Facebook removes page after ‘Peace on Earth’ photo incites outrage

duct tape

Joe Loong/Flickr

Peace on Earth, indeed.

Ever since Awkward Family Photos popularized the often hilarious and uncomfortable posed images that families create together for holiday cards, eye-catching portraits have become social media gold. But there are images that are harmless, silly family fun and images that elicit a collective “WTF?”—and rarely do the latter go viral out of amusement.

On Sunday, a Louisiana-based studio called Hannah Hawkes Photography posted a series of recent family holiday portraits to Facebook. Hawkes’ Facebook page described her as a “[n]ewly established, local photographer” specializing in family, maternity, and engagement sessions. Among the holiday photos that Hawkes shared over the weekend, one stood out from the rest:

Hannah Hawkes Photography/Facebook

The photo depicts a family of five posing together, flanked by evergreen trees. A woman, presumably the mother, and two little girls, presumably the daughters, sit in a row with bright green duct tape covering their mouths and a string of Christmas lights binding their arms. A little boy, presumably a son, stands behind them raising his fist, while a man, presumably the father, kneels and holds a sign, reading “Peace on earth.” The identities of the five individuals are unknown.

Though the photo perpetuates the adage of “Women should be seen and not heard”—a notion that some may find amusing to parody ironically—an image of girls and women silenced and restrained by men also suggests far darker connotations. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that one in three women in the United States will be victims of intimate partner violence over the course of their lives, and that a woman is physically abused every nine seconds. 

Given these staggering facts, it is not difficult to see why, by Tuesday morning, the Facebook fan page for Hannah Hawkes Photography had been deleted, along with the hundreds of shares that spread the photo virally. Some people, though, are continuing to post their concerns about the photograph and its photographer, indicating that they will not patron Hawkes’ business should she relaunch her page.

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As of the time of publication, Hawkes has not responded to the Daily Dot’s request for comment.

Update 1:51pm CT, Dec. 15: This headline has been updated to reflect that Facebook removed the above photo. Previously, the headline incorrectly stated that the photographer deleted the photo herself. 

Update, 2:51pm CT, Dec. 15:

Hannah Hawkes Photography posted an update on its Facebook page, explaining she “in no way meant to promote abuse.” 

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The message reads:

After being silent, now isn’t that ironic, I would like to speak! I have been called every name in the book, and have received some very hateful and vulgar comments and messages. I would like to say that as a female I do NOT and have never promoted violence to women! I do not support abuse, or the degradation of women. My controversial photo was taken by request by the family, and was in no way meant to promote abuse. This photo was taken with humor in mind, and was meant as a comical Christmas photo. I personally know this family, and have known them for many years. They are not abusive to their children in any shape or form. Also, I would like to add that no one was harmed during the process! So everyone have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS and MAY GOD BLESS you and yours!

Update, 4:37pm CT, Dec. 15: Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Ruth M. Glenn has responded with the following statement:

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that still perpetrates violence against women as evidenced by this photo. What is equally as disturbing as the duct taping of the woman and girls’ mouths and the binding of their hands is the image of the young boy behind them giving a ‘thumbs up’. It is obvious, he is already influenced. Though we are glad the photo has been removed, that people responded so strongly against it, and the photographer asserted that the photo was taken in jest, it is no laughing matter. Violence against women is commonplace and perpetuated by apathy and ignorance, as exemplified by this photo. Once again, it gives us a glimpse into the ongoing struggle to change how our culture views and treats women and girls.

Photo via Joe Loong/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Carrie Nelson

Carrie Nelson

Carrie Nelson is a writer and documentary filmmaker. Nelson’s reporting for the Daily Dot focused on LGBTQ issues, feminism, and internet culture.