Monday, August 22, 2011

Pennsylvania Photographer Won't Do Ugly, Rejects Business of Teens Bullying Others Online

Pretty Is As Pretty Does

I think Pennsylvania photographer Jennifer McKendrick may be on her way to becoming a new hero of mine.  Last week, when McKendrick learned via Facebook that some of the young women who had made appointments to have her shoot their senior pictures had been bullying others on Facebook, she cancelled their photo shoots.

She decided that she didn't want to shoot ugly, and that she couldn't face trying to prettify these young women as they smiled for her camera, when she knew how vicious were being to some of their peers online, outside the studio.  And so she took screen shots of the girls' comments at Facebook and mailed these to their parents with an explanation of why she was turning down their business. 

Among the things that tickle me about this story is how it stands the usual meme of the religious right about freedom of conscience and conscience protections on its head.  The hue and cry of the U.S. Catholic bishops and their defenders, as they're confronted with laws that prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, is that these laws threaten the consciences and religious freedom of believers.  We're told, for instance, that cake-makers who disapprove of same-sex marriage may be forced--unthinkable!--to bake cakes for gay couples, or organizations that abhor same-sex marriage--abominable!--may be required to rent facilities for gay weddings.

This is a case, however, in which someone's conscience has led her to turn down business of people engaged in bullying of teens in which taunts about sexuality were being used to harass the teens.  The paradigms of the religious right and center-right vis-a-vis conscience protections and religious freedom haven't taken into consideration that many folks' consciences may well end up at precisely the other end of the spectrum from where the right and center-right have landed: with strong concern to act in solidarity with those who are gay and lesbian and against their oppression.

I love that Jennifer McKendrick not only had the courage to stand up for her convictions and to work to defend teens being bullied online, but that she also wrote their parents about their behavior.  If more folks in our world chose to behave this way, the problem of anti-gay bullying might begin to diminish.  And those young people enduring bullying would feel less alone.

H/t to Ed Kennedy at AfterElton for posting about this story.

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