So a recent feud broke down on Instagram between two desi vloggers & Instagrammers: Maryam Shah and Irene Mahmud Khan.
I have a full time job, so I mean I couldn’t keep up with ALL of the details, but here is a summary of what I think happened:
Maryam posted a beautiful picture of herself with her husband and then discussed the trial and tribulations of being on her menstrual cycle and having a supportive husband that she can be open with, and how we all need to be more open about our body issues with the men in our lives.
When I saw the picture posted – I, myself, was on my cycle, so I sent it to my husband. We share a lot of things, and I thought it was nice for him to know this stuff happens and I’m not that only girl that goes crazy, and the whole “having to keep your period ‘hush- hush'” was definitely something I know all about since it was literally one of the 1st 20 things my mom told about “periods”. The advice or the message was: “keep this hidden from your father and brother – you shouldn’t be telling people you’re on your period”.
I am LITERALLY obsessed with my mother- I talk to her 2 or 3 times a day, but by the time I was 14 years old, I realized her advice sucked and made me feel really insecure about something that was so natural. So I told myself (and maybe even told my best friend Summar) that when I have a daughter who starts her menstrual cycle, I was going to make it a PARTY. Something that she was super excited about. I was going to have a basket full of goodies (razor blades, fun pads and tampons, spa appointment, bath salts, maybe even a cupcake and a fun bra), so she would know this is such an exciting time in her life!
OKAY, so going back to the STORY. Apparently, as it turns out, the details that Maryam shared in her caption were embellished for story telling purposes, which purpose translates to more views and followers on the platform.
Then a day or two later, Maryam posted another photo with a caption stating she was “authentic”.
Then on that picture Irene commented that if she [Maryam] were really that authentic then why had she drafted several captions regarding the “period post” and selected the caption she thought would be the most well received.
There were some other comments tangled in the thread, but as stated I have job and limited time to keep up with things in real time.
Later during the evening or the next day? On Irene’s Instagram story she summarized the feud and asked her followers a series of questions (I am summarizing my interpretations of the questions):
- is it an influencer’s responsibility to be socially conscious?
- if people are allowed to call out brands on their lack of consciousness, then why aren’t they allowed to call out individuals?
I’m not taking a side, because I do not know all the facts and also EVERYONE is entitled to an opinion and everyone is allowed to hustle, so either way, do your things ladies. But I really want to analyze and unpack the questions above, because I’m not sure a poll on Instagram has the ability to flesh out what is really being as considered.
In addressing the first question, is it an influencer’s responsibility to be socially conscious? This is SUCH A TOUGH QUESTION. I can safely assume that both girls became influencers because they consistently post pictures, are pretty and comfortable exposing their lives. I mean I have been following Irene since I was 16 or 17, I found her Xanga and LOVED all of her pictures. I loved how she put together fun outfits and how she posted pictures (this was before Facebook had “albums” or even before I had a Facebook account). I didn’t follow her because she took stances on social issues. She later joined YouTube and it was about her journey as a photographer, and then it became a tutorial spot, and now a more sponsored tutorial spot.
About 2 or 3 months ago I found Maryam’s Instagram page. I mean she was pretty, so I followed her. Ugh. I wish I had a better reason. Apparently, some people I know, know her, but I followed her because she takes pretty picture and, during lunch, when I am scrolling down Instagram I like thinking about my life in an alternate universe where I look super pretty all the time and drink lattes with pretty foam imagery around 11am, work from home, and go on strolls with my dog midday.
I do not put any sort of onus on either of them for conveying politically correct messages, because being “politically correct” is a like trying to jump on a moving pendulum: One day it’s okay to say one thing and another day that same thing is as bad as a curse word!
That being said, when you know someone is being mean, you know someone is being mean & when you know someone should have put more thought into something and willfully decided not to, it rubs you the wrong way.
I think these girls have a social responsibility to not be racist, sexist or tunnel visioned. With their followings I think they have to champion a few causes that are near and dear to them.
I think they should not be tasked with being aware, championing or even understanding EVERY SINGLE CAUSE, because that is a huge burden and responsibility. In the real world, we wouldn’t ask any one do the same, and we always need to remember why they got to where they are – if we wanted someone to be more in touch with certain political or cultural messages, then we shouldn’t turn to self proclaimed Makeup Gurus or Creative Consultants.
I acknowledge I did not answer the first question. My goal is to make sure you understand that putting this sort of responsibility on influencers is tough because it is such a grey area. It honestly depends on how blatant and obnoxious the message is. Someone, somewhere, is ALWAYS going to be offended, but it’s important to understand how willful and wanton, or how recklessly careless the influencer was when they said what they said.
Now to the second question, if people are allowed to call out brands on their lack of consciousness, then why aren’t they allowed to call out individuals?
So Irene stated that when H&M received a lot of backlash for their Monkey hoodie influencers and bloggers from everywhere came out to give H&M and PIECE OF THEIR MIND. I am so THANKFUL that people did this! I understand that there is a lot of hurt that some people felt when they saw the ad, I also understand that there are people that probably didn’t understand all of the hurt. I think the hurt could have been limited by making sure the ad campaigns were staffed with a team of people from diverse backgrounds. I am sure if this protocol was taken then someone, if they were in an environment where discourse wasn’t prohibited, could have felt comfortable speaking up and acknowledging that this MAY NOT BE A GOOD LOOK.
That being said, companies like H&M have hundreds and thousands of employees, so the burden to understand when the offend a sizable portion of the population is greater, than when one girl, running a one woman show, says something offensive.
Also, blaming and targeting a company is so DIFFERENT from blaming and targeting an individual. All of those people at H&M get to take a little bit of the blame. As opposed to here, where all of it just falls on one person. I think WE have an active duty to understand that people make mistakes, when you are an influencer don’t you think you ought to understand that concept. Privately messaging the girl would have been a good solution, but just calling her out seems mean. You’ve been in this persons shoes, and you can relate to having done something dumb or at least the idea of having done something dumb. A one-on-one message would have been the kinder way, because she is a human and not a company.
OKAY THIS WASN’T A QUESTION, but something smart that husband said about “Authenticity”.
People called Maryam “Inauthentic” and then Maryam called herself “Authentic”.
Thinking this concept through, being authentic and politically correct will NEVER go hand in hand. We are human. We will always have certain biases, and just by saying you don’t have a bias you have a bias! Ha!
Because of social media, being Authentic in this day and age is tough and we only get the rose colored glasses version of the details people share. Go through your own pictures. I mean did you use a filter? Did you Photoshop it a bit? Did you increase the exposure? You are showing people the pictures that turned out the best? We are all inauthentic to a certain degree, but I don’t think it takes away from the authenticity of highlighting who we are and who we want to be.
Thought I’d place the definition of “Authentic” from the Merriam-Webster website right here:
Definition of authentic
1a : worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact
- paints an authentic picture of our societyb : conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features
- anauthentic reproduction of a colonial farmhousec : made or done the same way as an original
- authentic Mexican fare3: true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character
- is sincere and authenticwith no pretensions
5obsolete : authoritative
Did you catch the exchange of words on Instagram? What are your thoughts? I have literally spent way to long on this post, but I, for myself, wanted to understand what I want out of my “influencers”. This helps me understand when I should protest against dumb post, when I should just continue to scroll, or when I should finally hit “unfollow”.