Bottos, a photography major and gender studies minor, runs a Tumblr page where she often uploads selfies as well as pictures of her work.
Since starting the Tumblr in 2010, she has received hundreds of cruel anonymous messages. Last week, she turned the words of hate into a feminist art project; Bottos screencapped some of the messages and posted them over pictures of herself.
The Tumblr post, called “Anonymous,” is a work in progress, she told BuzzFeed. But it nonetheless quickly went viral, garnering over 85,000 notes and drawing in about 20,000 new followers.
The description of the post on Tumblr reads:
Some new stuff I’m working on, I get tons of anonymous messages like this every day and while this isn’t unique to women, the content of the messages and the frequency in which I get them are definitely related to my gender. I almost exclusively get them after I post selfies. The authority people feel they have to share their opinion on my appearance is something myself and many other girls online deal with daily.
“The messages I’ve received are definitely indicative of a greater problem of online bullying and the anonymity of the internet,” she said. “In my personal experience from what I’ve seen on Tumblr, the majority of the people who get messages like this are girls and women. It’s hard to say, but it seems like a lot of girl-on-girl hate.”
When the bullying began in 2010, she turned the option to receive anonymous messages off.
“A couple years ago when I would get mean messages, they would really affect me. They’re so personal,” she said. “But lately I’ve been seeing that all the people I follow get them, and my friends get them too. People just say those things to get a reaction, so I’ve learned to ignore it.”
About a year later, she decided to re-activate anonymous messages.
“I began screencapping all of the messages. I had them in a folder on my computer and I was just waiting to do something with them,” she said. “I decided to put them back into the medium they came from, to put them back into Tumblr and to place them over selfies.”
“I picked the messages by subject matter: They reference my tattoos, or face, or weight, or body hair. I wanted them to represent the scope of the messages I get.”
Bottos then re-took photographs of herself to create a cohesive group, but she says they’re not very different than the pictures the messages originally referenced.
Since posting “Anonymous” on Jan. 26, Bottos has been overwhelmed with messages of support.
“I’ve received about 2,000 messages,” she said. “I’ve read through all of them. Most of the messages are really positive.”
But a lot of people also messaged Bottos saying she should turn the anonymous option off, stating that what she’s doing is just a “cry for attention.”
“I felt like this was blaming me,” she said, “when the people sending these message are the people doing the wrong thing, not me.”
Bottos has explored sexism through photography in various other projects, including her senior thesis. “Anonymous,” however, is her first project about her online life.
“People say selfies are a cry for help or a cry for attention, but wanting attention isn’t bad,” Bottos said.
“The act of women taking selfies is inherently feminist, especially in a society that tries so hard to tell women that our bodies are projects to be worked on and a society that profits off of the insecurities that it perpetuates. Selfies are like a ‘fuck you’ to all of that, they declare that ‘hey I look awesome today and I want to share that with everyone’ and that’s pretty revolutionary.”
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