seriously talk about people's looks that way - which is why the word is so powerful) In Chicago, I've hear it used more often by older church-going women the same way as it was used by my preacher uncle and his kids. An explanation of why this word was used would be weird because its commonly used. The double meaning of the word is the reason it may have caught on in usage, but using it wouldnt be as confrontational ad others are accusing or assuming.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:33 AM on August 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


Starbucks reserved the right to refuse service. So does Jennifer.
posted by stevil at 7:34 AM on August 20, 2011


I bet she thinks she is a photographer...
posted by Renoroc at 7:34 AM on August 20, 2011


You know who else wouldn't photograph Hitler? Wait, am I doing this wrong?
posted by blue_beetle at 7:36 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I use ugly to describe people. Sometimes you encounter people (or even situations) for which the only word that can describe them is ugly. At a certain point it is not just ugly behavior; it's such a part of them that no qualifier is needed.
posted by Windigo at 7:36 AM on August 20, 2011


To those defending her post as clever and metaphorical, here's a thought experiment: What if she had written "I won't photograph gay people"? You start frothing at the mouth and click on the link only to find out she means "happy." It would be technically accurate but nevertheless misleading, given current popular usage. And you'd probably be annoyed. That's how some of us feel about her using "ugly."

As usual, Mark Twain said it more succinctly: "The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."
posted by pmurray63 at 7:41 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Using a word like "ugly" plays into so many insecurities that teenagers have.

Honestly? Fuck them. Teenagers typically have no compunction against using really charged language against others, why should they be spared? She's not the kids' parents, or teacher, or anything. Shoring up the self-esteem of nasty teens isn't her job.
posted by hermitosis at 7:43 AM on August 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


Given a thread about bullying in schools, Mefites fall all over themselves to viciously attack teachers and administrators for not doing enough to stop those evil teens. In this instance, however, where someone is really making a stand against bullying....well, that's just not fair to the poor young folk involved.

As long as Jennifer is careful to make sure that identities aren't revealed, I say more power to her. Teens need to learn that their behaviour has consequences.
posted by Go Banana at 7:44 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Would it be alright if Denny's refused service to gloomy, pessimistic, or dismal patrons, based on their own impressions? If so, I've got a headline all set.
posted by ShutterBun at 7:44 AM on August 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


pmurray63 To those defending her post as clever and metaphorical, here's a thought experiment: What if she had written "I won't photograph gay people"? You start frothing at the mouth and click on the link only to find out she means "happy." It would be technically accurate but nevertheless misleading, given current popular usage.

I don't think we should rely on an elite culture to change current popular usage, nor do I think we should wait for popular usage to change before feeling comfortable enough to describe the world as we see it. Jennifer and people like her promote better meanings.
posted by jwhite1979 at 7:56 AM on August 20, 2011


I think it's a fucking wonderful and effective thing. So much bullying over appearances by people who are super-image conscious (in other words, the kind of people who will pay for a 2 hour professional photo shoot).

So here's someone who is a *professional* image creator, someone who makes their living trying to make people look good, saying "No, *you're* too ugly to work with, take your money back." I spend my life dreaming of one day being in the exact right position to unexpectedly smack someone down hard who deserves it and she was able to do it. Fucking awesome.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:57 AM on August 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


To those defending her post as clever and metaphorical, here's a thought experiment: What if she had written "I won't photograph gay people"?

Oh, c'mon. She used a common slang term that is still very much in usage that describes behavior. To compare 'ugly' and the original archaic usage of the word 'gay' is a bit disingenuous.

Next you'll say it's like if the woodchopper made a blog post about his bundles of sticks being on sale using another archaic word.....
posted by Windigo at 7:57 AM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Another thing that bugs me about her sanctimonious little stunt is this: how does she even know for sure what is happening on those Facebook pages? I was just thinking, the other day, about something I said during high school that was mercilessly ridiculed by a friend, for years afterward ... and guess what, I thought it was hilarious when he ridiculed it. If we had been in high school during the Facebook era, I have no doubt he would have mocked me on Facebook. An outsider might have thought I was being bullied, but I wasn't, it was just a long-running joke between me and a friend.

There is something so petty, small, and even banal about this woman's Facebook research and her self-congratulatory trumpeting of how she banned of these kids from receiving her services. The excuses being made for her behavior in this thread are laughable. She needs to Facebook-stalk these kids "for a little background on an upcoming subject"? Come on ... research for senior photos? she's a busy-body, sanctimonious, internet-snooping, small-minded attention whore, let's at least call her what she is.

I mean, it's just stupid. Would those of you who like what she's done, also be in favor of the formal-wear rental place also doing Facebook research on prospective customers and then not renting prom tuxedos to the students who said something cruel on someone's Wall? She is really exposing herself as not much of a professional by doing this ... I like to think that a professional really just sticks to what they do best and don't go rummaging through someone's Facebook history and appoint themselves an arbiter of whether this individual is a Good Person Worthy of My Services. Can you imagine a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, or any other self-respecting professional doing this? Seriously, yuck ... this woman is awful. I hope she loses her commission. Maybe her "business" will fail and she can then move on to her next hobby career ... and leave photography to the real professionals.
posted by jayder at 7:58 AM on August 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


A large part of solving a problem is calling attention to it. You don't do activism in a vacuum, especially activism that is intended to shame people out of bad behavior. Activists publicize their work all the time, and they do so for tactical reasons, not because they are desperate for attention.

School bullying literally kills children. Here in Minneapolis, we have had a spate of suicides directly and explicitly linked to bullying. She has decided to take a stand against it, to use her work as a tool for activism, and she is publicizing that. Calling her an attention whore and claiming this is just an attempt to attract attention to her business is an extremely uncharitable -- and undemonstratable -- read on what she's doing. Without evidence to the contrary, I am going to assume she's up to precisely what she says she's up to, taking a stand against school bullying in a way that shames the bully.

And I say good for her. I would love to see these claims of attention whiring laid to rest on this site. Without evidence to support it, it's a glib dismissal, not a valid critique.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:00 AM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, this exactly the kind of photographer I would want to do my family photos. Too bad I don't ever go to Pennsylvania.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:00 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Somehow this Bob the Angry Flower which was in my next tag over seems relevant to this discussion.
posted by immlass at 8:02 AM on August 20, 2011


Many (or even most) portrait photographers want their shots to capture the "essence" of the person they're shooting. Teens have essences now?
posted by the noob at 8:02 AM on August 20, 2011


One of the weirdest things about the internet is how it tends to turn aspects of our daily lives that previously would have been relatively unremarkable into news stories. It's like those old articles from The Onion – "Area Man Decides To Get The Cheese Fries Instead Of The Onion Rings," etc. I notice The Onion has stopped doing those kinds of stories, probably mostly because they're not really funny after a while, but also because thing we're no actually used to seeing news stories about precisely these things – or at least blog posts and eventually write-ups in the Huffington Post. These aspects of our lives that used to be private – a decision not to keep certain people as customers, say – are now assumed to be public, with all the new dimensions this reality lends to the situations.

I guess what I'm saying is that this would probably have been a lot more powerful as an anti-bullying tactic if, instead of writing a blog post that got picked up by Huffington, this woman has just talked to the bullies and told them why she didn't want to take their picture. In publicizing this, particularly on the internet, I think she opened this case up to the potential for mob justice, and at the very least is throwing a kind of shame in the faces of these bullies. Lots of people might say they deserve that, but stopping bullying is not about giving people what they deserve.

The effective way to end bullying, I think, doesn't involve advertising for your small photography company by publicizing your heroic stands against injustice.
posted by koeselitz at 8:04 AM on August 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Why not? I hear you can smell their spirits....
posted by hippybear at 8:04 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


For the regional language nerds: "Ugly" is a favorite word of the Good Women where I live. These are grandmothers, active in running the rummage sales, taking the notes for the fire company's monthly meeting, manning the booths at the civic-minded local festivals, baking for the church's Christmas market. They have a firm grasp of what they consider to be the Right Way to Behave (and, not coincidentally, of how to tell the kids to get off the lawn). When they hear snark, insolence, irony, back-talk, swearing, cynicism, snide remarks, or cruelty, they file it in the mental drawer marked "ugly."

When they get into conversation with each other about The Outrageous Thing That Happened the Other Day, they pull out the word as a sort of disapproving shorthand: "...and when I told him that I couldn't sell it to him because I was holding it for somebody, he got ugly." There's a real tone of moral judgment to the word, and there's an assumption that All Good People will understand the shorthand because they share the same set of codes about what constitutes appropriate, polite behavior, and what doesn't (and this variable rises with the age of the speaker, I've found). When you use "ugly," you don't need to get specifically judgy, as you would with, say, "racist," "rude," "bully-like," "snippy," "stuck-up," "mean," "unkind to the volunteers who are just doing their best" or "critical in a loud and perhaps sweary way." Everyone in the club knows that "ugly" means, well, ugly.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:06 AM on August 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


how does she even know for sure what is happening on those Facebook pages

I believe it was a facebook page made for the very purpose of mocking other students, yes? It's pretty evident when people are giving each other shit as friends versus a digital slam-book.

she's a busy-body, sanctimonious, internet-snooping, small-minded attention whore, let's at least call her what she is.

Try calling a future employer that when they Google you up to make sure they want you representing their brand.

Would those of you who like what she's done, also be in favor of the formal-wear rental place also doing Facebook research on prospective customers and then not renting prom tuxedos to the students who said something cruel on someone's Wall?

I just read how Abercrombie & Fitch have publicly said they will pay the Jersey Shore kids to stop wearing their clothing because, quote:

“We are deeply concerned that Mr. Sorrentino's association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image. We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans."

or any other self-respecting professional doing this?

All the time. People decide they do not want to work with others based on personal reasons all the time.

and leave photography to the real professionals.

Heh.
posted by Windigo at 8:08 AM on August 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


I guess what I'm saying is that this would probably have been a lot more powerful as an anti-bullying tactic if, instead of writing a blog post that got picked up by Huffington, this woman has just talked to the bullies and told them why she didn't want to take their picture.

I agree, that would have been better. She took the easy, self-congratulatory, look-at-me-being-great route. If she had taken the route you propose, koeselitz, perhaps she would have learned something herself instead of remaining wrapped in her coccoon of smugness. Maybe she would have seen remorse in the "bullies" she didn't want to serve. Maybe one of those "bullies" would have explained that she misinterpreted some bit of teen culture that she didn't understand. Who knows what would have happened. Instead, she chose to treat the offenders like they didn't deserve to even be photographed, using her own little postage-stamp-sized little bit of power to try to erase them from the collective memories of high school. Petty, small, and cruel ... not to mention cowardly. Rather than choose real dialogue and engagement ... she chose to go with the viral marketing. What a vile woman.
posted by jayder at 8:13 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Which one stands out?

Local gas station refuses service to "ugly" patrons.
Local hair salon refuses to tollerate ugly behavior.
Local photographer refuses to photograph ugly people.

It certainly may be the *correct* word for the circumstances, but it's so obviously intended to incite.

If there was some colloquial definition of "fat" that meant "mean, hurtful, bullyish," would people be so quick to justify the means with the end?

(while I appreciate how the FPP carried over the use of the word "ugly," with all of its inherent "whaaaaa?" factor, I think the Indiana Gazette said it much better: "Business owner strikes back at online bullying")
posted by ShutterBun at 8:15 AM on August 20, 2011


MetaFilter: a busy-body, sanctimonious, internet-snooping, small-minded attention whore
posted by hermitosis at 8:16 AM on August 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Maybe one of those "bullies" would have explained that she misinterpreted some bit of teen culture that she didn't understand.

HAHAHAHAHAHA ~whew~

"But mummy, she didn't UNDERSTAND that it's perfectly acceptable to call Sally an ugly dyke because we don't like her! It's teen culture!"

Instead, she chose to treat the offenders like they didn't deserve to even be photographed, using her own little postage-stamp-sized little bit of power to try to erase them from the collective memories of high school.

Holy dramatical reading of the situation, Batman!

These are just posed senior pictures. One of the other dozen studios/photographers in town will take their pictures. It's not like she is the only photographer in all of that part of PA.
posted by Windigo at 8:20 AM on August 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


Out of curiosity, what has she done to publicize this other than ask a question on her Facebook page and write a blog entry?

If those are the standards by which we move from deciding our own ethics to being a sanctimonious, smug attention whore, I suspect many of are guilty.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:22 AM on August 20, 2011 [15 favorites]


You're only guilty if it works.

80,000 hits in one day: working as intended.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:26 AM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Given a thread about bullying in schools, Mefites fall all over themselves to viciously attack teachers and administrators for not doing enough to stop those evil teens. In this instance, however, where someone is really making a stand against bullying....well, that's just not fair to the poor young folk involved.

Your brush is far too broad, Banana. In your possibly hypothetical bullying thread, probably some MeFites might behave as you describe. Not all of them would. In this thread, some have expressed concern for the rejected teens. You have presented no evidence whatsoever that the people who have done so are the same people you say viciously attack in the bullying thread. I call strawman.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:27 AM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


it's perfectly acceptable to call Sally an ugly dyke

There's that word again...
posted by ShutterBun at 8:28 AM on August 20, 2011


"It was beyond 'your clothes are ugly' or 'you don't have any brand clothes' or 'you are ugly, your hair is not right," McKendrick told WTAE-TV. "It was vicious. It was talking about sexuality."
posted by Windigo at 8:29 AM on August 20, 2011


I wish she'd actually met the girls and their families. A teaching moment, but also a community-building moment, instead of hair-pats from total strangers on the internet.
Or maybe meeting with the school, and thinking about a presentation on how online actions can have real-world implications.
As the mom of a fairly recent hs sr, I'd have been squicked out if a photographer had googled my daughter prior to a photo session, but whatever. If she's in a smallish town/suburb, this sort of news travels pretty fast anyway.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:32 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would like to see the lady's qualifications as a serious student of human behavior and sociology before she starts passing judgement values on kids she doesn't know who are, let's face it, acting like %90 of kids that age.

Her smiling headshot and the publicity this is generating equal, to me, a scheme for self-aggrandizement dressed up as standing up for bullied kids.

And verbal, behind-the-back verbal bullying is endemic to high school students. I did it, you probably did it, everyone you know probably did it. If Facebook existed when you were in high school, it was probably on facebook.

This photographer isn't saying "Look at the poor state of interpersonal relations in our public schools!"

She is saying "Look at me!! Me me me!!!"
posted by TheRedArmy at 8:36 AM on August 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


She's the fucking portrait photographer, not the Grand Inquisitor.

Let he who has not talked shit cast the first turd.
posted by TheRedArmy at 8:37 AM on August 20, 2011


This photographer isn't saying "Look at the poor state of interpersonal relations in our public schools!"

She is saying "Look at me!! Me me me!!!"


Agree.
posted by sweetkid at 8:38 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bunny Ultramod: “Out of curiosity, what has she done to publicize this other than ask a question on her Facebook page and write a blog entry?”

To be honest, another thing that bothers me about this is the use of the word "ugly."

I don't mean that I object to the apparent body-conscious undertone of the word.

I mean that it's a pretty cruel insult. It really is.

Think about the origins of the term, at least as I can imagine them. Your appearance, at least as it was (and largely still is), is one of the few things about yourself that you cannot change and you cannot hide. Monkey Toes gave a good rundown of the regional undertones of the word, and I think that rundown is correct; it has an almost archaic lilt to it to say "that phrase is ugly" or "that saying is ugly." It seems to appeal to an inner vision of what beauty is.

But when used as an insult, it seems to me that "ugly" has a somewhat nastier connotation: it indicates that you can't change it. Even when you say to someone: "you're speaking in an ugly way," you're implying that what they are saying is unappealing on the face of it, and that therefore it is wrong. However, when you go on and say "you are an ugly person," in the inner sense that I'm talking about, you're saying: "this is an aspect of who you are, and there is no way for you to change it or mask it."

Personally, I think that's a terrible message to send to someone, especially a bully. It's all well and good to say "you did something wrong here;" it might even be appropriate to tell someone they ought to be ashamed of how they acted. But to flat-out accuse them of being ugly goes beyond moral castigation, even; it is a dismissal with the implication that a person is irredeemable.

And then, the photographer here chose to email the girls and their parents and accuse them of being ugly. She's basically taken it upon herself to punish these girls by bringing as much shame on them as she can, and I'm not sure that's her place; nor am I sure the punishment is apt.

“If those are the standards by which we move from deciding our own ethics to being a sanctimonious, smug attention whore, I suspect many of are guilty.”

Indeed. That's something we'd do well to take to heart. The fact that many of us are guilty doesn't make it less wrong.

Go Banana: “Given a thread about bullying in schools, Mefites fall all over themselves to viciously attack teachers and administrators for not doing enough to stop those evil teens. In this instance, however, where someone is really making a stand against bullying....well, that's just not fair to the poor young folk involved.”

One of the hardest things about dealing with bullying is resisting the temptation to become a bully yourself. I think that's the problem we're talking about here.
posted by koeselitz at 8:42 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


And verbal, behind-the-back verbal bullying is endemic to high school students. I did it, you probably did it, everyone you know probably did it.

That doesn't make it OK.

Should we not call out homophobia when we see it, just cuz it's common?

Instead of "it gets better SOMEDAY," why shouldn't we try and make things a little better now? And are the only good acts permissible those which can't possibly lead to personal benefits as well?

And...no, not everyone did it. I NEVER slammed people for their sexuality, real or perceived.
posted by Windigo at 8:43 AM on August 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


One of the hardest things about dealing with bullying is resisting the temptation to become a bully yourself. I think that's the problem we're talking about here.

She refused business and contacted the parents to explain and support her decision. Then she wrote a very small blog post supporting her decision. She didn't identify the kids or point to their original posts, she didn't create a web page mocking them, she didn't stuff them in lockers. I am not clear on how she became a bully here.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:46 AM on August 20, 2011 [17 favorites]


But to flat-out accuse them of being ugly goes beyond moral castigation, even; it is a dismissal with the implication that a person is irredeemable.

I agree, and often bullies have been bullied themselves, and everyone feels outcast in some way. To say some behavior is essential to a person, means you don't have any faith in them to change, it's encoded in them somehow, which pretty much can guarantee that they won't change and will just perpetuate the behavior.
posted by sweetkid at 8:47 AM on August 20, 2011


But I find myself wishing she had used a term other than "ugly".

It caught your attention, and she is playing for trade. Of course, if she were super talented, she would be able to get across the inner ugliness without them necessarily being aware of it.

But then, would that be the right thing to do? People change, and do any of us really want to be remembered as the people we were in high school?
posted by IndigoJones at 8:47 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reading the thread I'm guessing it wasn't easy being in HS was it?
posted by infini at 8:50 AM on August 20, 2011


My God, Jayder, are you on some sort of debilitating sanctimony jag?

Got any more hypotheticals to invent? Maybe one of these bullies will reform just from the email, invent a time machine and kill Hitler. Have you ever thought of that? Not so vile now, huh?
posted by klangklangston at 8:50 AM on August 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


sweetkid She is saying "Look at me!! Me me me!!!"

This is just how it works in the real world. People are proud when they do good things, and they want to be noticed. Isn't this for the best? If everyone hid their good deeds under a rock, then only shitty deeds would be on display. What a lousy world that would be. Sure there is a point where you're just being a douchebag, but writing a blog post about something you're proud of is not even close to getting to that line in my opinion.
posted by jwhite1979 at 8:50 AM on August 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


That doesn't make it OK.

Should we not call out homophobia when we see it, just cuz it's common?


I'm merely arguing against the notion that this woman is somehow special for refusing business to kids who said mean things. People fight bullying in more direct and effective ways than this every day, and they don't get a Metafilter post because they aren't doing it for publicity.

And...no, not everyone did it. I NEVER slammed people for their sexuality, real or perceived.

Well, let me know how the Never Talked Shit section of Heaven is fitted out when you get there, then.

(And come on, I used plenty of qualifying words there.)
posted by TheRedArmy at 8:53 AM on August 20, 2011


People fight bullying in more direct and effective ways than this every day, and they don't get a Metafilter post because they aren't doing it for publicity.

Then make a Metafilter post about those people, and bring them to our notice. You have a say in this community. This woman made a post to her little blog and her facebook page. Public, but not crowing to the heavens. I really doubt she had any idea that it would blow up this big.

Also, there isn't a high-tide line of 'THIS is how direct and effective your anti-bullying must be" to ride this ride. Every little bit helps.

Well, let me know how the Never Talked Shit section of Heaven is fitted out when you get there, then.

I'm an atheist, but I hope there'd be lots of bean-bag chairs. Maybe some of those sad-eye dog & cat paintings.

And is it really that hard to believe there's lots of people out there who didn't toss around homophobic slurs as a teen? Really, it's not that rare and unbelievable.
posted by Windigo at 9:00 AM on August 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


But I find myself wishing she had used a term other than "ugly".

The ancients used to equate one's actions with one's character. And the sum total of one's character comprises who you are as an individual. To have ugly actions, then, simply is to be an ugly person.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:06 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think this is a thinly veiled marketing ploy using hot button language to capitalize on a hot button topic in an attempt garner business by playing on people’s emotions.

Now, with that said, I don't disagree with her having the right to refuse clients based on her convictions. As a freelancer, I have also backed out of some paying jobs that were, well, dicey. I did not want my name on associated with them for a variety of reasons, some of which are similar to the reasons this person has encountered. However, what I did not do was create a web page declaring my displeasure with those now "un-clients". I just moved on. For this person, using it as a platform to declare their disgust for those people, while advertising their services on the same site just crosses the line of out of honesty and into the realm of disingenuousness.

But this is what Facebook users love to do and she is typical of that ilk. She just took it to a new level by migrating the issue to a web site.

Facebook is riddled with (among other things) people who love to declare from the top of the Mount Zuckerberg, their lofty criticisms about the injustices of life. It happens all the time on that site. It is epidemic and only serves to make FB users think they are actually doing something that matters. The reality is that they are just paying lip service to give themselves a virtual pat on the back.

What seems to be lost on these screamers is that the sheer volume of these lofty declarations lessens the sympathy that one will have toward their issues du jour. Also, if they really cared about the issue, does tapping out a few characters on a popular social media site count much as an effort in relation to the supposed importance that terrible thing they feel so strongly about? Are there not more effective avenues to affect real change? Is real change what this person wants, or attention? I think the latter.

Still, I will give her some credit for putting her opinion out there on an actual website, as opposed to just on FB as she started out with. It takes a little more effort than just tapping out an FB post. It is a website with a real name and all that goes along with a real WHOIS record. Even with my outrage about her outrage about the outrageous behavior of her never-did-have-in-the-first-place-non-clients, I hope that it works for her.

From a freelancer’s standpoint though, I think she is an idiot.

Even if the outrage is directly related to her photo business - in this case high school student vanity shots - in today's toxic business environment it is a risky move to chastise potential clients before you even have met them. Yes, step away from working for people you find distasteful, but getting clients is hard enough as it is. Pre-insulting people is not exactly a good business model.

It is also foolish to base your lofty outrage on the Facebook behavior of teens. FB is not exactly a wellspring of clearly thought out postings, especially among younger users. Teens tend to say stupid things as a general rule and they love to do it on sites like FB without giving much thought to the impact of those statements. These are the same things that they will cringe at when they read them later on in life as adults. Maybe try to help them see that?

If she was so outraged, maybe educating these horrible children a bit on the insensitivity of their posts would be more constructive? Maybe taking all that time used for all the interviews about this blog posting and come up with an idea of getting through to those “ugly” kids to teach them about respecting others? Maybe setting aside some time for this to happen is a good idea and worthy of praise. But that won't happen as all her time is taken up for the interviews with The Daily Mail, The Huffington Post, WTAE Pittsburgh, WNEM Saginaw, WFIE Evansville and others to the further the attention she are garnering from the thsi hot buttonn outrage blog post while using it as a thinly veiled advert. That just leaves you without any time for good deeds. Clearly, she can't do both.

Well, enough said. There is probably a Stoogapalooza marathon on tv somewhere that is more deserving of my time than this opportunist.

/outrage about outrage.
posted by lampshade at 9:09 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


If this was a marketing ploy, she sucks at marketing.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:10 AM on August 20, 2011


TheRedArmy: I would like to see the lady's qualifications as a serious student of human behavior and sociology before she starts passing judgement values on kids she doesn't know who are, let's face it, acting like %90 of kids that age.

Her smiling headshot and the publicity this is generating equal, to me, a scheme for self-aggrandizement dressed up as standing up for bullied kids.

And verbal, behind-the-back verbal bullying is endemic to high school students. I did it, you probably did it, everyone you know probably did it. If Facebook existed when you were in high school, it was probably on facebook.

This photographer isn't saying "Look at the poor state of interpersonal relations in our public schools!"

She is saying "Look at me!! Me me me!!!"



By that logic, let's see yours?
posted by Dysk at 9:12 AM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I didn't make any specific reference to homophobic slurs, nor did the article. And I certainly didn't make any insinuation that you are or have been a homophobe.

She didn't step in and break up a fight, she took one look at one thin slice of the social strata of the school she was employed by and decided to take a moral stand because kids are acting like kids.

And is it really that hard to believe there's lots of people out there who didn't toss around homophobic slurs as a teen? Really, it's not that rare and unbelievable.

Is it really hard to believe that many, many, many people do? Especially as teens?

Maybe the kids being picked on are total assholes. Do you know? Does she know?

Go fix the fucking adults who call people fags and dykes, the kids are at least likely to get smarter when they grow up.

(I don't think the world is as pretty as you think it is, I guess.)
posted by TheRedArmy at 9:13 AM on August 20, 2011


TheRedArmy: Go fix the fucking adults who call people fags and dykes, the kids are at least likely to get smarter when they grow up.

It's so much easier to 'fix' (influence) kids than it is adults. A quick look at a demographic breakdown of approval on gay marriage should lend support to this idea...
posted by Dysk at 9:16 AM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: “If this was a marketing ploy, she sucks at marketing.”

On the contrary – let's be clear on what's happened with this thus far. She posted her blog post on the 17th. On the 18th, she went on the local TV news show for a headline interview. On the 19th, Huffington Post picked it up, and on the 20th, the Daily Mail, one of the largest newspapers in Britain, published the story. (Apparently Daily Mail reporters are all assiduous readers of the Huffington Post.)

If this was a marketing ploy, it was spectacularly successful. Even if she'd just landed the local TV news spot, it was a good move, I think.
posted by koeselitz at 9:21 AM on August 20, 2011


Instead, she chose to treat the offenders like they didn't deserve to even be photographed, using her own little postage-stamp-sized little bit of power to try to erase them from the collective memories of high school.

Imagine how they make the targets of their bullying feel.

Render unto me a fucking break. She's refusing to do their Senior photo sessions, not campaigning to have them stricken from the yearbook forevermore. They're free to choose another photographer. It's not hard to do.
posted by MissySedai at 9:23 AM on August 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


All right, let's actually be clear. We don't know whether she went to the newspaper or if they came to her, and you don't go to a newspaper and demand a headline. The fact that the story got picked up elsewhere is unlikely duento her influence.

All we know for a fact that she did was write a question of Facebook and a blog entry. I would be surprised to find a marketer who would see those two actions and say, yes, genius, guaranteed to eventually wind up on MetaFilter, where you will get castigated for being a bully and an attention whore!
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:25 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is it really hard to believe that many, many, many people do? Especially as teens?
I know that many teens use homophobic and slut-shaming insults, having worked with teens. But it's crappy, and it does a lot of damage. She didn't hurt these kids in any meaningful or lasting way. They're no worse off than if she had never started a photography business. They'll have to find someone else to do their senior portraits. That's not a national tragedy. And now they know that there can be consequences when you say cruel shit online and that your intended audience may not be the only people reading.

I'm also not sure that she needed to have been snooping on these particular kids. It's possible that someone told her that there was a mean Facebook page involving students from the local high school, she was curious and looked at it, and she saw names on it that she recognized.
posted by craichead at 9:27 AM on August 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


If the person doing the job has made a decision not to offer her services to a particular set of people, the benefit is determining whether a particular person is in that set.

Private business owner, yay, can make decisions about clientele, yay...but it occurred to me, reading this, that the photographer could also very easily have been someone whose religion objects to homosexuality--or who doesn't agree with interracial dating ...


Public accommodation laws prohibit businesses from refusing to serve someone who is in a 'protected class' due to one's race, sexual orientation, etc. [Previous MeFi thread: Photographing gay weddings: a moral quandry?]

'Mean girls' do not qualify as a 'protected class.'
posted by ericb at 9:28 AM on August 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


I dunno, if you would have asked me I would have predicted all of it. From her birth.
posted by TheRedArmy at 9:28 AM on August 20, 2011


Wel, theRedArmy, then I guess I would also like to see your qualifications as a serious student of human behavior and sociology.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:32 AM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


As the mom of a fairly recent hs sr, I'd have been squicked out if a photographer had googled my daughter prior to a photo session, but whatever.

That's not what happened, though. The first article states "Jennifer McKendrick, from Indiana County, Pa., wrote on her own Facebook page earlier this week that she came across another Facebook page with nasty comments from four high school girls whose names matched her scheduled clients. "

But anyway...

The photographer who did my son's (and his girlfriend's) Senior portraits asked that the kids friend him on Facebook so he could get a feel for who they are. Based on what he learned from their updates and photos, he asked them to bring particular props and clothing. The results were gorgeous, and well worth the frightening sum I laid out for those portraits. For some photographers, this is just part of their "process".
posted by MissySedai at 9:34 AM on August 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


She didn't step in and break up a fight, she took one look at one thin slice of the social strata of the school she was employed by and decided to take a moral stand because kids are acting like kids.

She was not employed by the school. Senior portrait photographers are hired privately and are payed for by the students (or more likely, their parents).

Is it really hard to believe that many, many, many people do? Especially as teens?

No, but many, many, many people do not as well.

Maybe the kids being picked on are total assholes. Do you know? Does she know?

Even asshole kids don't deserve to have their sexuality bullied. And two wrongs don't make a right; I am assuming if the bullied had also been bullying and she was aware of it she would have refused them as well.
posted by Windigo at 9:36 AM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I fall in with the group who thinks it's creepy that this woman cyber-stalks her teen clients prior to determining whether or not they are worthy of her services (I find it extremely difficult to believe she "just happened" to come across a facebook page many of her upcoming clients were involved with right before they were scheduled for their shoots). But that pales in offense to the self-righteousness of her self-congratulatory "Look at what a wonderful person I am" blog post.
posted by The Gooch at 9:38 AM on August 20, 2011


One of the great things about being self-employed is that you never have to do anything you don't feel good about, absent some ethical obligation to do it, and you can pick who you want to work with, absent breaking the law.

She decided she doesn't feel good about taking pretty pictures of smiling high-school students who bully their classmates. As for whether it's the same thing as choosing your clients based on race, even aside from any legal differences, why on earth would disassociating from people based on the fact that they're publicly bullying others be the same thing as disassociating from them based on race? I cannot understand in the slightest what those two things have to do with each other. You can't not hire people based on race, but you can certainly not hire them based on the fact that they act like jerks at interviews. Slippery-slope arguments only go so far, and it seems to me that "if we approve of a photographer canceling shoots based on client behavior, there's no way to distinguish that from canceling shoots based on their religion" is too far.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 9:40 AM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I fall in with the group who thinks it's creepy that this woman cyber-stalks her teen clients prior to determining whether or not they are worthy of her services

That would be creepy, if that hd been what happened.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:41 AM on August 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


That would be creepy, if that hd been what happened.

It is telling that you left off the "I find it extremely difficult to believe she "just happened" to come across a facebook page many of her upcoming clients were involved with right before they were scheduled for their shoots" portion of my comment.
posted by The Gooch at 9:48 AM on August 20, 2011


Wel, theRedArmy, then I guess I would also like to see your qualifications as a serious student of human behavior and sociology.

Hahah, sure! My qualifications don't exist. But I'm not riding a media wave about how I exercise sage moral judgements, either. The point is that this person isn't any more qualified than me to make moral judgements.

Of course she is her own business manager and can choose who she wants to take photos of.

Windigo:

Again, we don't know what was actually said on these blogs. That the comments were about 'sexuality' could be construed as meaning 'sexual preference', yes, but we don't know that for sure. Especially seeing as she not an expert in the field. Coming from a laywoman, it could mean homophobia, looks-bashing, body-bashing, penis-size bashing.

And, again, I am not devaluing the damage such behavior can cause. Merely questioning whether this photographer deserves the crusader-for-justice tag she is likely to end up with.

In the public schools I went to, any little thing could make you a 'class enemy,' and often enough, a 'faggot.' Sometimes it was meant seriously, sometimes it was a rib. If it wasn't that, then something else. If someone is different they get jumped on. Your mileage obviously varied.

To me, it's not surprising in any way that high school kids are ripping on each on all available topics, and not surprising either than it ended up on Facebook.

So what is the new information we get from this story? Kids are bullying each other? Well, send it to the presses again, I guess.
posted by TheRedArmy at 9:54 AM on August 20, 2011


Sorry, not 'on these blogs,' I meant 'on the kids' Facebook page.'
posted by TheRedArmy at 9:55 AM on August 20, 2011


TheRedArmy: The point is that this person isn't any more qualified than me to make moral judgements.

You seem to think you're pretty qualified, going by the number of moral judgements being made...
posted by Dysk at 9:57 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


You seem to think you're pretty qualified, going by the number of moral judgements being made...

Sorry, noticing that someone practices one profession instead of another is a moral judgement?

Show me the crow, I'll eat it.
posted by TheRedArmy at 10:01 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am just amazed how many commenters here have the ability to divine other peoples' motives from afar. Awesome!
posted by Ron Thanagar at 10:02 AM on August 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


(I thought that's why we paid the $5...)
posted by TheRedArmy at 10:04 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Kids do 2 hour photo shoots with a private photographer for high school? We deserve to go down.
posted by bongo_x at 10:29 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is interesting to me how she defines beauty by the heart and personality. That's cool. But I'm not really the type to judge people...
posted by mitrieD at 10:32 AM on August 20, 2011


Although I agree with the underlying philosophy I think the implementation is weak (and I do agree with the assessment of Hippybear and others ) . Is she a photographer or a moral freedom fighter? Who is she to decide on a person's moral worth from some crap that they wrote on Facebook when they were a teenager?

Sure, some people will be obviously morally worthless. They'll grow up to be to be bankers and corporate lawyers or whatever. But I imagine there will be a whole lot of people who will be on the fence. They're kids. Kids say stupid stuff. I said stupid stuff I am fully ashamed of when I was a kid (sometimes I still do only not as much). Why does she get to judge? Because she was bullied when she was younger perhaps? Oh how the tables have turned HA HA ha haahaaha..... right.... .

"YOU don't get YOU picture taken because I judge YOU to be not good enough in MY eyes" I'm pretty judgmental myself by nature but laying that kind of vibe on a young kid - that goes way beyond my own level of comfort. I don't think I'm good enough to make that call and I don't think she probably is either.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:33 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I believe it was a facebook page made for the very purpose of mocking other students, yes?

I fall in with the group who thinks it's creepy that this woman cyber-stalks her teen clients prior to determining whether or not they are worthy of her services (I find it extremely difficult to believe she "just happened" to come across a facebook page many of her upcoming clients were involved with right before they were scheduled for their shoots). But that pales in offense to the self-righteousness of her self-congratulatory "Look at what a wonderful person I am" blog post.

Well, you know what? I found at least one of the Facebook pages in question where teenagers were ripping other teenagers apart for their amusement. It was so fucking easy, you guys. You know what I did? I read the comments on the Facebook post by Jennifer that started this. Someone mentioned a Facebook page under the name of "Indiana Koobnrub" -- according to comments on Jennifer's Facebook post, this is another version of the page where Jennifer saw the nastiness. It sounds like the original page got enough complaints to shut it down, and an early comment on the Indiana Koobnrub page supports that.

Posts on that page keep being deleted -- yesterday when I first looked at the Indiana Koobnrub page, there was a post there specifically calling out a girl by first and last name and calling her a fat slut, saying something about how she should know sucking all those cocks won't help her lose weight. And there were plenty of other posts about other kids being douchebags and closet cases, always calling those kids out by full name. I also saw posts on the wall from people excoriating the page owner for being such an asshole, and referring to posts I could not see -- indicating they were hidden to non-friends, or they were deleted. Now the post I had seen about sucking all the cocks is gone. What was interesting about that post, to me, was that some other girl had "liked" it, and the first comment on the post was from her, cheering on the page owner and asking for more "talk" about "people [I] hate".

As for the assumption that Jennifer was "cyber-stalking" these kids -- yes, it is very easy to assume that if you are jumping to conclusions in a rush to prove... what? That you don't fully read the links you click on?
posted by palomar at 10:39 AM on August 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


I define 'beauty' by a person's ability to pay the sitting fee.
posted by mazola at 10:40 AM on August 20, 2011


As for the assumption that Jennifer was "cyber-stalking" these kids -- yes, it is very easy to assume that if you are jumping to conclusions in a rush to prove... what? That you don't fully read the links you click on?

You got the link to mean kids' page from Jen's FB page. How does that exonerate her of Facebook stalking?

Hey, hold this bloody knife a sec....
posted by TheRedArmy at 10:50 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


If we're going to bring the definition of stalking down to clicking a link or two, then we're all stalkers here. Aren't we.

Come the fuck ON, people.
posted by palomar at 10:51 AM on August 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm 100% for this. I'd like to high-five this photographer forever.
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:52 AM on August 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


She may have found the page because one of her other clients, who friended her, had it appear on their wall.
posted by rtha at 10:54 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some people, when they happen upon private correspondence think to themselves "Not my business." Not "Tell the newspaper!"

Not to mention she probably stands to gain financially, through a modicum of fame, from this.
posted by TheRedArmy at 10:54 AM on August 20, 2011


TheRedArmy, how is it "private correspondence" if it's viewable by the public?
posted by palomar at 10:56 AM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would have a hard time trying to photograph how pretty someone was when I knew this about them. I suspect I'd have to recuse myself just because I know I wouldn't be able to do as good of a job.

I am not a photographer but yes, I don't take clients whose philosophies are too far from mine. It would be unethical for me to accept them knowing that someone else would be better able to serve them.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:56 AM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Not to mention she probably stands to gain financially, through a modicum of fame, from this.

Good.
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:56 AM on August 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


YES I know it was posted in a semi-public area on FB, but teenagers treat those areas as if they are not sometimes through short-sightedness.

I know this is true because I am speaking from highly unpleasant experience.
posted by TheRedArmy at 10:57 AM on August 20, 2011


It's finding someone's diary in a coffee shop, at this point in The Future.
posted by TheRedArmy at 10:58 AM on August 20, 2011


Finally, I am truly sorry about the inane volume of posting in this thread---didn't mean to take it over, just feeling ornery or something. Enjoy the rest, I'll leave in peace.
posted by TheRedArmy at 11:01 AM on August 20, 2011


teenagers treat those areas as if they are not sometimes through short-sightedness.

So what you're saying is sometimes teenagers have to learn harsh lessons about the reality of the world, and that they shouldn't talk trash about people if they don't want to deal with the potential consequences?
posted by palomar at 11:02 AM on August 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


TheRedArmy: "and decided to take a moral stand because kids are acting like kids."

I just want to say that "kids acting like kids" is THE excuse that everyone uses when they don't want to do anything about bullying and it's crap. Kids can and should be educated.
Bullying shouldn't be an inescapable part of growing up, either as a victim or as a perpetrator. Leave the pecking order thing to chicken.
posted by Memo at 11:04 AM on August 20, 2011 [25 favorites]


Yeah, that's insulting to kids (which high school seniors are not in any case). There is no excuse for anyone to ever say the kinds of things palomar describes being said on that facebook page, and I find it really disturbing that some people consider it normal teenage behaviour to treat other people so badly. No, it's asshole behaviour, and it will persist for these now-teenage people's entire lives if you don't raise your standards. I mean, this is the smallest possible decency, the most basic, obvious right from wrong we're talking about.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 11:54 AM on August 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's finding someone's diary in a coffee shop,

It's more like running across a flyer advertising a yard sale in another neighborhood, but still going to check it out anyway because it's not terribly far out of your way, and then being really disappointed by the merchandise.

Actually, it's just not really like either of these things.
posted by hermitosis at 11:56 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


The entire point of Facebook is to show what you are writing to other people. It's not semi-public; it's not semi-private. It's public. Facebook postings are not private correspondence; they are emphatically, intentionally public -- that's why the bullying is happening there. The entire point of the bullying is that it be seen by others.

It seems incredibly unfair to me that kids can bully other kids in public, right out in front of everyone, but then if anyone else finds the bullying, there's some sort of courtesy that the bully is entitled to where their abuse of others will be ignored on the basis that it's "private," and even though it's intentionally being done in front of other people, to look at it is "stalking." If the worst consequences someone suffers for emotionally abusing and humiliating classmates in the most public and likely-to-spread forum they can find is that they have to change yearbook photographers, it will take a very tiny Kleenex to dab away my tears on their behalf.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 11:57 AM on August 20, 2011 [18 favorites]


I'm all for what she did (if she really is a photographer and not a writer).

If my teens were bullying other teens by name online and I found out about it this way, I'd be embarrassed and then angry with them, not with her for denying them service. That's her right.

And kids who bully shouldn't be protected from the consequences. Sure, they're young. Sure, they're bound to make mistakes. Maybe they don't realize the harm they are doing (though I think you know when you are being malicious). But that's exactly why they need someone to tell them, "Hey, you are being an asshat. Cut it out!"

Kids don't just turn 21 and BAM! become adults who "know better." They learn that their behavior is unacceptable by being called out on it.

Jayder, you are so over-the-top incensed by this that you just come across as a bully who doesn't want to be called out.

Now, as for the way the photographer went about this...

Bunny Ultramod: "Out of curiosity, what has she done to publicize this other than ask a question on her Facebook page and write a blog entry?

Bunny Ultramod: "All we know for a fact that she did was write a question of Facebook and a blog entry. I would be surprised to find a marketer who would see those two actions and say, yes, genius, guaranteed to eventually wind up on MetaFilter, where you will get castigated for being a bully and an attention whore!"


You've made this point twice, BunnyUltramod, and as someone who writes professionally, I feel qualified to say that asking a rhetorical question, especially a misleading one with a controversial spin, is a common tactic for engaging the reader's attention. That's why you see questions like, "Having a job in this field makes women less desirable?" in Cosmopolitan magazine, and, "Do Singles Have a Higher 'Risk of Death' Than Their Married Counterparts?!" in Glamour.

The goal is to "grab" you so you'll read the actual article. Having someone ask, "Was I so wrong to do this?" immediately makes you want to see what this was because a) it might be something you've done, or b) it could be something really bad, like mass murder!

Believe me, the author of this piece is perfectly aware of this.

Also, the word choice was certainly deliberate. Maybe "ugly" as a descriptor for bad behavior is popular regionally, but here the calculated use of the word along with "photography" makes the reader connect the word with physical appearance. It's a persuasive writing technique called "connotation denotation synergy." Ugly, used in that sense, has emotional undertones, so you get angry ("WTF? This photographer only takes pics of pretty people?!"). Now you are emotionally engaged, another impetus for clicking that link and reading that article.

When you see what the author actually means by "ugly", your original negative impression is turned around. And now you like the author; if your emotions hadn't been engaged in the first place, you'd just be ambivalent. Cue tons of comments, social media upvotes and instant internet fame.

Persuasive tactics like these draw readers like honey draws bears; a lot of writers just don't want to go there. The fact that Jezebel resorts to cheap stunts like this all the time is one reason I don't frequent the site. Though the claim to be a feminist publication, they prefer controversy to actual activism, because conflict gets page views and that sells ads.

Anyway, back to this article: it's self-promotion, but well-crafted. Cheap tactics, but overall a good cause. I'm going to give her a B- on this one.
posted by misha at 12:23 PM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


FPp description is a bit over the top. I feel ripped off.

You've been Rick Roll'd, son!
posted by Brocktoon at 12:40 PM on August 20, 2011


Regardless of her motives (which I happen to think were honorable), it takes a ballsy photographer, especially one serving a largely local market, to blow off four booked jobs.
posted by imjustsaying at 12:42 PM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


TheRedArmy: "and decided to take a moral stand because kids are acting like kids."

Memo: I just want to say that "kids acting like kids" is THE excuse that everyone uses when they don't want to do anything about bullying and it's crap. Kids can and should be educated.


I completely agree.

I went to school before schools started having anti-bullying policies, at a time when most adults took a "kids will be kids" attitude. And yet I have specific memories of teachers talking to their classes about bullying, usually about particular kids who were being bullied - the bullied kid would be sent on an errand to the principal's office or something, and the teacher would say to the rest of the class, "I've seen and heard some of you saying mean things to Jane. That's hurtful. How would you feel if people were doing that to you? Don't do that anymore." I remember this happening in high school, and I remember it happening in grade school. The notion that kids can't learn to behave better is puzzling to me. Certainly my teachers believed the kids in my classes could learn to stop themselves from bullying their classmates.
posted by kristi at 1:21 PM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seriously, I hate teenage bullies, but I hate self-congratulatory, holier-than-though, attention loving do-gooder adults even more

There may be a plank in your own I that has been left unattended.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:26 PM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


teens being teens

I just want to agree with those who have taken the position that this is incredibly unfair to the vast majority of teenagers, who would never dream of engaging in this kind of behavior. As I understood the story, these are high school seniors, and high school seniors have absolutely no business being involved in this kind of stuff, and the ones who still are will not, in my opinion, "grow out of it" unless there are consequences, which you're saying there shouldn't be, because it's no big deal, because they're just "being teens." In a sixth-grader, perhaps it's easier to understand. Contrary to the movies and ABC Family, the most brutal mean-girl time is middle school. These kids are about to be college-aged. If, indeed, some of the reported comments are the ones that are involved, this is disgusting, cruel stuff that normal high school seniors do not do, and I have no idea why they'd spontaneously stop doing it. And even if they will, why is it bad for them to suffer this incredibly mild consequence now?

The idea that writing about your opposition to brutal bullying is not only objectionable but is actually worse than brutal bullying is one that I am having enormous trouble understanding.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 1:31 PM on August 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


When my daughter was in first grade a boy punched her in the stomach. Next morning I went in the classroom, held the boy close to me by his arm and quietly told him, in front of the teacher, that if he ever touched my daughter again I'll break his arms. By the time I got home there was a call from the principal lecturing me about how inappropriate was my behavior. I agreed with her, but insisted that I will not raise my daughter to accept being victimized, and as this boy's nastiness was already known and not dealt with successfully, I had to establish to him a consequence if he continued. As it turned out, the situation forced the school to follow up on him, found some troubling circumstances in his home life that they helped to remedy.
posted by semmi at 1:52 PM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


She says her goal was not to teach anyone anything but to assert her own freedom in not taking people as clients who she thinks badly of. I feel this is valid.

And is she to blame as an attention whore for posting one blog post? Is it her fault HuffPo picked up on it?

Any teaching effect (I kinda doubt there'll be one) is incidental.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:06 PM on August 20, 2011


"I don't know, I'm not impressed. Sure, it's her right to do this. But these are children she's serving, and children make all kinds of mistakes as they are maturing, abd for a service provider to decide to humiliate these children based on her own perception of whether they are "ugly inside" makes her, actually, the far uglier one, because she's an adult and doesn't have the excuse that it was just an immature mistake. She should keep her nose out of these children's lives and focus on building her business through real competency, not by using sanctimonious stunts at the expense of kids."

"and decided to take a moral stand because kids are acting like kids."

"And verbal, behind-the-back verbal bullying is endemic to high school students. I did it, you probably did it, everyone you know probably did it. If Facebook existed when you were in high school, it was probably on facebook."


As a former child who somehow managed to not engage in bullying, I think I can tell you with some authority that is is REALLY REALLY INDESCRIBABLY EASY to not push down smaller kids in the hall, or work actively with your friends to make life as hellish as possible for some more vulnerable kid, or even as in this case to aggressively work with your friends to define someone else's percieved sexuality as bad. It is so simple that even kids can do it, they just need adults around them who are not willing to ignore deuchebaggerey by hiding behind pathetic excuses.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:13 PM on August 20, 2011 [13 favorites]


Just when I think I have MetaFilter pegged, you folks go and throw me for a loop.

Sometimes, it is a happy surprise.
Sometimes, it is a head-scratching disappointment.

That said, we have cameras, so I will happily take the picture of anyone, regardless of their character or lack thereof.
posted by joe lisboa at 2:14 PM on August 20, 2011


[Callouts need to go to MetaTalk, folks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 2:22 PM on August 20, 2011


There's an awful lot of 'young children' rhetoric in this thread considering the teenagers in question are high school seniors/graduates. That puts them closer to 20 than to 10.
posted by Dysk at 3:08 PM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


My god man. This thread has it all, over the top hyperbole, "oh but the children" hand-waving, over the top moral comparison. Someone pass the damn popcorn!
posted by IvoShandor at 3:18 PM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, in fairness, four unnamed young women will have to find another photographer for their senior photos.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:59 PM on August 20, 2011


She did right. I've been bullied in elementary, middle and high school. They knew what the hell they were doing. It wasn't a foolish mistake. They were indeed ugly.
I bullied myself a little. It wasn't a foolish mistake either. It was stupid and ugly behavior. When I realized what I was doing, I stopped. Other people's ugliness convinced me to stop being ugly myself.
posted by stoneegg21 at 4:06 PM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am not clear on how she became a bully here.

I'm not sure she's a bully, but she could have turned down:

Jezebel and WTAE. Giving interviews just makes the whole situation worse.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:23 PM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I suppose she might have given the Jezebel interview so she could clear up issues such as whether she was "cyberstalking" her subjects:
I spoke with McKen, who explained that she was directed to the bullying comments by a friend who had heard of the Facebook page and was campaigning to have it taken down.
posted by craichead at 4:42 PM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Giving interviews just makes the whole situation worse.

What "situation" is being made worse here?

Four young women who are damned well old enough to know better acted like assholes in a public place. For their troubles, they get to find a new photographer, and their parents have been made aware of their assholery. No one but Ms. McKendrick and their parents know who they are.
posted by MissySedai at 4:42 PM on August 20, 2011 [16 favorites]


Of course those who say it's easy not to bully or easy to refrain from saying mean things about classmates are right.

But not everyone was raised to be confident enough to stand up for their own rights, let alone other peoples'.

If you were, if you were confident enough in high school to think "My voice matters!", then you should consider yourself lucky and call your parents this evening.
posted by TheRedArmy at 6:41 PM on August 20, 2011


you all do realize that koobnrub is burnbook backwards. The Indiana "Burnbook" looks to be a public enough space these girls deserve whatever consequences they get.
posted by sciencejock at 6:47 PM on August 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is anyone here unclear about where TheRedArmy stands on all this? No? Okay good, just checking.
posted by hermitosis at 7:29 PM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


What a ridiculous and unprofessional person. If she's hired to photograph a bunch of kids, that does not make their behavior outside of her studio her business, and who is she to judge and call them "ugly", having herself humiliated some children in order to seek attention and promote her self-righteousness? It's also undignified and frankly weird for adults to stalk high school kids, particularly those that they don't know personally, on Facebook. I really doubt that she caught on to whatever they did by coincidence.

Do you think that she would refuse to take a picture of a famous personage who had done something in his/her life that she disapproves of? I doubt it.
posted by knoyers at 8:03 PM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was an epic disaster in high school, TheRedArmy. I didn't bully other people, but it may well have been because I was too busy doing damage to myself. But high school ended, and at that point I had to be a responsible adult. At college, at jobs, in my dealings with the government, nobody said "oh, craichead has a lot of problems. Let's cut her some slack." They said "your car isn't registered. Here is a hundred-dollar ticket for driving with expired plates." At some point, even screwed up kids have to take responsibility for their own behavior. One way that they begin to do this is by facing the consequences for their actions. This is a very low-stakes consequence. It's not going to keep anyone out of college or prevent them from getting jobs or humiliate them in front of their peers. But it does let them know something important, which is that when you act like a jerk, you make other people not want to associate with you. That seems like a good lesson to learn and like a bad lesson to be shielded from.
posted by craichead at 8:07 PM on August 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


MissySedai: “No one but Ms. McKendrick and their parents know who they are.”

Are you unaware of how high school works? Seriously, anybody who believes that these girls can keep this a secret from their peers is laughably naive. I'm sorry.
posted by koeselitz at 8:20 PM on August 20, 2011


Are you unaware of how high school works? Seriously, anybody who believes that these girls can keep this a secret from their peers is laughably naive. I'm sorry.

If they're stupid enough to whine to their peers that they had to suffer consequences for their public assholery, that's THEIR lookout.

It didn't take me but a minute to teach my teenaged sons that being an asshole would carry consequences. Frankly, if I had received such an e-mail about either of my boys, I'd tell their friends mydamnedself, if only to explain why the kid had been snatched bald-headed and grounded for life.
posted by MissySedai at 8:31 PM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Again, you and your children are lucky, not typical.
posted by TheRedArmy at 8:35 PM on August 20, 2011


Wait, am I the only one here who knows the comeuppance retort: God don't like ugly? I know it is a southern phrase, but I've known it to be well understood as refering to ugly behavior.
posted by anitanita at 9:40 PM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Everyone attacking this woman should read Palomars comment above. It makes it pretty obvious that these girls were dicks and she was doing a pretty cool thing. The end.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:56 PM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pro-tip: if you are posting over ten percent of the comments in an 180+ comments thread, you are making it about yourself, whether you intend to or not.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:32 PM on August 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


That's it. I'm taking a stand. No more portrait sessions for metaphorical vikings.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:30 AM on August 21, 2011


Everyone attacking this woman should read Palomars comment above. It makes it pretty obvious that these girls were dicks and she was doing a pretty cool thing. The end.

With the exception of TheRedArmy, who is clearly defending these girls behavior in at least a "kids will be kids" sort of way, I think it is unfair to imply that those of us who aren't loudly applauding this woman's decision are therefore by extension in support of the girls or endorse their actions in any way.

Thinking it's weird to review the online activities of your potential teen customers before you deem them deserving of your services or being put off by what appears to at least some of us as self-aggrandizing behavior (I was raised to believe good deeds should be done for their own sake, not so the doer can write long essays about what a wonderful person he or she is) doesn't equal support of bullying.

Frankly I think these sort of black or white "if you don't 100% agree with this woman's actions you are a terrible person" sort of comments (not trying to single yours out, Potomac Avenue) only serves to further polarize the two sides and prevent coming to some sort of mutual understanding.
posted by The Gooch at 12:31 AM on August 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Frankly I think these sort of black or white "if you don't 100% agree with this woman's actions you are a terrible person" sort of comments ...

I must have missed those. Potomac Avenue certainly didn't say anything like that, and I don't think anyone else was that extreme, either. Some people took exception to "kids will be kids" comments, but even they did not go so far as to make 100% agreement with McKendrick any kind of moral barometer.

These extreme characterizations of what's been said are one of the things that make discussion difficult.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:45 AM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was raised to believe good deeds should be done for their own sake, not so the doer can write long essays about what a wonderful person he or she is...

If you are a grown person and you still think it matters why a good deed is being done... I would very much like to take you out for a drink and have a long conversation about that belief.

As for this particular good deed I think it is a good deed, so I'm all for it. If a good deed doesn't count if it is performed for personal gain, well fuck it, we're all doomed.
posted by Peztopiary at 3:10 AM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Peztopiary, now we're getting at the root of my discomfort. The question for me is: why is this a good deed?

Bullying is bad. Taking a stand against bullying is good. Yes. But the problem for me is that taking a stand in this instance only seems to consist of punishment and semi-public shaming, with a little self-aggrandisement as a side dish. To my mind, this doesn't really address bullying.

What is it we want to achieve? My answer is: end bullying. Yes, punishment and shaming can be some of the tools to this end, but the only way to really end bullying is by teaching bullies and potential bullies to be more empathic, to see the personal consequences for the bullied. I don't see retribution/revenge as anything but perpetuating power hierarchies. I want bullies to start reliably making more ethical choices, not just pragmatically stopping/hiding their bullying when they are afraid they might get caught. "Because it's against the rules/laws" (or "I might not get to have my picture taken") only holds as a deterrent when there is constant external policing. I want internal policing with the assent of the policed. ;)
posted by likeso at 4:29 AM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well yes, that is certainly an ideal to preach and to live. The thing is though, and this is just me, I don't care why a thing is done. Is the thing done? That's enough. The road to Heaven is paved with evil intentions after all.

I do agree that people making reliably ethical choices more often is clearly a goal to shoot for, but we use what we've got.
posted by Peztopiary at 4:44 AM on August 21, 2011


I totally understand your position. We want hurtful actions to be stopped, and we'll argue whys and wherefores later. But my thing is, if you want hurtful actions to not only be stopped immediately but also actually prevented in the long term, you have to educate.

I really believe the place for this is school. You can teach ethics in every class by example, but you can really dive into ethics and morals and philosophy and politics and psychology in social studies, history, economics and language/literature classes. (At least, this was done in the schools I was lucky enough to attend.)

"Because I said so" or "because you won't get your picture taken" might work for a short amount of time for young children. Explaining whys, demonstrating whys, discussing whys, teaching self-reflection, self-discipline and empathy is what will eventually work for high-school-aged young adults. But yes, it takes a lot more time, committment and money than a symbolic smack, than anti-bully theater.
posted by likeso at 5:04 AM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


If a good deed doesn't count if it is performed for personal gain, well fuck it, we're all doomed.

It's not that it doesn't count, it's just that you aren't eligible for the bonus karma multipliers.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:14 AM on August 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Heh, meatbomb.

I guess my hope is that this stunt can be turned into a good deed: more parents and schools not just mouthing platitudes about bullying, but actually discussing and implementing strategies for dealing with it.
posted by likeso at 5:21 AM on August 21, 2011


Thinking it's weird to review the online activities of your potential teen customers

I would have looked at that page if I'd been the photographer because until I followed the link from this thread, I'd never seen a burn book and I guess I thought on some level they were urban legends. I remember thinking some of my fellow high school students were annoying snobs at the time, but I'm feeling pretty kumbayah toward them right now. (Also, my senior class portrait was taken by a fellow student I had a mad crush on, and I think I reimbursed him for some expenses, so the whole thing with expensive portraits makes me feel pretty old too.)

Anyway, if part of her job as a portrait photographer is getting into her subjects' heads a little, I can see why she might not want to do that. To me, this is an interesting case study in adults dealing with bullying from the position they're in, but it's only a news story because it's August.
posted by immlass at 6:31 AM on August 21, 2011


Explaining whys, demonstrating whys, discussing whys, teaching self-reflection, self-discipline and empathy is what will eventually work

Of course it is. In the meantime, it's her right to decide she doesn't want to do business with them. And all the blog post says, really, is, "Here's what happened, here's why I think it's important, and here's why I chose not to take their pictures." I agree that the significance of what she did is probably being blown out of proportion by her supporters as well as her detractors, but she's not responsible for the fact that the piece resonated with people.

She has a blog. It looks to me like she writes in it just about every day, mostly to show off her photos, but sometimes to just yap. She didn't create a blog for this. She wrote a Facebook comment about it, she got some responses, so she elaborated in the same blog where she writes every day normally. The idea that she's doing some kind of nefarious, glory-grabbing, fame-seeking thing just doesn't seem like it's supported by the evidence. I suspect she's as surprised as anyone.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 8:22 AM on August 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


I empathize with reporters in search of a strong human interest story on a slow news day. I sympathize with the startled, unprepared subjects of those stories. That said, I hope Jennifer McKendrick will decide to cease giving interviews over the phone, by email, in person and in radio and television studios. Preferably before Dr. Phil calls.
posted by likeso at 8:48 AM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Her post dealing with the next-day aftermath seems to confirm (at least to me) that she really didn't mean this to go viral.
posted by Memo at 9:42 AM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


"I hope Jennifer McKendrick will decide to cease giving interviews over the phone, by email, in person and in radio and television studios."

Has she given interviews in all of those places? I thought she talked to Jezebel and one local TV station. Has she done some kind of giant media blast?
posted by Linda_Holmes at 12:39 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Memo: “Her post dealing with the next-day aftermath seems to confirm (at least to me) that she really didn't mean this to go viral.”

She's clearly a good person who did this for the right reasons. It's still not at all what I would have done, and I still worry about the consequences, but I certainly wish her the best. She certainly did show a certain amount of bravery in doing this, whatever I think of how it turned out.
posted by koeselitz at 12:44 PM on August 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Windigo: To compare 'ugly' and the original archaic usage of the word 'gay' is a bit disingenuous.

Merriam-Webster says you're wrong. "Gay" in the homosexual sense is only the 4th meaning.
posted by pmurray63 at 7:27 PM on August 21, 2011


"my immediate take on Jennifer's choice of "ugly" was an assumption"
of coooouuurse you didn't think a photographer wasn't referring to the physical attractiveness of a person when describing them as ugly.

yeah, right.
posted by krautland at 4:27 AM on August 24, 2011


Well, no, not once I RTFA. Perhaps you could try that?
posted by klangklangston at 7:51 AM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here is an update on Jen's blog. It addresses a few of the questions and criticisms brought up here. I tried making it a FPP, but apparently it's too soon for that.
posted by jwhite1979 at 5:34 AM on August 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


localroger: "The hypertext goes far beyond cute to extremely misleading. It should be changed."

The hypertext ?!? What is this, 1993?

Oh man....I loved me some HyperText back in the day. Afternoon especially.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:02 AM on August 26, 2011


As a teen, I ran into plenty of people I considered unattractive. But the only people I genuinely saw as ugly were ugly because that's how they presented themselves: face twisted by contempt or disgust, eyes narrowed, voices harsh and cruel.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:05 AM on August 26, 2011


It is telling that you left off the "I find it extremely difficult to believe she "just happened" to come across a facebook page many of her upcoming clients were involved with right before they were scheduled for their shoots" portion of my comment.

No, it isn't. Your inability to believe that sometimes things just happen is not relevant to assessing whether your incorrect understanding of events is, well, incorrect. Also, you did notice this is a small town in southwestern PA, right? Population of the entire county is 80,000 people. I grew up in an area with a larger population than that and believe me most people found out pretty quickly what everyone else was doing. I can't even imagine what that would have been like if Facebook had been around.

For those of you who keep seeing this as a publicity stunt:

People, she has a blog that talks about her business and, thus, promotes her business. If I had a bakery and a blog and I came up with an awesome recipe for cupcakes, you'd better believe I'd post something on my blog along the lines of, "Hey guys, just created the most awesome cupcakes ever, come to my bakery to try them." If they literally caused people to have orgasms while eating them and HuffPost picked up on it, I would be ecstatic. Am I a horrible person for posting about my business on my business blog?!? Obviously not. She made a decision and posted on Facebook and her own blog about it. She's a young photographer starting up her business and talking about it on the web.

A lot of people just seem to blame her because she received positive attention on this issue. And look, no one's grapes are sourer than mine are, but in this case seems like she got this attention fair and square.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:30 AM on August 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


I have a friend whose teenaged daughter's life is being ruined by this kind of bullying. I mean, yes, creating FB pages with titles like "Say Mean Things About Karin Williams Here" (not her real name), tagging her in the posts so that alerts show up in her inbox, taking pictures of her at school and tagging them with her real name and talking about what a horrible fat slut copycat whore she is. She's thirteen.

Kids think this is OK behavior because everyone around them treats it like it's OK behavior. Everyone lets it go because nobody thinks it's their job to interfere or say anything. And the whole line about how "Kids always do this kind of stuff" is absolute bullshit, because whether they do or not, it's still unacceptable. Two-year-olds everywhere throw epic tantrums because Mommy won't buy them a toy car, but we don't indulge that shit and say "Oh well, kids will be kids." No, we say "Look, that may be developmentally appropriate but it is not OK, and I am here to teach you the proper way to act."

The photographer didn't post their real names; she didn't call the schools they'd been admitted to and tell them about the bullying, she didn't call summer employers. She said "I don't want to work for you, and here's why." And yes, the rumor mill probably identified the bullies within a femtosecond and I'm sure now everyone knows who they are, and there's a certain amount of "live by the sword, die by the sword" schadenfreude in that. But there is tremendous social value in just saying "I see what you did there, and I won't be a part of it." Good for her.
posted by KathrynT at 9:25 AM on August 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Here is an update on Jen's blog. It addresses a few of the questions and criticisms brought up here. I tried making it a FPP, but apparently it's too soon for that.

Thank you for posting this here. As one of the people who was critical of Jen McKendrick for what I perceived to be cyber-stalkerish behavior, it is only fair to point out that McKendrick addresses this criticism directly in her post, and her explanation for how she came across the offending Facebook page (which did not involve proactive online research) sounds completely believable, so that criticism was out of place.
posted by The Gooch at 3:40 PM on August 26, 2011


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