The images of men tenderly comforting young children that are dividing opinions

One of these men has been vilified, the other lauded, yet both are doing the same thing – comforting a young child. One is a father, one is a police officer. One has been been called ‘sick’, the other a hero. But is there really any difference between these two images?

At first glance, it’s a confronting image. Something we rarely see – a man and a child, both naked in a shower. According to mum Heather Whitten, her son Fox had fallen ill with salmonella poisoning (for which he’d later be hospitalised), and her husband Thomas took to comforting his son by cradling him in the shower.

#standupstripdownThis was the image that I talked about in my interview with Rebecca last week. This was November…

Posted by Heather Whitten on Monday, 2 May 2016

“Thomas had spent hours in the shower with him, trying to keep his fever down and letting the vomit and diarrhoea rinse off of them both as it came,” she explains in the Facebook post. ” It was a powerful moment for us as parents. Our intuition was starting to fire off that this was much more serious than just a virus, but we’ve had much more experience with overreacting than not so we were trying to hold off.”

Heather says as she watched her husband and son in the shower together, she realised how incredible the moment, snapped in 2014, was. “I stepped out and grabbed my camera and came back to snap a few images of it and, of course shared them. I was taken aback by how many people missed the story or didn’t even look past the nudity to find the story. They were just hung up on them both being nude and being in the shower. I had crossed a line. It was too intimate. It shouldn’t be shared publicly.”

The picture was reportedly removed by Facebook several times, but Heather insists it depicts an innocent and raw moment between father and son, nothing more.

“My family may be different than yours. But, that doesn’t make your way right or my way wrong. You may never take images of your family like I do, you may never share images of your family like I do. But, that doesn’t give you the right to silence my voice. To take away my right to share our experiences in an uncensored way. There is nothing sexual or exploitative about this image. There aren’t even any “private parts” showing.”

Recently the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department shared a photo of one of its officers, comforting a young child. There’s little explanation, other than a caption reading, “In a time of need, Officer Hurst goes above and beyond to comfort a young child…”

In a time of need, Officer Hurst goes above and beyond to comfort a young child earlier today.

Posted by Savannah Police Department on Monday, 9 May 2016

There’s no doubt that this is also a powerful scene. It too is moment of vulnerability, and another shattering of stereotypes that women provide the greatest comfort to children in their time of need. Yet this image drew a much more warm response on social media – with some calling Officer Hurst a ‘hero’ and an ‘angel’.

But are these two images really that far removed from each other? They both capture the reality of a child’s mind – when their little world is falling apart, comfort can easily be found in the arms of someone who cares. So why has one man been torn down, and the other put on a pedestal?

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