I’m part of many Facebook groups about blogging. In these spaces, (mostly) women ask questions, seek support, share posts, and try to figure out how to play the games of the internet. I get countless notifications everyday about new posts, and rarely have time catch up. Yesterday, I had a few minutes waiting for my lunch order and scrolled through the wall of one of my favorite groups. Unexpectedly, I found this article shared at the top of the feed. It’s surprisingly a big deal for bloggers around my age to get political on their sites. I’ve even had brands decline a collaboration with me because I take political stances on many issues and share them on my platform. I strive to embrace feminism and was thrilled to see such an article go up in a usually non-controversial group of 2000+. Thus, I clicked.
I’m not going to lie – I started to immediately feel defensive as I began to read. Kelly Diels discusses what she calls the “Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand” and takes aim at marketing companies who elevate advertisements about specific beauty and class standards that usually reflect the skinny white woman. Diels argues that brands perpetuate white and upper class supremacy primarily through photos. Defensiveness crept in because I am a slender, white woman who is reasonably middle class – I am my brand, I can’t change who I am and how I look? Of course, this article doesn’t expressly want anyone who fits the stereotypical imagery that perpetuates both racism and classism to change their appearance. Diels asks those involved in brand development to consider who they represent with their goods and service and to whom they appeal via advertising imagery.
I wrote this blog post nearly a year ago and was on the cusp of everything Diels says – except I don’t call a lack of authenticity what it often is and what it perpetuates in the blogging culture: white supremacy and white beauty. To create content that follows popular suit teaches followers and consumers that these are the ideals we value in regard to beauty. Your face isn’t the focus here – it’s the poses, the locations, the captions, and ultimately the life we paint online. How close is it to reality? I work incredibly hard to not go out of my way to create blog content and to showcase what’s really going on in my life day-to-day. Still, photoshoots are scheduled, giveaways are planned, vacations are taken, and prestigious collaborations are sought. What story am I telling my audience?
The point of accountability here says your intentions don’t matter. Sure, I hope you strive to create inclusive content that is true to your life and happenings, but also considers the diverse audience you likely serve. We no longer live in a world where personal intent prevails – reception takes precedence. Acknowledging what your content may say to a viewer who doesn’t look just like you can be uncomfortable. Do they take you for face value? Do they scroll past because you paint a picture of a life that is impossible to attain or appears marginalizing? Your rapport in the current digital realm is built on the norms you challenge and the ones you perpetuate.
Here are my additions to Kelly’s suggestions about inclusive photography for your brand:
- Instead of posting weightless captions, craft a story behind the image that speaks equally as loud.
- Change your shoot locations. Take photos in your home, in your workplace, in your hometown. Build a narrative around meaningful places that you frequently inhabit.
- Incorporate items of value that deviate from photos focused on the body – shape and size. Not to say fashion-only niches are empty, they convey a lightheartedness that doesn’t really match our social climate.
- Working with brands? Be intentional with collaborations you select. Who runs these companies? What kind of marketing strategies do they employ? You are who you represent.
- Invest financially in your business, not in its image. Buy tools and services that help you more accurately showcase the point you want to make instead of having it fit prescribed narratives that someone else wrote and lived.
- I believe laughing is a necessary key to health – don’t fake it.
- Don’t post out of obligation, post out of inspiration. The derivation of that inspiration impacts your authenticity.
Share your thoughts with me! Catch me at firstname.lastname@example.org.