For every family, there’s a perfect holiday photo op. Some take photos in a studio, while others head outdoors for an amazing, seasonal snapshot. For one particular family, however, their holiday card photo turned into an Internet sensation — and not necessarily in a positive way.
Hannah Hawkes, whose photography business is based out of Louisiana, was approached to do a family photo shoot for a family she says she has known for years. The photo shows a family in what looks like a Christmas tree farm or pine forest, and while the dad and little brother look on, Mom and her daughters have tape over their mouths and seem to be bound by a loose string of Christmas lights. Dad holds a sign proclaiming “Peace on Earth,” while little bro pops a “thumbs-up” in approval.
The Christmas card photo got picked up by Reddit, where it’s getting tons of negative attention. This has led to many folks taking their anger over to the photographer’s Facebook page, where not only is she being criticized, but other subjects and photos on her page are as well.
We know that this family made this specific request of this photographer, and while we don’t know the family’s dynamics, it’s likely some sort of inside joke. However, it brings some very important issues to light, which is why this jarring photo has made the news.
More: 10 Social media mistakes so bad they got people fired
At a glance, the pic looks like a terribly sexist meme gone bad and has been used as an example of how women are routinely silenced by men — it even hints at shades of domestic violence, particularly with the alarming image of the placement of the lights coupled with what appears to be duct tape planted on their mouths.
In truth, this photo may have actually been a good thing to hit the interwebs, as it’s bringing these issues directly into a national conversation that we should have and should continue to have. We can joke all we want to about silencing our women, but the truth of the matter is that this happens, and it happens on a much bigger scale than this “fun” family photo op demonstrates. Even in our own kindergartens, girls have a much more difficult time being heard (or able to take a leadership role) without being called “bossy,” and it doesn’t stop in the classroom. Attitudes about women and their role in society develop from those early lessons, and those notions trickle down to our kids — who then learn from the adults around them on a daily basis.
And in some areas of the world, women are expected to be subservient to men and their whims, with children being married off to older adult men, women being banished to huts during their periods and violent crimes against females resulting in little more than a slap on the wrist. In some areas, women aren’t allowed to own property, be employed or decide whether or not she feels like having a baby. While those of us in the U.S. usually don’t have to experience horrors like this, the reality is that there are those who would make it so if they could.
So, while the vitriol directed at the photographer (and possibly the family) may be out of line or misdirected, the notions imparted by the photo itself should not be ignored.