I'm going to leave "writing" as the category, since this crosses so many categories.
I've been thinking about this one, here and there, for more than a week. I've been talking to friends about it. In the end, I decided to blog about it.
The IRS considers authors to be "personalities," as it considers actors and singers. We're classed as showpeople, which means we have the same rules those folks have, though we often balk at it, since we aren't on stage; many of us are introverts. Among those rules for personalities, the IRS considers that we are showboats, that we will wear any outrageous thing, so we aren't allowed to write off a signing outfit or other clothing bought just for an event. They assume we'll wear it in public, just because we're personalities.
What does this have to do with the price of beer? The point is... The IRS is right, in some manner. I don't mean that every author is going to wear some outrageous costume purchased for an event out in public. Far from it.
Then what do I mean? I mean that the author is on stage, even if we think we aren't. The very nature of contacting readers means that we put ourselves out there for scrutiny. We make MySpaces and web pages that reflect "the author, we." We choose our public face. (In my case, mine is professional, approachable, and fun.)
Unfortunately, that means that every Tom, Dick and Harry on the web thinks they have the right to take pot shots at us. Hey, we have a public face, and they seem to think it's their right to do so. I won't get into rights vs. privileges, again. I think any consistent reader of mine has heard that one often enough, but I will get into a few other subjects.
First, the incident that sparked this response... I received an e-mail from a MySpace member, some stranger I've never corresponded with before. He started out by attempting to butter me up about how impressed he was with the volume of work I've created and the graphics I've made for my site. (I might note that 90% of these people try to butter you up before saying whatever they have to say.)
Then he showed his true colors and stated that:
A) If I was serious about my career, I wouldn't have the cleavage shot on my site, inferring it's unprofessional to have it. I might note, he calls it "having my boobs on display."
B) It ruins my image.
C) It's not sexy for a woman my size.
Let's start with A. This guy, for all that he claims he's a graphic artist and might well be one, for all I know... This guy obviously has no idea what is "normal" and "professional" for a sensual/erotic author to have on her site.
My site is professional. I have my affiliations prominently listed, my media page, my book covers, my awards and reviews, etc. Neither do I have links to sex shops, which some hard-core erotic writers choose to do. I don't have nude pictorials on my site. In short, my site (in comparison to many writers of my genre) is understated.
It's also not unusual for sensual and erotic authors to have some sensual shot of themselves on their sites. Mine is a tasteful cleavage shot. In fact, I'll paste it here.
I'm not in a bikini (not that I would be caught dead in one), but I am in something low-cut. If I'm not in a t-shirt, this is just the sort of shirt you're likely to find me in, on a daily basis.
A web presence (in fact, ALL communication with readers) is intended to give them a personal connection with you. I always caution authors not to put on a truly false face. If you do, you'll only get caught up in the lie later.
So, we'll move on to B. I am an erotic author with a fun and approachable personality matrix going. How does this photo ruin that image? It doesn't.
If this guy IS a graphic artist, he should know better than most that you change the presentation to the target audience. My target audience isn't looking for some stuffed shirt in a business suit, though I have photots like that on my site, as well. They are looking for the fun me that they talk to online. So, the pic of me hugging Sherrilyn Kenyon is fitting. The pic of me in my suede vest is. The cleavage shot is. THAT is me. That is the me my readers know and enjoy talking to, and I will NOT apologize for that.
Last point? It's not sexy for a woman my size. This is where my detractor goes over the top and shows his inner self. And, I'm going to do the same.
I am a woman of size. This fact obviously bothers him. I am not a Barbie doll, and were I, I wouldn't be able to stand erect without serious back pain.
I am a woman of size, and I am not ashamed of the fact that I am. A lot of people would like it if women "my size" wore clothes that looked like sacks and faded into the background. I am not such a shrinking violet.
Do I wish I was at the weight I was in high school? Of course, I do. Though it's unlikely I will ever wear a size 11 again (and that IS my ideal weight, since I have a linebacker's shoulders and have since age 7), I endeavor to bring my weight down. However, I can be happy at this weight, even while not accepting that this is my final weight.
I gave up self-image problems long ago. I do not and will not pander to the insecurities others try to foist upon me, because they feel they have the right to open their mouths and insert their own prejudices, placing me in their spotlight. Their perceptions are, to be blunt, their problems and not mine.
This young man may feel that the picture is not sexy, but that only shows out his prejudices and his preferences. I would imagine that he prefers women who are slinky. I have never been slinky and never will be. Neither would I kill myself to attempt it for someone who's perceptions of beauty are so limited.
The world is full of women that don't match that narrow view of beauty. The world is full of men that appreciate other body styles. My own husband adores the photo in question. In point of fact, he was the one who took it. For every man who would say something so biased, there are a dozen or more that appreciate a woman with meat on her bones.
My dear husband is one of them, but in all fairness, I asked several lists acquaintances (including other authors that aren't friends but I know) in passing for their opinions of the photo and whether they thought it was appropriate. WITHOUT EXCEPTION, I got positive responses. It's fitting to my image and it's an asset on my site. I also got several amusing responses from men, asking me to bare more. I won't be taking them up on it, but it did make me smile.
I might also note that not ONE other person thought I was "baring my boobs." I don't think anyone called it anything other than a "cleavage shot," and a tasteful one, at that. So, the photo will be staying...in all its glory.
BTW, for anyone who is interested in the truth about beauty in our media, you might want to click on this link. I'd suggest showing this to all preteen, teen and young adult women.