The Disney Mom Blog Photo Scandal Needs a Dash of Common Sense

My friend Marshall — and I didn’t steal it; I took it

It’s been a rough week in the blogosphere. The Wall Street Journal infantilized grown women with its ridiculous mommy business trip article. And a blogger set off a firestorm with her assessment of a dear friend and Disney publicist Marshall Weinbaum as a “raging douche bag” for an allegedly sexist photo of him (which she edited) standing with several women huddled at his feet.

The former was troubling, but if I had to be honest, was something I’ve come to expect from the Murdoch-owned Journal. I was once interviewed by a reporter from the paper who had clearly written her article (on “bad” parenting) before she even spoke with me. I was cut from the piece, no doubt because as a seasoned journalist, I knew better than to take her bait.

The latter, however, has upset me in more ways than one. First, of course, there’s a friendship with Marshall.

Second, I’ve noticed a troubling tendency as Americans to assume offense is meant where none is intended. While I won’t excuse, for example, a racist joke from someone simply because, “aww man, I didn’t mean to hurt someone’s feelings,” at some point we have to draw the line. At some point we have to acknowledge that people do not always have a secret agenda.

This is my trouble with using an innocent photo of Marshall Weinbaum to ruin his life.
Once again, I offer the disclaimer that a friendship exists. As a journalist, I tend to keep publicists at arms’ length, lest there be a scent of impropriety. But some sneak through the cracks because, let’s face it, they are human beings too.

And such it is with Marshall. The photo in question, a recreation of the famous National Lampoon’s Vacation movie poster, was shot along with several other blogging friends at a wax museum this past week. No surprise from a guy whose Facebook URL refers to himself as a “movie geek,” a guy whose favorite Christmas gift was a pass to AMC to see all the movies he wants in 2013 (See? He really is a friend).

The photo was taken off Marshall’s personal Facebook page (some are saying stolen, but I confess as much as I know about fair use, this may be a grey area) and edited to make it appear as though the mom bloggers on the ground were “groveling” for his affections. The point of the post was to call Marshall out as sexist pig who the writer later alleged plays fast and loose with his ethics when it comes to providing mom bloggers with access to Disney.

That she did little research is evident in her insistence that Marshall, who works in marketing in-theater movies for the corporation, is somehow related to Disney Social Media Moms, another animal in the Disney menagerie entirely. The latter is a behemoth in the mom blogosphere I can’t quite wrap my head around. I’ve never been invited, and although I find it interesting, I’m not really positive what it all entails aside from some seriously good deals on tickets for your family at Walt Disney World.

But I digress.

The point is this photo, this alleged misogyny (I’d prefer not to provide link love to the origin of this vicious bit of libel, but you can see the image over at Southern Bella’s Ways to Save, site of one of the bloggers who was attacked in this whole mess).

As a feminist, I could see the photo as being questionable … if it were given no context.

But this is the problem in America, isn’t it? We’ve become so quick to judge, so ready to find the bad, that we don’t bother to assess the true content of something.

Allow me to diverge from the Marshall story for just a moment. I promise there’s a point here: 

Just the other day a friend posted a link about Oatmeals New York that showed a sign board being slammed for “fat shaming” Americans. The board listed the calorie content of a bagel and the significantly lower calorie content of oatmeal. Beneath it said “summer is coming, just saying.”

The company was forced to apologize, saying they were merely trying to point out that their product is a healthy option. OK, but why did they have to apologize in the first place? Simply misconstruing things as offensive doesn’t make them so. Displaying caloric content is actually law in New York City, and it’s something many Americans are grateful to see. Are we going to call out the nutrition labels on the side of the cereal box for making us feel bad for choosing Trix over Grape Nuts now?

Which brings me back to the Marshall photo. No attempt was made to ascertain the story behind it, and it’s blown up into a national story that even drew the attention of AdWeek.

All because an innocent photo was misconstrued as offensive by someone who failed to do her homework?

Fact: there was no malicious intent behind this photo. That says a lot about the man’s character. It flies in the face of terms like “raging douche bag” and “sexist.” It stands in direct opposition to the character assassination committed this week against Marshall.

Was the photo a good one? Maybe not. I know the folks in it were all being silly. I know that women on the ground, man standing, was in no way a sign of the subjugation of females. I know because I know the character of four of the five people involved. I know because gosh darnit, just because a woman is on the floor doesn’t mean she’s being pushed down by a man. Ask my husband. I don’t look up to any man, but yes, there are photos of me in what could be termed by some to be a submissive position.

But hey there are photos of Beyonce looking like a heinous beast. We know that’s not true, right?

A still photo tells only the story of one moment in time, the second the shutter was depressed. It does not portray the before or the after. The before and after of this photo of Marshall and the four mom bloggers (whose characters are also being harmed in this debacle) are just as important as that split second. 

At some point we as Americans need to step back and realize that not everything is meant to piss us off. This has nothing to do with “political correctness,” and everything to do with common sense.

And if you’re GOING to be offended, here’s an idea: do your homework before you decide to share your outrage with the rest of the world. It will make you look like less of a “douche bag.”

Did you find the photo offensive?

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  1. I do not find the picture offensive, it shows a group of friends having fun. I don't even find it to be of questionable judgement honestly. There are so many "keyboard warriors" as I call them; the people who have nothing better to do than to be mean and spiteful just because they are in the safety of thier home. I hope this situation is widely seen for what it is and that reputations are not permanently soiled.

  2. This issue truly makes me sad to be associated with "mommy bloggers". The truth is, Marshall Weinbaum did nothing wrong. I saw the photo moments after it was taken and I couldn't help but laugh at the expression on his face. It was clearly a funny image, and those bloggers are deliberately taking it out of context for their own personal gain. I totally agree with what you say at the end of your article: "At some point we as Americans need to step back and realize that not everything is meant to piss us off. This has nothing to do with "political correctness," and everything to do with common sense.And if you're GOING to be offended, here's an idea: do your homework before you decide to share your outrage with the rest of the world. It will make you look like less of a "douche bag."" Well said.

  3. As soon as I saw the photo, I knew it was a joke. Marshall is seriously one of the kindest people I know and would not have harmful intentions. I also know 3 of the women in the photo. They are amazing women and wonderful moms.

  4. It's so upsetting that this has erupted. Why does it seem as though a few with loud and cruel voices should be heard above the rest? I'm glad you wrote this post, as the positive truth needs to be shouted over the tops of those that wish to push others down.

  5. Thank you for setting the record straight. It just blows my mind that the writers of these posts assumed something without doing ANY form of research, and that their actions impacted 5 wonderful people. She would be the first to cry foul if the tables were turned.

  6. I know this is a new week and we're already on to the next scandal in the blogging world but you basically said what people need to know: Think before you write. KNOW before you write. And remember that the internet is forever (as far as we can tell).

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