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A Womanifesto on Mean Women

February 1, 2019

The world of women that lives inside my heart…

We are a tribe of compassion, at our most compassionate when one of us has fallen and is need of a safe place to rest, while learning your hard lessons in this life. We are a tribe of knowing, as we feel each other’s emotions, dreams, happiness and pain because we instinctively know, we are all one. We are a tribe of strength, only at our strongest when linked arm-in-arm with each other, building our wall of trust, love and community for and in each other. We are a tribe of forgiveness, at our most forgiving when one of our tribe forgets and needs reminded that the tribe can only be strong in support of each other, all the time, and mostly during the hard times. We are warriors, fighting our hardest fight against those that try, and fail, to bring us down. We are teachers, most importantly teaching the tribe how to love each other, to always respect each other, to uplift and inspire each other. We know, without doubt, that without these things we will fail. We will fail our mothers, sisters, our daughters and our daughter’s daughters. 

What path will you choose?


I have a question that I have my own opinion on, but still simply want to ask in a rhetorical way…

Why are women so mean?

I understand the evolutionary reasoning that we have generations and thousands of years behind us where we had to beat out every other woman in the cave, room, party or boardroom to land the guy that we could count on to protect us from the dinos, feed us, house us and support the children we were expected to bring into this world. 

I also understand the true foundation of meanness is insecurity. If you are truly secure in your Self, you have no desire to engage in behaviors that could only be described as bullying because you’re too happy uplifting, inspiring and jamming along to your own beat.

Only…

It’s all just utter bullshit.

We live in a time of self-sustainability, regardless of gender. Sure, things may still not be equal, but we have the ability and rights to support ourselves and our families. And EVERYONE knows that “mean girl” mentality comes from insecurity. I mean…who DOESN’T know that?? 

So if one of the reasons no longer exists, and the other is so widely known that it can no longer be used as an excuse, I go back to my original question:

Why are women so mean??

You may be wondering where this is coming from, so let me explain. First, may I say that I had no intentions of fueling this fire, as I truly have no time, inclination or desire to join in on the most predictable of all foregone conclusions of womanhood: women attempting to bring other women down with the false, public reasoning that you were doing this to stand up for and support women, when in fact it is only so that you can sit in your own puddle of gooey self-righteousness while hiding behind a computer and you and your cronies can cyber-high-five each other in your layer of ick and cowardice. However, I realized that as much as I wanted to just let this die down, it’s just not going to AND because of this, a lovely, kind-hearted, salt of the earth, soul of an angel photographer is being dragged through the mud on the most preposterous and false allegations that I just felt I had no choice but to jump right into the line of fire. This happened in my education group, so I am responsible to her and I take that seriously. I have had the fortunate luck of being able to stay out of the eye-rolling drama that ensues in just about every single photography group (that’s why there are SO MANY…because some coward misbehaves, starts a fight and a small group of photographers fed up with it all starts a new group. That group gets bigger, a fight ensues, a small group of photographers gets fed up and starts a new group…and on it goes to infinity) for just about all of my 14 years of photography, as I do not really participate in groups.

Second, I wanted to take a less direct route with this, and leave you with subtleties that would encourage you to rise above and feel empowered enough to take some new thoughts with you. However, because of the habitual, steadfast dedication that some women have in their morphing of every little word you have ever typed or spoken into what they actually want to portray that you said, rather than what you actually said, I feel being less subtle and more direct is the way to go here.

Third, my goal in this is not only to shine a spotlight on the small group of women that stalk photography groups under the guise of women empowerment, but in reality are doing so to serve their own egos and lack of self-love, self-awareness and fulfillment of their bullying quota, more than anything I want you to walk away feeling empowered. I want you to walk away with a feeling of lightness and strength to stand up for yourself when things like this happen, stand up to the individuals that do this and use this as a reminder to rise above and stay clear of people that will give their right arm to drag you down. You’re better than that. 

With that said…let us begin.

A female photographer in my (what will soon be shut down and then regrouped into a new) education group photographed her second boudoir session ever and asked in the group for assistance and advice on posing her last client, as the client was not thrilled with her photos and asked the photographer for a re-shoot. She posted a few photos that she really loved from her shoot along with this post (if you are not a photographer or in a photography group, we typically always post a photo with any post, even if the photo doesn’t go along with the post, just because…well…we are photographers, ya know??). A few things you should know:

  1. She had permission to post photos from this session as per her contract.
  2. Even though she DID have permission to post the photos, she did not post any photos showing the client’s face and is therefore unrecognizable.
  3. She specifically posted the photos she posted so that anyone that wanted to offer advice do so with some basis and some place to start from. How can you offer photography advice without seeing a photo from the shoot to help her understand where she may have gone wrong?
  4. This is a PRIVATE group and within the rules of the group (and everyone knows this) you are never permitted to screen shot or discuss what goes on in the group. This is standard across the board and is a matter of respect. Period.

Many many many photographers gave wonderful advice to this photographer and their opinion on reshooting. This is EXACTLY what this group is for. A few commenters began commenting on this woman’s body in a not-so-supportive way. Another commenter rightfully said: hey let’s be careful with our comments…we’re getting into some body-shaming areas here. 

Here. Right here. Riiiiiiiight…here. This is where it allllllll went south, my friends.

Truth be told I had no idea any of this was even going on until alllll the proverbial shit in the fan. When I entered the convo, a war had already erupted. 

At that moment, when one photographer very respectfully sent a reminder to everyone commenting that we need to be careful of our words, what should have happened were apologies all around. The photographers that made the comments were treating this space as if they were sitting in their living room with their gal pals, drinking wine and hanging out, which you CANNOT do in digital groups. Right there they should have stepped forward and said: “Ah crap guys, you’re right. I didn’t mean it like that but I see how that came off. Sorry!” But that of course is not what happened. They called upon the realistic reasoning of everyone involved to understand that they were not trying to be mean; they were just being real…which you CANNOT do in a digital group. They owed an apology. They gave an excuse. This is also something you CANNOT do in a digital group. And then no matter what anyone said, the fire-lit arrows starting flying and it had the MOST unfortunate consequence of turning what was supposed to be an innocent request for help into the demise of womanhood, right before my eyes.

A few women simply made it their mission to turn this into a personal fight and at that moment, all reasonable reasoning left the conversation. Now, had this been the only result of this, I would not be wasting my time conveying all of this to you. So sadly must I report to you that these women took it upon themselves to screenshot tidbits, excerpts and pieces of the conversation, outside of its entirety and post it publicly with their slick, nasty, judgment-filled opinions. From that swarmed in other photographers that were not part of the conversation, the group or had any working knowledge of the actual conversation, or anyone involved to give their unskilled, uneducated, uninformed opinions. 

Then those uninformed photographers shared it to their pages. Then more swarming, then more sharing, then more swarming….you get it.

During all of this, do I even need to tell you that OF COURSE the reality of what actually took place got blurred in the very early stages and it all became a ball of festering, gooey, nasty sack of lies. This poor photographer has been attacked. The people in the group have been attacked and I have been attacked. I could give 3 shits about being attacked you guys: I have 3x the experience (life and photography) of anyone that threw stones outside their glass houses…but may I just say…ahem…SHAME ON YOUR ASSES FOR DOING THIS TO THIS PHOTOGRAPHER. 

And now, you are all caught up. So, let’s dig a little deeper into this Mean Woman phenomenon that took place inside my group. To really get my points across, I’m going to bullet point here. Why? Because I want to be c*r*y*s*t*a*l clear about what I’m saying and I don’t want anyone getting lost in translation.

  • To the women that underhandedly took screenshots of a PRIVATE conversation in a PRIVATE group: SHAME ON YOU. First of all, you took snippets of the conversation, leaving out some of the most pertinent parts just so you could incite more anger and blame because you purposefully posted it to purposefully make sure it was taken out of context. Some of the comments you posted in SUCH DISGUST weren’t even meant for the client, but you posted it in a way that made it seem so and you posted in a way that took what was completely innocuous comments and made them fuel for your dumpster-shit fire. Second, and most crappy of all, you did this under the guise of SHOCK AND UTTER DISGUST of women being bad to women (insert woman here laying back of hand to forehead then closing eyes and fainting), yet you posted this stuff in a specific way that only allowed who YOU wanted to see it, see it, rather than having the GUTS to be 100% public. This I can only assume is because you already started to feel the layer of ICK that came over you for doing such a lousy, shitty, backstabbing thing.
  • To the women that commented on the irresponsible snippets of a conversation that you were not involved in: SHAME ON YOU. Most of you were not part of the group. You were not part of the conversation. Yet you willingly volunteered, without even any other consideration, to blindly put on your sheep costume and fall for the oldest trick in the book. You joined in with your “That’s fucking disgusting!”, and, “If I were there you bet I would’ve said something!”, and, “Give me names so I can steer clear of them!” OH OH and my absolute favorite:

“This is why you should only go to a BODY POSITIVE BOUDOIR PHOTOGRAPHER. I am disgusted by these comments and am sad to recognize some of those making them. If you want to shame a client who trusted you to make them feel beautiful, in a group with 8k people, then you deserve to be known until you apologize or do better. I tried sending individual screenshots privately….” etc etc. {Bolded parts from me.}

And this was just ONE of the ignorant, uninformed, gossip-filled, lying, toxic, god-awful posts IN PUBLIC that some of you sheeps made. Why did I choose THIS post over any of the other absolutely ridiculous posts?? Because the way she worded her post makes it seem like she is specifically calling out the photographer that took these images as a body shamer: but 2 things my most ignorant friend:

  1. You showed the very photos of the woman that you are so (falsely) gallantly (take that word so very facetiously) trying to protect on your page. No, you didn’t show them in their entirety, but if she sees this snippets you did show, you just colluded with the very people you were shaming.
  2. If you would have done even a whit of research, then you would know the PHOTOGRAPHER THAT POSTED THE PHOTOS WAS LOOKING FOR HELP. SHE WAS NOT BODY-SHAMING. SHE SINCERELY LOVED THE PHOTOS SHE POSTED AND WAS LOOKING TO THIS GROUP OF 8K PHOTOGRAPHERS FOR HELP. Out of 8k people in this group, 3 said stupid stuff, 1 was sincerely trying to be helpful and the other screenshot you posted was a comment meant for one of the commenters that was just looking for a fight. So, may I congratulate you for spreading false notions, lies and gossip all in an attempt to make yourself look oh-so-perfect whilst sitting on your glass throne in your glass house? If you have personally never ever had an ill-thought about what a woman was wearing, her weight, her hair, her shoes, her choice of dress, her fashion sense or any other physical characteristic about a woman, ever, in your whole entire life, then please…accept my apology. You must in fact be the reincarnated Goddess of Life herself.

And this was just ONE of SEVERAL posts that spread such horrific lies about this post. Each of you women that joined in on the self-righteous jeering did nothing but help the fire spread. Instead of taking one minute to consider that there may be another side to this, you just joined right in. How utterly disappointing, yet so incredibly unsurprising. And you posted all the names too. Shame. On. You.

You and I both know, without a shred of doubt, that each and every one of you women did this under a hypocritical shroud of “O-m-g… I am, like, so doing this for, like, women’s rights and, like, empowerment…you know?? I mean…we women have to bring all women down in an effort to make ourselves feel super duper high and mighty….OH! Wait…ummm…I meant…Oh geez…I meant…I’m doing this for all women! So we can stand tall…or stand up…or wait…so we can stand…no…oh poo…that’s not what I meant but you get it, right guys??”

I see riiiiight through your threadbare veil of hypocrisy. And guess what? So does everyone else.

  • One woman, so determined to start this fire, posted the initial post of screenshots of sections of the conversation. You know who you are. Everyone knows who you are. Then, each and every one of you posted on top of that, commented on the posts outside the group, weren’t in the group, weren’t part of the conversation and didn’t even have one clue as to who you were even posting about, their names, their lives or their intent did so “in support of women”, did so “to stand up for what is right”, did so “bring light to a subject most dear to you”…yet what I found to be so incredibly interesting is that not one of you took it upon yourselves to call upon any single person ACTUALLY involved in the conversation/posting to discuss, try to understand, get a balanced view or otherwise even try to truly help in this shit show that you all started. You sat comfortably in your protected/blocked conversations, pulling each of us down and stomping our guts out with your judgments and your words, yet not one of you actually tried to bring any level of peace, advice, calm or resolution to any of it. Each of you claims to have the the right, knowledge, education and wherewithal to comment like crazy on the supposed wrongdoing…yet none of you have any of the same to offer any sort of assistance?
  • To those women that have not, never have, and never will command the ship of your own photographer facebook group that commented so horribly on these posts: SHAME ON YOU. Again—you jumped in and voluntarily took part in something you know absolutely nothing about. Each of you are walking in your own cowardice and you need to check yourself. As you sit safely on the sidelines throwing tomatoes, I and everyone else sees right through each and everyone of you 100%. You are cowards.
  • To those women that DO command the ship of your own photographer facebook groups or sit lavishly in your elevated positions of wisdom, bestowed upon you by the very women you are so callously throwing shame upon, I am most disappointed in you. SHAME ON YOU. You are an industry leader and others look to you to see how to act, how to behave and how to respond and you failed, miserably. You didn’t just sit by and watch the fire burn, you gleefully jumped in with both feet and washed yourself in all the shit being flung around as you flung your comments here and there, without one drip of responsibility or care for anyone. You had a choice. You chose wrong. You know who you are. I am so very disappointed in you. Where were you when I needed you most? SHAME. ON. YOU.

And here’s the thing, ladies: while you were crouching comfortably behind your computers, what you thought was so safely out of view of the eyes of the world, typing your indignant, sanctimonious garbage and feeling soooooooo damn GOOD from the all of, what, five? ten? photographers sheepishly lifting you up for your all your false valor and courage, BEYOND QUADRUPLE that amount of women were messaging me ferociously and telling me how utterly shocked, dismayed and disappointed they were in all of you for what you were doing. I mean…if it’s notoriety you were going for, let me be the first to congratulate you on a job SO well done. You officially have the title you may not have been seeking, but inadvertently accepted: CYBER BULLY. *high-five*

What I am most astonished by and most disillusioned with is: WHERE was all of this energy, time, space, emotion and boiling of blood when I needed you? When the women in this group needed you? Where was all of this written eloquence for the women that needed some direction in this? This goes to all of you posters and commenters: where were you? All of this shit, all of this hurt and anger, and all you could muster was underhandedness, lies, filth, mean-spiritedness and just plain selfishness. I am literally, what 2 months into manning the ship of my very first photographer facebook group and I definitely could’ve used some help. Where were your messages to me? “Hey girl…your ship is sinking. Can I offer some advice?” “Hey sister…I’m not sure what to do here but I just wanted to reach out and let you know if you need me, I’m here.” SHIT! I would’ve even taken a good old FUCK OFF privately because at least it would’ve meant that you bothered to even know my name before passing your judgment! Each of you was presented with such an incredible opportunity to bring us together, to help me bring us all together and you failed, miserably.

I had no idea what to do when this all began. Leave it up so that some women could learn a lesson on how NOT to comment? Leave it up so that others could see a lesson on body-shaming in general? Leave it up because there was such good advice other than the shit show? Take it down immediately and wait for the “CENSOR!!!! YOU CENSORED ME!!!!! OHHHHHH I SAY ONE THING YOU DON’T LIKE AND YOU CENSOR ME!!!!” If took it down off the bat, I would have gotten that. Wait, and take it down later, I get “Oh my god you guys, she’s leaving it up…oh my god…WTF??” I go live to try and wet some of the fire and all I get is “…and then she totally supported the body shamers…I had to turn it off at, like, 13 minutes….” No matter what I did, it was fodder for you. I’m so happy to have been able to supply that for you. #yourewelcome

If you took even TEN MINUTES out of your lives and did the teensiest bit of research on me, you would have found that my entire career has been devoted to the support of women, self-love and self-acceptance. That I am a leader in my community, specifically with this topic. I have dedicated countless blog posts in over 10 years to support of women and their search for self-acceptance. If you would have read any of my reviews, you would know exactly what I stand for, who I stand for and what I’m all about. But you didn’t. Not one second of your time was devoted to that. How shameful. You know absolutely nothing about me.

Let me just say, I am in absolutely no way misguided in what you will each do with this post. You will rip it apart. You will dissect it. You will copy and paste it, privately of course, and then watch in glee as each of you tear it down so that you can prove each sentence wrong, while cajoling each other that “Nuh-uh…don’t listen to her, hun, you did the right thing…” You’ll concentrate so mightily as you pick corn out of chicken shit with every comment and then twist and turn it into what you WANT it to mean, then post it and then watch as you each leap upon it with the gusto of an unfed pack of pitbulls. You have both my permission and my forgiveness. You are who you are and I cannot change that. There are simply always going to be women that strive to bring other women down, even in the face of their own shame. Have at it.

After you have all read this, threw up your arms and taken the next 72 hours convincing each other that you ARE righteous, that you ARE doing this for the good of other women and that you ARE NOT a bad person for participating in this ruse, when you are laying in bed tonight, feeling that layer of ick come over you and you start to ask yourself (already knowing the answer) “Did I do the wrong thing? Could I have made a better choice?” remember this post: Yes. Yes. Yes. You should know better. You should want to be better. You should strive much harder. And if you forget, just come back to this post and lather, rinse, repeat.

What DID I want out of this? What WOULD I have liked to have seen? 

Patience. For those who weren’t thinking.

Forgiveness. For those who just needed a guided hand.

Leadership. For those that needed it most BEFORE feelings got hurt and falsities took over.

Love. For a gender that is already so tender in its generations of past bruises.

This is my plea to you. 

Please, when you are presented with this situation again (and you will. Unfortunately there are those few names of those few photographers that just. won’t. stop. You know who you are), please think twice. Think about your words. Think about your impact. Think about your choices in this specific circumstance.

Please, when presented with this situation again, I beg of you to ASK questions, LEARN what really happened and then CONSIDER what you can do to HELP the situation, not harm it.

Please, when presented with this situation again, help me to call out the bullies. They are so few but they are so loud. I get why you sat quietly all this time, but this is your time now. I have your back, girl. There are so few of them yet SO MANY OF US. We stand so much taller, so much stronger and our message and our intent is one of strength, love and peace and THAT, my friends, will ALWAYS win out. 

Please, when presented with a bully like this, use it as a teachable moment. Stand tall, stand proud, be strong…but do it with the intent to bring peace AND an epiphany to the bully.

Ladies: we are ALL better than this. We are ALL stronger than this. We are ALL in this together. Believe it or not, I am on your team and I am looking for more and more women to join this tribe and I don’t mean ECE, I mean Women. We need each other. We depend on each other. We cannot move forward without each other.

This is a film that we made while I attended the Women’s March in Pittsburgh in January of this year with my daughter. 

THIS is what I want. THIS. Together, unity, uplifting, inspirational, unity and strength.

For any of you looking to join this tribe, I’m just a message away.

– Elizabeth Craig
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