A question about what is okay to critique…

3 minute read

September 19, 2022, 12:04 PM

This is something that happened back in November of last year, and it’s something that I still question because it leaves something unsettled that I had previously considered to not be a question at all.  My understanding was, when it comes to a person’s appearance, the only things that are okay to to critique are hair and clothing, because those are choices that the person made, and that they can readily change.  That comes with a lot of caveats, though.  You don’t critique things about hair if it’s something that they can’t change, like baldness, though anything that they can still change is fair game.  Likewise, with clothing, you wouldn’t criticize the fashion choices of someone who clearly can’t afford anything else.

So, with that said, here’s why I ask.  Last year, I was off on Black Friday, and Elyse had planned an adventure for us on that day.  She planned a shopping adventure that day, and she wanted to go out and check out the “doorbuster” events.  Me, having spent four Christmases working in retail, I wanted nothing to do with any of it and would have preferred to just sleep in and work on the website or Flickr, but I wouldn’t have gotten a moment of peace if I stayed home – so out I went.  We chose to go to Annapolis so that I would have something to do, with the idea of my going out to Sandy Point State Park to fly the drone over the water while Elyse shopped.  Unfortunately, however, when I got to the park, I judged the wind to be far too strong to fly, so the drone never even came out of its carrier.  After sitting in the car for a while feeling annoyed about the circumstances, having driven out to the bay for nothing, I headed back to the mall, feeling somewhat defeated, and met back up with Elyse and joined her on her shopping adventure, because nothing was going up into the sky other than my frustration.

Later on, we found ourselves at a Target store.  I didn’t buy anything, but Elyse did, so while she went through the checkout, I went to Starbucks, got a steamed milk, and sat down to enjoy it.  While there, I noticed this lady a little ways down from me, standing along the same wall that I was sitting next to.  I grabbed a quick photo because of her rather unique hairstyle:

The lady at Target with a very unique hairstyle

I posted it to Facebook, captioning it, “For those days when you want to look like a human Chia Pet, I suppose.”  I found it to be fairly spot-on, considering the usual appearance of a chia pet.

I expected mostly amused reactions for that bad hairstyle, but I got a surprising amount of strong negative reactions to this.  Comments included the following:

  • “Is this a picture of a random stranger that you saw?  If so, I don’t think it is very nice to post this critiquing them.  I wouldn’t like it if someone did that to me.”
  • “not a cute look for you”
  • “I was just mortified AF and was going to say the same.  Please, Ben, don’t do that.  It’s so not cool.”
  • “For those times where you want to look like a jerk, there’s ‘critiquing a stranger’s appearance on the internet and posting pics'”
  • “It’s kinda creepy to take pictures of random strangers in public.  Also it is just mean to then use those pictures to make fun of them on social media.”

Am I that far off base?  The way I see it, such a photo is fair game.  We’re out in public, therefore nobody has a reasonable expectation of privacy.  Likewise, I took the photo myself, so no copyright issues involved.  As far as the subject goes, this hair presentation is not the result of a medical condition, so we’re good there, and while the curls may be natural or the result of a perm, the weird shaping is most likely the result of copious amounts of gel, and the color was definitely a choice, as green is not a natural hair color for humans.  In other words, she had to have gotten up one day and said, “You know, I’m going to dye my hair green today.”  And for those choices, they are fair game for criticism.  Goodness knows that I’ve been on the receiving end of criticism of my fashion choices in the past, both worn for real and for entertainment.  And I’ve also thrown out fashion criticism before, such as in the second part of my “clip show” photo set from 2005, and no one batted an eye.

I don’t know.  I imagine that there’s definitely an argument to be made both ways, and I’m interested to see what people think.  Discuss amongst yourselves, I suppose?

Categories: Annapolis, Retail, Social media