How did this photo of a dad comforting his sick child become a crime?

It’s little wonder why men feel nervous around children in public when an innocent photo of a father cradling his sick child in the shower invites legal action.

Father comforts sick son in shower

Birth photographer and US mother, Heather Whitten, took the photograph in question of her then sick one-year-old son Fox in the shower with his dad Thomas and shared it on her Facebook page.

A viral problem

The post went viral, reaching over 9 million people worldwide to date. While it received mainly positive feedback, Facebook deemed it inappropriate, repeatedly removing the picture. Then, unthinkably, one viewer reported Whitten to police.

She is now embroiled in a legal battle with the Arizona Department of Child Safety that could see her convicted of “neglect” for allowing her child’s image to be shared online.

Right to privacy or distaste at seeing a father naked with his child?

I understand the very real concern about a child’s right to privacy and protecting them from the preying eyes of online predators. Paedophilia is a real threat. That alone is reason for never publishing images of naked children. But this photo, although showing two nude people, doesn’t show their genitals, or faces.

Some would argue that parents should never post images of their children online at all, and I respect that. But for those questioning the validity of such an image appearing online, I would ask if their outrage is really about a child’s right to privacy, or is it because a naked man is holding a naked child?

Would anyone care if it had been a mother?

If that had been the mother holding her child, there wouldn’t have been an outcry. People would’ve applauded her for her selfless parenting. Mothers around the world would’ve identified with the driving need to soothe a sick child. The photo wouldn’t have gone viral and the scrutiny it’s since received wouldn’t have followed.

Put a father in the photo and the reaction is very different

For some women, they may have never seen the father of their children show such an interest in their child. For many women – or single dads for that matter – this image would be all too familiar. What wouldn’t be familiar is seeing a photo of a very real, normal part of fatherhood displayed on their computer screen. 

I imagine that for many men, it would have been nice to finally see a father depicted in a way they could identify with, rather than the oft-peddled stereotypical image of a bumbling, boof-head who doesn’t know how to be a parent.

But for a section of the community, they saw something else. They saw something unsavoury.

Dads are parents too!

This image shows a man parenting. It shows love and care. Except the reaction has transformed this into something dirty, into something less than savoury. It will leave people feeling nervous to share pictures of fathers with their kids for fear of judgment and repercussion.

All too often men don’t feature in images online with their children, showing compassion and being involved in everyday parenting. That’s why this image is an important one.

It was a moment shared between a father and his child – a moment being duplicated in houses around the world. It captures a slice of life, real life. It depicts fatherhood in all of its realness. It helps change perceptions of what makes a “real dad”.

Keep sharing

I implore people to share more photos of the men in their life, the good men, spending time with their children. Let’s change the way we view compassionate, loving men. For all the vile people out there, there are many, many, many more amazing men doing wonderful things.

For the mother, who took and shared the image, now facing serious consequences, I wish the world was a different place. Thank you for sharing a slice of life with us.


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