Boots & Sabers

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2114, 19 May 16

Disgusting or Beautiful?

There’s an interesting discussion about this picture over on the BBC.



So what do you see? Here’s the background:

In some ways the picture appears to show a fairly everyday scene. A dad cradling his severely sick child in his arms. Except in this instance, they are in the shower and both naked. The picture was posted on social media by the photographer Heather Whitten who lives in Arizona in the US. It shows her son Fox and her husband, the boy’s father Thomas Whitten.

For many viewers the image is a touching portrait of parental care and affection. The reason that father and son were naked was because Fox had Salmonella poisoning for which he would soon after be hospitalised.

“Thomas had spent hours in the shower with him, trying to keep his fever down and letting the vomit and diarrhea rinse off of them both as it came,” Whitten wrote in her post accompanying the photo.

“He was so patient and so loving and so strong with our tiny son in his lap… I stepped out and grabbed my camera and came back to snap a few images of it and, of course shared them.”

But for some people the image is inappropriate at best and at worst has undertones of paedophilia. Whitten has been surprised by this reaction and was shocked when people posted negative comments about what was for her a beautiful moment.

I see a beautiful image of fatherly love. But it’s interesting that so many people see something disgusting. I suppose it’s a reflection of how we have been conditioned to be aware of signs of child abuse. But it’s also interesting that there appears to be a fairly severe gender bias with almost nobody having a negative reaction to a similar picture of a mother with her child.


2114, 19 May 2016


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