I’ve been on the internet doing my thing for a very long time now. And the number one rule I always gave myself for interacting online was “thou shalt not front.” Basically. I always wanted to be honest and forthcoming with who I was and what I was about. So I did everything under my real name, and never tried to hide what I did. This worked really well for me for over ten years. I made a great many excellent friends and had a lot of real, meaningful conversations with people who lived on the other side of the planet. Eventually I met many of these people in real life and they were always even more lovely in person than they were online. They opened their homes and their hearts to me and I continue to be grateful to each and every one of them. Being true to myself on the internet has paid off for me, is what I’m saying.
I’ve been posting vulnerable, exposed, naked pictures of myself online for the last ten years. I have never felt my safety was threatened. I’ve never had a stalker, or creepy people flooding my inboxes or expecting things from me I wasn’t prepared to give. I’ve never felt that I didn’t know how to react when someone brought up the fact they had seen me naked on the internet. I’ve always known that people could see me–I put it on the internet! I DID. It can’t surprise me when people tell me they’ve seen the pictures. They’re there to be seen. Ever since I started being naked on the internet, I knew it was a choice that I would always have to live with and I accepted that. I knew that if at any point in my life there was a conflict between, say a job, and my photography, well, I would find a new job. Or if a person had a problem with my photography, well, I wouldn’t hang out with that person. I didn’t feel I should ever have to compromise the choices I made for myself that only affect me and that have always felt like the right choices. No one else should make me question those choices, when no one else can possibly know what is best for me better than me. Maybe life would be easier in some ways had I not made the choices I made, but it wouldn’t be as fun, as rewarding, as badass, and as complete had I worried about what others would make of my choices. I have always been confident that I would never regret the choices I have made with my art–and I don’t. And never plan to.
However, sometimes bullshit goes down and things happen that I can’t control but that negatively impact my life in more ways than I thought possible.
Recently I lost out on a job opportunity because of my art. That was the reason that was given to me. That had never happened before. It was a job I’d done twice in the past and really enjoyed, in fact, I loved it! I was good at it, and I made the job better. The person in charge acknowledged this, yet still cited “the vulnerability of minors” and the potential problems some might have with the “intimacy” of my art.
Yeah, I can’t even get in to the flaws with that right now. But I will. In a later post.
But what that experience showed me is that I need to create a disconnect in how people can find me online. I obviously will not be going away, or pretending I’m someone I’m not. I won’t be writing or creating art under a different name, I’ll just be putting up more space, [by way of a new blog, a new URL, and a bit of a new direction] between The Real Katie West, who apparently isn’t suitable to be employed to work with the students she works best with, and the actual Katie West who is morally accountable and suitable for all sorts of work?
The ridiculousness of this plan is not lost on me. But I’ve been trying to reconcile my feelings of feeling isolated and judged based on my art with needing to stay true and honest to that art and this is the best plan I can come up with at the moment.
I have not spent so much time preaching the not giving of fucks for it all to blow up in my face. I will continue to not give a fuck, and I will strive to change the minds of the people around me who think that showing my naked body somehow means I am no longer qualified for the jobs I am best suited for. I am taking the events of the last three months and attempting to turn them into something useful. If I am not able to directly affect the outcome of my situation, then at least I may be able to affect the way people handle this issue if it ever comes up if the future.
I need to make art. I need to teach. I need to do whatever it takes so that I can do BOTH these things to the best of my ability.
“A dame that knows the ropes isn’t likely to get tied up.”
― Mae West