Actress Olivia Wilde planned for her recent Instagram post to be an appreciation of her son.
Little did she know it would spark an online debate.
The Instagram post, pictured below, shows her son Otis’ naked behind while wearing a cowboy hat.
As The Huffington Post’s Caroline Bologna reported, the picture raised quite the controversy among Instagram commenters. Some showed their appreciation — the photo received 255,000 likes — with comments like “so cute” and “Aww!” Commenter mzbeauty215 wrote, “Love it. There’s nothing wrong with an innocent baby.”
But not all users were for the picture, Bologna wrote.
“More people will ‘like’ that than you wish,” wrote one commenter, The Huffington Post reported. “Your naked child is nothing you upload in the world wide web where it stays forever…”
“Why post nude pics of your child? So many psychos out there!” said another commenter, HuffPost reported.
And user juicebox_jen wrote, “@oliviawilde the unnecessary sexualization of children is why society sees this as anything but a cute picture.”
This isn’t the first time Wilde’s photos on parenting have made national headlines. Last year, Wilde posed for the September issue of Glamour magazine while breastfeeding the then-5-month-old Otis, US Magazine reported. Wilde justified the photos as a way for her to help people understand that being a mother was a part of her personality.
“Being shot with Otis is so perfect because any portrait of me right now isn’t complete without my identity as a mother being a part of that,” Wilde said of her son, US Magazine reported. “Breastfeeding is the most natural thing.”
Not all were happy with the photoshoot, though. Susan Rohwer, guest blogger for The Los Angeles Times, called the photos a “slap in the face” since not all mothers can publicly breastfeed as Wilde did.
At the time, there had been a few viral news stories about mothers getting kicked out of local spots for their decision to breastfeed in public, which was why Rohwer felt taken back by the pictures.
“It’s a fantasy and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it,” she wrote. “But when regular women are still being kicked out of public (and virtual) places for breastfeeding, or have to sue their employers for appropriate accommodations in which to pump breast milk for their infants at home, the glamorous fantasy of the publicly breastfeeding celebrity mother can be a slap in the face to the rest of us.”
These photos fit into a larger discussion about sharing baby photos online that’s still debated among parents, especially with the rise of social media, where people’s personal lives can be accessed at any moment.
In an article for Medium, Dimitri Tokmetzis, a writer from Dutch newspaper De Correspondent, explained that companies will use pictures of babies that are posted on Facebook for their own gain, like for mugs, T-shirts or as photos on various websites.
“This only scratches the surface. Big Web conglomerates earn billions with everyone’s private information,” Tokmetzis wrote. “The Web runs on user-generated content — text, videos, music, art, etc. — made and shared by ordinary people. The moment you post something on Facebook or YouTube, you enter into a contract with that company, and from then on they’re free to benefit from your material in any way they see fit, mainly by selling ads around it, but in some cases by selling your data, or using your avatar and other personal information for commercial purposes.”
Stacy-Ann Gooden, a mother and writer for BabyCenter’s blog, may have the best advice — it comes down to one’s personal choice about whether they want their child’s face or body exposed online.
“I think it all boils down to personal choice,” she wrote. “If parents want to pose naked photos of their children, it’s totally up to them. As long as the child isn’t posed provocatively, I couldn’t care less.”
It seems to be the same for Wilde. Three days after her picture of a naked Otis received attention, she posted another photo of her boy. This one of the mother and son playing, as her caption reads, “Peek a boo.”
It’s received 22,500 likes.