What Your Profile Picture Says About You

Laura O'Rourke

Take a look at your Facebook profile picture. What does it say about you? What first impression does it give off? I hope lack-of-competency is what you were going for because according to a recent study, that might just be the case. In the study, women are shown to judge other women with “sexy” profile pictures as being less competent and less attractive.

We have all been told to be careful what we post online. It can, therefore, be easy to wonder how a woman can possibly think it is appropriate to post her vacation bikini picture when she is Facebook-friends with coworkers. We might scoff at the babysitter’s duck-face and reconsider hiring her the next time we need a caregiver for our children.

While I agree that children and teens need good leaders and lesson in social media etiquette, I want to talk about adult women right now. Because ladies? This has got to stop. We need to stop judging. We have got to stop tearing one another down.

When we have conversations in our culture debating the actions of women and the way we judge them, we must ask ourselves if we are extending these same considerations to men. Where are the studies about the profile pictures that men post on their social media accounts? I’m certain that men do post photos that aren’t entirely professional. Do men lose social standing because they have a photo with a beer in hand or a rival sports jersey on? What about their topless beach pics? When a conversation only applies to and tears down women, then maybe we need to reconsider our judgments and recognize that our perceptions live in a culture of misogyny.

We stick women in these small little pegs and expect them to conform without diverting. She can either be a Career Woman or a Mother or Sexy. Women aren’t seen as multi-dimensional beings. A woman cannot be both smart and sexy. She cannot be both dedicated to her job and dedicated to her kids. This narrative is disseminated through our culture over and over again and we expect women to just comply.

Recently a small-town pastor in the province where I grew up ironically assumed he could put anything on Facebook without repercussion and posted a rant about how women needed to stop “conveniently including your chest in your selfies”. One woman who agreed with the pastor did so because she worried about her children. She says, “If it’s okay for cleavage to be put all over Facebook, then what’s it going to be like in 10 years? Are my boys not going to be able to go on Facebook without seeing full breasts or full butt shots?”

Who really needs protection from the judgments that come from “sexy” Facebook pictures? Is it our boys? Or is it the women who are being passed over for jobs, opportunities, promotions, and even friendships because they are assumed less competent than they are. Maybe we need to protect these women from being slut-shamed in ten years when our boys don’t understand that a woman’s clothes don’t have anything to do with who the woman is, what she wants, or whether she consents.

Women need the freedom to leave work at work. They need the freedom to let their hair down sometimes. They need to step out of the mother role when they are with friends and step out of the work role when they are at home. They need to experience every aspect of themselves and not feel shame or fear when they express that.

This wouldn’t be the first time our judgments needed to be challenged. Don’t sit complacent because one study says that everyone else judges women negatively by their profile pictures. Perhaps the way we judge says more about us than any profile picture ever could.

Laura O’Rourke is a blogger from Halifax, Nova Scotia. A working mom of 3 boys, she writes about finding grace in the mess of motherhood on her blog, Mommy Miracles. Her blog has been listed on multiple Top 10 Canadian Blog lists. Laura runs an online book club for busy Moms called MomsReading.