Model and new mum Elsa Hosk has found herself having to defend a very harmless nude photo of herself and her daughter, after online trolls claimed it was “pornographic”.
As sartorial lovers will know, New York Fashion Week got underway earlier this month. One of NYC’s most hotly anticipated annual events, the style-savvy it crowd always come out in force… and this year was no different. Keen to strut their stuff and show off what I can only presume are their many lockdown purchases, all of the big names were present, including Elsa Hosk who made the trip out to the Big Apple specifically for the occasion.
Accompanied by her boyfriend, Tom Daly (no, not that Tom Daly) and daughter, Tuulikki, the trio stayed in a beautiful apartment while there. Privy to a gorgeous bird’s eye view of the cityscape below, Tom snapped some photos of Elsa and Tuuli (both nude) enjoying the sunset. Sounds innocent enough, but unfortunately the internet didn’t see it that way and Elsa has found herself having to defend the photos after they blew up on Instagram.
The backlash goes beyond just dissing the supermodel for being naked though. It’s taken a far more sinister turn and people have accused the very harmless image of being pornographic. Feigning concern over the wellbeing of her daughter, one onlooker was quick to let Elsa know that they had even flagged the photo with Instagram. “Reported this for the baby’s safety and yours,” their comment read. “You know you can get in serious trouble for posting child pornography right? I know you’re a new mom but this is like basic knowledge.”
Obviously not expecting the photo to have caused such controversy, Elsa addressed the negativity with a lengthy message on her stories. “Wow. Posting a picture where I’m with my baby naked is not child pornography. It’s a normal thing. Happens everyday. All over the world. And if I choose to post that, that’s my choice,” she wrote. “If some sick person on the internet thinks it’s porn that’s that person’s problem, not mine. I refuse to live my life according to, or in fear of, sick people on the internet.”
“To me – being naked with my baby is the most beautiful and my most favourite thing. Skin to skin. It creates hormones that help both of us to connect and have a stronger bond. How beautiful is that!? Growing up in Sweden I was naked ALL the time, at beaches, at home, in public… it was so natural to us and we were not taught that our bodies were something you had to hide away in fear of what strangers might think. I think it created a very healthy relationship to nudity and to my own body,” she admitted.
“I never felt weird about being naked. If you have a baby, nakedness is part of everyday life. This photo was a beautiful moment captured by my boyfriend. If you think it’s porn or a ‘thirst trap’, shame on you, not shame on me. I respect anyone’s choice what they do with their bodies or what [they] choose to post or not post.
“Don’t worry about the safety of my baby, she is right where she belongs, literally in my naked arms,” she finished.
Silencing the trolls
While the new mum received plenty of support in the wake of her comments – including from actress Shay Mitchell who reshared the post on her own Instagram account – the naysayers eventually got to Elsa, who has since removed the original post. Updating fans as to why she decided to take the photo down, Hosk said that she was fed up of being targeted by faceless online bullies.
“I honestly was over all the comments from internet trolls calling me a bad mother, I should be in jail, I’m a child abuser, I should have my baby taken away from me. Nudity on Instagram is shameful, gratuitous, terrible… a picture of a naked baby and her mom shouldn’t be a problem, it shouldn’t be called porn. It obviously isn’t, it couldn’t be farther from that,” she wrote in another message to followers.
“If that’s what some people see and that is what we have to conform to it’s what’s really sick and upsetting. This world makes me SO sad sometimes. I don’t know how we normalize a naked baby or person and letting babies be babies in society today, where everyone has an opinion and trolling and abusing is normal and ok.”
As Elsa points out, nudity – especially female nudity – is either classed as gratuitous or pornographic; there’s no middle ground. If we show ourselves to the world, we’re vilified… but if we don’t, we’re prudish so there’s really no winning. To quote Ru Paul though, we’re all born naked and the rest is drag.
Consider for a moment if the photos Elsa had posted were just of her. Would there have been such a fuss? Probably, but for very different reasons. I suspect that the comments section would have looked very different in such a case – most of them marvelling at her body, no doubt. Add Tuuli back into the equation now. Why is the standard so different?
The life-saving benefits of kangaroo care (which involves skin-to-skin contact) has been lauded by medical professionals the world over. It has multiple benefits and comes highly recommended as a way to bond with your baby. Every single one of us came into this world completely starkers. Being naked is the most natural thing in the world, but of course, women’s bodies have been sexualised since day dot and it’s the patriarchy that has altered the balance and made being nude a topic of contention.
There’s also the fact that Elsa is a model. Amongst one of the most beautiful women in the world, you could argue that it’s the implication that her life is without flaws that is the most triggering for people. What if she didn’t look the way she did… what if Elsa had bad tan lines and cellulite and wasn’t considered to be the “feminine ideal”? Would the photo still be considered pornographic? Or is it the supposed “perfection” of the whole thing (i.e. hot mom, cute baby, amazing view) that pushes it over the edge for some people?
Either way, female nudity, particularly maternal nudity, is not obscene.