Tag: fashion bloggers

Did Blogger Freckled Fox Commit Fraud? A Legal Analysis

March 29
21 Comments

I predict this post will set off a storm of emotions, because it’s going to cover cancer, death, fraud, and blogging. It’s a long post, ready?

Today we are going to discuss whether Freckled Fox blogger Emily Meyers deceived people who gave her donations after her husband died in June 2016. Emily remarried in September 2016, eighty or so days after her husband’s death, but still accepted donations made after she had already remarried.

Could Emily be implicated for fraud? She seemed to accept charitable donations for her widowhood while omitting the crucial information that she had already remarried and was going on a honeymoon. I’ll analyze this issue using the common law fraud cases I have read in law school.

Emily Meyers Freckled Fox instagram picture

All pictures are from Emily’s Instagram unless they are screenshots of the donation pages

Background: Freckled Fox is the name of Emily Meyers’ lifestyle blog, where she posts about fashion, family, and hair. Two years ago, her husband received a devastating stage 4 cancer diagnosis.

When her husband Martin eventually passed away from the cancer in June 2016, Emily was left as a widow with five children. I can’t imagine the suffering and grief that this young family has undergone. I have nothing but empathy and condolences for Emily and her five children.

As you can already tell, there are so many facets to Emily’s story. That’s why I have to write very narrowly, because I am only concerned about the donations given to her after the news of her husband’s cancer diagnosis.

I will not be discussing Emily’s children, the cancer, or the fact that Emily was just shot by a gun a few weeks ago (long story short, Emily was shot by her new, second husband; she’s ok even though she has some knee damage. You can’t make this stuff up).

Emily Meyers remarriage after husband's death from cancer

Before we get anywhere with this discussion, let’s get some disclaimers out of the way.

“Hasn’t Emily suffered enough?” some you might say in response to this post. I know she’s been through a lot. Cancer and death are tricky subjects to write about. That’s why I’m not going to write about them. I promise I will only focus on whether donations to the Meyers family were received with honest intentions.

If you have problems with any blog post involving a recent widow, or cancer in general, I can’t appease you. Nothing I say will convince you that, yes, even though a very tragic thing happened, there are objective issues around the touchy subject that could warrant legal analysis.

We can’t bury our heads in the sand when tragedy strikes; as a lawyer-in-training, I have to learn how to deal with the issues underlying people’s tragedies. I’m actually writing this post because the topic of internet fraud came up in my Fraud class at Harvard Law. I ultimately decided to do my presentation on blogger fraud.

Emily Meyers and husband Martin's death

Look, Emily’s story is upsetting and her husband Martin’s death is tragic. Period. Again, this post isn’t about Martin or his untimely death. I am not trying to impugn the reputation of a recently deceased person.

But using cancer as a shield against any analysis is also distasteful. This post is about money and fraud. If you were defrauded, or scammed out of money, you would probably not be satisfied if the fraudster used the defense “you can’t criticize me because someone in my family had cancer! That justifies everything! Go away!”

I also think that charitable fraud is more despicable than regular fraud. I am less offended by regular fraud (“hey, wanna buy this authentic Chanel bag for $50?”) than charity fraud, which uses a sad tale to trick us with emotional appeals.

People like to donate to charities because they feel that the money will help someone in a hard time.  Wouldn’t you be furious if someone took advantage of your empathy to make money for another cause?

Emily Meyers remarried after husband Martin died

“Who are you to criticize how a widow spends the donation money?” some critics might say to me. Now we get to the actual analysis about the donations. This question requires us to start in April 2015, when Emily’s husband Martin was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma.

Martin and Emily tried a variety of treatments, even a experimental treatment in Mexico. As Martin’s condition deteriorated, kind-hearted neighbors and fans of Emily’s blog set up fundraisers to help Emily out.

As you can imagine, treatments can be very expensive and the Meyers also had five small children to take care of. There is no doubt that fundraisers and donations during Martin’s diagnosis were deserved and righteous.

Martin sadly passed away on June 15, 2016.

Emily Meyers remarried to Richard Carmack

Eighty or so days after Martin’s death, on September 9, 2016, Emily remarried a man named Richard. The picture above is from Emily and Richard’s wedding photoshoot in September.

I initially did not want to give details of how Emily and Richard got married, because it would distract from the story. But the details are just so crazy that you need a summary. Emily knew Richard from high school and when they were pen pals.

Once Martin had died, Richard traveled to her doorstep to give Emily a letter. His reasoning was that he did not have a stamp, so he hand-delivered the letter. Richard and Emily revealed this to their Instagram audience during an Instagram Live segment.

Emily Meyers the Freckled Fox blogger remarried after husband's death

I’m not judging anyone who decides to remarry quickly. Grief makes you do weird things. But the timing becomes problematic because there are only 80 days between Martin’s death and Emily’s remarriage to Richard.

  • This means that the sooner Richard and Emily hooked up after Martin’s death, the longer the courtship period where Richard can get to know the five kids who just lost their father.
  • It sounds like a good thing for Richard to take his time getting to know the kids, but the tight time constraint means that he would’ve had to basically swoop in quickly after Emily became a widow.
  • On the other hand, the longer that Richard waited for Emily to grieve, Emily would have had less time to make a rational decision about remarrying.

I’m not sure which scenario I want to believe. Both are equally dubious to me.

After Martin’s death, there were ongoing donations and fundraisers set up to benefit Emily. Let’s see if any of them overlapped with her remarriage. Then we’ll analyze whether this looks shady.

Donations to a pop up shop for Emily Meyers and her children

One of the fundraisers was a pop-up shop whose proceeds would go to Emily. This pop-up shop posted a call-to-action approximately one month, or 30 days, after Martin’s death. Emily could have started dating Richard at this point; it sounds crazy, but meeting Richard 30 days after Martin’s death would have left them only 50 days to date before they married. So 30 days after Martin’s death is in the sweet spot when Emily and Richard could have reunited.

But doesn’t that sound problematic? Emily could have already started seeing someone when this pop-up shop was raising funds for her late husband. And because the money from a pop-up shop doesn’t transfer immediately, Emily would probably not have received these funds until her second honeymoon (edit: Emily commented below letting me know she did not have a honeymoon, just a wedding).

Was this Emily Meyers paypal donation fraud?

Another fundraiser was started by Emily’s friend Camille. Camille posted that she could accept cash Paypal transfers on Emily’s behalf. There are no details when Camille ended the fundraiser, so again, it could have been going on while Emily was making plans for a new husband to move in.

Hope for Martin fundraiser benefitting Emily Meyers and her family

And yet another fundraiser “hope4martin” raised money independently; it’s unclear when this fundraiser started and ended (sometime in September), so I’m including it in the timeline.

And lastly, Emily had a Youcaring page that asked for online donations. In this case, there is no debate that donations were solicited well after Emily remarried. The YouCaring page was up until at least October 9th, and there is a comment on the page at the bottom from December 16th that made it look like it was still open in December, 3 months after Emily and Richard were already married.

Some of the comments on the Youcaring page show that Emily was already married before donors found out. Yet the page remained open for business. Although the page posted updates about how much had been donated so far, at no time did the Youcaring page reveal that Emily had remarried.

Martin Meyers YouCaring page

Edit: a commenter got feisty in my comments so I’ll copy word-for-word what the YouCaring page said: 

The demands of being a mother and a care taker have left Emily with no time to work and help bring in income to pay their bills both medical and every day living expenses. This has been one of the many burdens she faces with this difficult trial! I know there are so many of you who desperately would like to help this sweet family out! If you feel you can or are willing to donate, every little bit counts!

Donors to the YouCaring probably expect the following to be true:

  • Emily has no time to work
    • so there is no adult able to work in the household
  • she has no help to bring in income
  • and she has no help with the kids
  • donations are being solicited for the “sweet family” of “Emily Meyers & Children.”

We’ll see that some of these assumptions were already false while the YouCaring page was open.

As you can see in the revised timeline below, all of the fundraisers could have lasted until Emily and Richard had already made plans to marry. At this point, was the money going to Emily’s care of the kids, or would any of it be used for the wedding and honeymoon?

Emily Meyers the Freckled Fox blogger remarried timeline

Some of you might want to argue “so what? A widow isn’t obligated to tell you what’s going on her in life!”

Are you sure you want to defend that logic?

Sure, Emily didn’t have to tell the pop-up shop anything about her financial or personal info. But don’t lie; there is something about Emily’s story of being a recently-widowed, stay-at-home-mom of 5 children that motivated people to donate.

If you heard Emily’s widowhood story, you’d probably donate because it sounds like her world is shattered. Her husband and income earner has died. It is crucial and important to sustain the 5 children and help the stay-at-home-mother when the breadwinner has died.

You’d be fuming mad if you found out that the widow had actually inherited a million dollars. Or if the widow was actually a Kardashian/trust fund baby and she never needed a breadwinner in the first place. Or if she was hiding a gambling problem and was going to use the donation money to play blackjack etc.

If anything about the story changed, your willingness to donate would change.

Let’s also spin it the other way: if you think that it didn’t matter to donors whether Emily was remarried or not, you’re basically saying that donations would have stayed the even if Emily revealed that she had remarried. But if donations would have stayed the same regardless of what Emily said, then why didn’t Emily reveal the truth that she was remarried?

It’s precisely because you know deep in your heart that donations would DEFINITELY have been affected. Donations for a remarriage aren’t as generous as donations for a widow losing a husband to cancer.

Emily probably did not tell the fundraisers about her new status because it might have hurt donations. The simplest explanation is the easiest.

 

Emily Meyers remarried second wedding dress photos

Picture from Instagram showing off Emily’s second wedding dress

Besides, for crying out loud, the name of the YouCaring page was “Support Emily Meyers & Children” up until the day it closed. The title is meant to manipulate your emotions to make you feel like you could help out an unfortunate family of little ones. It never disclosed that this family had a new father and support.

Of course, Emily might have omitted the crucial info because she was too busy grieving or planning a mountaintop wedding, But as her instagram pictures reveal, she had time to hire retain a photographer (edit: Emily commented below that the photographer shot their wedding pictures on a mountain for free), buy a dress, and post blog-worthy shots like the one below.

Yet she didn’t have time to send a quick text to the fundraisers to let them know they might want to update their info? Supposedly the people holding the fundraisers are her closest friends, right? So if these close friends didn’t even know about the second wedding, who did? Why was it such a huge secret?

It’s starting to look like they were counting on people not being aware of the remarriage.

Emily’s donors don’t need to know her personal details, but it’s only fair for them to know the scope of her financial needs. Some of those donors were donating when Emily already had another caretaker and another potential source of income.

 

Emily Meyers and Richard Carmack remarried second wedding pictures

Pictures from Emily Meyers’ second wedding

So should this count as fraud? Donations are generally considered gifts and not subject to fraud (with some exceptions that I won’t talk about), but let’s take a look at what the common law on fraud says. In the common law, there are several elements that need to be fulfilled in order for a court to find fraud.

I’ll explain the elements by using the example of a kid who asks for field trip money even though the field trip is actually free. The kid really wants to spend the money on candy.

  • There has to be a representation of fact
    • Kid: “I really need this money for a field trip.”
  • The representation is false
    • The field trip is free, but the kid wants spending money for candy.
  • The representation is material
    • The parent gives the kid money because of the kid’s statement. The kid’s statement is material because it affected the parent’s decision.
  • The kid has to have intent to defraud.
    • The person trying to trick you has intent to defraud if they are aware that they are omitting key information or saying something that isn’t entirely true.
  • The parent has to have reliance on the kid’s statement
  • The reliance is reasonable
  • The parent has been injured or damaged by the trickery.
    • See, e.g., Strategic Diversity, Inc. v. Alchemix Corp., 666 F.3d 1197, 1210 n.3

Reading the comments on the YouCaring page, you’ll see that a lot of people are complaining how they felt defrauded:

Donors alleging fraud on Emily Meyers YouCaring donation page

Let’s see how Emily’s actions stack up against the common law elements of fraud.

  • The YouCaring page seems to represent that the money was needed since Martin was the breadwinner and Emily needs help with childcare costs.
  • The representation could be false.
    • The YouCaring page was not closed when Emily remarried Richard, a new breadwinner and caretaker. Emily did not seem to update the page when her financial situation changed, which could basically be a lie by omission.
  • The representation is material
    • The comments show that people were motivated to donate because they thought Emily was a widow in need. So Emily’s representation affected their decision to donate.
  • Emily could have had the intent to defraud
    • You can kind of argue this one since the YouCaring page and pop-up shop were started by people other than Emily.
    • But that’s no excuse for why Emily did not notify them that she was already remarried when they wrote her a check for the funds.
    • You can also defraud through omission, or failing to tell someone crucial information
  • The donors had reliance on Emily’s word:
    • The comments show that quite a few people relied on Emily’s interpretation of the events to make their decision to donate.

Emily Meyers Freckled Fox remarried and donors to her YouCaring page are alleging donation fraudEmily Meyers remarriage and donation fraud?And finally:

  • The reliance is reasonable
  • The donor could have been injured or damaged by the trickery.
    • People gave up hard-earned money for a cause that turned out to be not quite truthful. They were financially damaged.

If all of these elements can be met, a lawyer could make this into a reasonable case for fraud. In other fraud cases I’ve read, the remedy is usually to return the money to the people. I don’t know if it’s possible at this point to return the money to the donors who felt like they had been tricked

(EDIT: Emily commented below that all the money donated after her marriage was returned. I asked why the fundraiser simply didn’t disclose the remarriage instead of going through the hassle of returning the money later).

Maybe the best solution is to use Emily’s situation as a cautionary tale. Consumers should do their research before donating their money. And maybe we should stop trusting bloggers altogether.

But the frustrating thing about this particular case is that someone who DID do research could still have been tricked because the second wedding was kept as an air-tight secret.

 

Emily Meyers - remarried and shot by new husband Richard Carmack

That’s what provoked me to write this post, because the fraud here seems more heinous than regular ole “here are some magic weight loss pills!” Emily knew her fans would grieve for her, and she used her tragedy to solicit funds—even though eighty days later, she was no longer a widow and she had a new income winner that no one knew about.

Bloggers form personal connections with their readers, so this is less of a stranger trying to defraud you and more like a best friend tricking you. It feels like a betrayal. It makes me less likely to trust bloggers. And less likely to donate to cancer fundraisers.

Now that I’ve been burned by Emily, other deserving families will not be getting my donations because I’m scared they are also hiding something. As a grad student, I can’t afford to give my money away to people who are willing to hide material facts from their readers.

I wish Emily and Richard luck in their new remarriage (here is where I tell you that Emily was shot in the knee by Richard in March 2017, but they are still together), although I will no longer be reading her blog after this distasteful YouCaring incident.

I feel like what I’ve written is fair, and actually, if you compare this post to the one I wrote about Stylish Petite, you’ll find that this post is far more gentle. Emily has suffered and I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, but there is no question that she has severely damaged the relationship she had with her readership and possibly hurt other cancer families from getting the donations that they need.

 

Why Bloggers Should Never Use Shopstyle vs Rewardstyle

February 17
6 Comments

There are some things that I wish I had known before I started blogging. I never thought my blog would earn money, but now that it does, I sometimes wish a more experienced blogger would have told me to avoid using Shopstyle as one of my affiliate networks.

Shopsense/Shopstyle Collective (I use the names interchangeably) is a network that pays you for each click that your blog generates, regardless of whether that click leads to a purchase. In contrast, I use another affiliate network called Rewardstyle that only compensates me if a reader makes a purchase after clicking my link; with Rewardstyle, I don’t get paid if the reader clicks the link but decides not to buy.

I used both networks for a long time, and I’m here to tell you that I wish I hadn’t touched Shopstyle at all.

Shopstyle affiliate network hides how much you earn from each click

If you’re curious how much each Shopsense click is worth, they will literally never tell you. On the Shopsense FAQ, it states vaguely that:

You earn a set amount for every valid click that goes from your site . . . The rate you are paid per click depends on a number of factors, including how often clicks result in sales for the retailer, the amount of each sale, and whether those products are returned for a refund. As a result, the rate you are paid can vary over time.

And, boy, does the rate vary! Shopstyle enticed me by initially granting me 5 cents per click: with 20 clicks, I was already making a full dollar! In contrast to my other affiliate networks like Rewardstyle, which only paid me if I make a sale, Shopstyle promised to guarantee income even if my readers didn’t make a purchase.

But the goods times didn’t last. Within a year I found that my rate per click was dropping to 3 cents. This doesn’t sound like a big difference, but it’s a 40% decrease in my earning potential.

And how much is my rate today?

1/2 of a cent per click. 1/2 of a penny. It would take 200 clicks for me to make a single dollar from Shopstyle. Shopstyle has effectively gutted my earning potential by 90%.

(Update: At the end of this post, I asked you to click a Shopstyle link to test my payment rate (thanks for clicking guys!). I found out that my rate just dropped to 0.4 cents a click.)

And look closely at my earnings:

Shopstyle does not pay bloggers for every click

I had linked an ASOS item that earned 2 clickthroughs, and a Talbots item that was clicked on, yet I received ZERO cents for those clicks. Why am I not being compensated for certain clicks? I will never know. There is no transparency for what you can expect to earn from each item that you have worked hard to link.

In contrast, Rewardstyle tells me upfront what I will earn from each purchase. Sure, my readers might not buy anything and I would not be rewarded solely for the click, but when they do make a purchase, I can count on a specific amount in my account.

Shopstyle vs Rewardstyle as an affiliate network for fashion bloggers

Today, I looked up how much I made in Shopsense recently. $9. In the same amount of time on Rewardstyle, I’ve made $125.

“But Brittney,” you might be saying to yourself, “Maybe you’re just using Rewardstyle more than Shopstyle! And didn’t Shopstyle say that the payment rate depends on the quality of your traffic? Maybe your readers aren’t buying anything from the Shopstyle links, so your traffic quality is low.”

Good points. Luckily, Shopsense actually helped me conduct an experiment that demonstrates how both of these assumptions are false.

Shopstyle does not pay bloggers as well as Rewardstyle

The Experiment

In November 2016, Shopstyle told me that if I used Shopstyle exclusively on my blog for the entire month, they would reward me by giving me an additional 20% of my November earnings. I decided to take them up on the offer. For November, all my new links would come from Shopstyle only.

My old Rewardstyle links were still active, but I predicted a decrease in my Rewardstyle earnings because all my Rewardstyle traffic should now go to Shopstyle, since I would only be using Shopstyle links.

My blog traffic was normal in November and I posted regularly. If my traffic was good enough to make good money on Rewardstyle, then I should see a bump in my Shopstyle earnings given the same traffic. Plus Shopstyle had promised to add 20% on top of any amount I earned!

The Results

I made a little over $1 on Shopstyle that month. In contrast, my existing Rewardstyle links from October and before still earned me $38. So without even trying to use Rewardstyle in November, Rewardstyle still earned me more money.

And that’s how I learned that Shopstyle’s compensation system is a scam. All my traffic was diverted from Rewardstyle to Shopstyle. If I had the same number of readers, and my readers clicked at the same rate they usually did, and they bought things at the average rate, then why didn’t my Shopstyle click rate increase?

Shopstyle analytics are terrible compared to Rewardstyle's affiliate links

This is a slightly less important concern, but the lack of reliable analytics is another downside of the Shopstyle system.

  • When a reader clicks a Rewardstyle link, my dashboard immediately shows me what link was clicked and how many times.
  • Shopsense, on the other hand, only updates once a day, usually at midnight.
    • This means that I can’t track how well a link is doing during the day to determine whether my readers like what I’m showcasing.
    • I also can’t see how much I am making so far that day, whereas I can easily track my Rewardstyle commissions by the minute.

Another downside is that Shopstyle only lets you see the top ten most clicked items.

  • So if your readers click more than 10 items (which they should be doing, if you want to make money), there is no option to expand the list to show more.
  • You also can’t tell which items are unpopular, because the analytics just stop reporting after the top 10 links.

This is one of those cases where it’s useful to compare a simple screenshot of Shopstyle vs. Rewardstyle. See how simplistic Shopstyle looks next to Rewardstyle’s data breakdown?

Shopstyle vs Rewardstyle for bloggers

In Rewardstyle, you can expand the list and see every last link that was clicked, and how many times it was clicked. You can even see when the clicks occurred, and what platform your readers are engaging with the most, whether it’s blog or instagram.

Blogging is all about analytics, and it’s no wonder that I slowly turned over to Rewardstyle to better track how my links were doing on an hour-by-hour basis.

Fashion bloggers should avoid using Shopstyle

“But Brittney, all the major bloggers use Shopstyle now! Barefoot Blonde and Gal Meets Glam and Pink Peonies!” It’s true; these bloggers all use Shopstyle even though they used to be featured on the Rewardstyle page. But those major bloggers are rumored to have gotten a huge payout to use Shopstyle. They might also have been promised higher commission rates if they switch to Shopstyle.

Ultimately, these larger blogs are fundamentally different from mine. I don’t have a large readership that generates a lot of clicks that can add up. Instead, I have a smaller readership, but one that seems to trust my recommendations; I have more long-time readers whose clicks are likely to lead to a purchase. Rewardstyle makes more sense if I want to maximize my close audience.

P.S. Oh btw, if you feel sorry for me, you can click this Shopstyle link. I might not even earn any money from it! Who knows! And if I do earn money, it will probably be 1/2 of a penny. Update: I have earned 2 cents from 5 clicks. I thought my rate was 0.5 cent a click, now it’s apparently changed to 0.4 cents.

I hope none of you make the same mistake I do.There are too many affiliate network options out there for you to settle for Shopstyle’s vague nonsense.

To conclude: 

If you have a large following, you might be tempted to use Shopstyle because you get money for each click. But let me warn you: just like how Shopstyle stopped paying me 5 cents a click, your rate could get slashed as well. You’re still getting screwed if you have 5,000 clicks a day but each one is only worth half a cent. Unless you can get a guaranteed flat rate from Shopstyle, or unless your blog is big enough to support a higher rate, it’s not worth your time to earn pennies a week.

And although there are fundamental problems with Rewardstyle as well, I find it to be the better alternative so far. You can see my blog’s growth reflected in my Rewardstyle earnings, but as my readers grew, my earnings in Shopstyle paradoxically went down.

 

My Perfect Fashion Blogger Life

April 1
8 Comments

Perfect fashion blogger life morning teaLast weekend was one of the best I’ve had in a long time. It’s always a treat to wake up to a cup of tea but even more so when there are fresh blooms in the room.

Gold diamond hoop earrings pink turtleneck sweater NYX Istanbul lip cream

Easter weekend was absolutely amazing!!! We had lots of Easter festivities and everything felt happy. It was kind of a stressful and really busy few days leading up to the weekend so I was really excited to escape a couple hours with friends. We had so many laughs, yummy food and rosé while out in the spring sunshine all day. White hollister off the shoulder dress This white dress is an absolute favorite of mine. I think everyone needs a classic white for spring and summer! Also I love this dress from Nordstrom here. And here. And this dress. And here, here, or here. I also found a similar one here, or one for $30 here, or one with a v-neck here and here and here. Momoya sushi lunch special Friday & Saturday nights are our date nights. We tried to take advantage of our time together this weekend! It’s cheesy but one of my favorite things to do is go to dinner! And get a smoothie. For dessert, macarons are the way to go. Along with a plate of donuts and cupcakes arranged artfully around my shoes on the table. This nail polish is one of my faves – I love the way it looks. It’s so stunning and will go with so much of my wardrobe!

Here’s to a smooth-ie start for the day. #smoothie #strawberrysmoothie #strawberries #tropical A photo posted by Brittney (@beautyvbrainsblog) on

After a long, hard day of running errands and brunch meetings, I love to relax with a spa day and a face mask. I put on The Bachelor and do my nails.

Gosh, I’m so relatable, with my life of leisure. I can’t wait to take pictures while twirling in a flower field, before getting some avocado toast. Thank you so much for stopping by!! <3

 

 

 

 

Ok, so this is pretty obviously an April Fool’s post making fun of how bloggers write and showcase their lives. In case you thought I was being over-the-top when I wrote this post, I mostly just copied and pasted from blogs like Gal Meets Glam, Barefoot Blonde, and The Sweetest Thing.

The best satire is the truth, usually. Us bloggers sound like a superficial and insipid bunch.

This April Fool’s, I wanted to pull the curtain back on blogger behaviors so that we aren’t fooling anyone. Sure, bloggers portray an aspirational lifestyle where apartments are bright, and where desserts are colorful yet doesn’t make anyone fat.

The reality is a little muddier. Bloggers work with affiliate programs that teach us how to take the perfect Instagram shot (so we can sell more products). Instead of presenting original content, often bloggers are tempted to sell out and became mouthpieces for established clothing brands. When readers get tired of the sponsored content, bloggers often censor comments and ignore “haters.”

How fashion bloggers take Instagram pictures

Today, I’ll show you some of my reality. This is how many shots it takes to get the perfect Instagram picture to show off the flowers that I bought. I kept the flowers alive for a record 9 days (so I could reuse them in more photos).

IMG_8329

Brittney, in real life, doesn’t pose perfectly with one hand in her windblown hair, looking off to the side. The real Brittney smiles like an idiot for an outfit photo (without realizing I still had the tag on my sweater) (and completely oblivious to the child face-planting in the background).

Labbit birthday cake

What’s real-life Brittney’s most treasured possession? It’s not shoes or bags. Instead, it’s this stuffed rabbit with a mustache on its face (seen here attending my little sister’s birthday party). Sure, these styrofoam plates aren’t Insta-worthy, but this day was surely more memorable than some picture of latte foam art and my #bagoftheday.

IMG_8333

The real Brittney sends tons of weird selfies on Snapchat (follow me 👻: beautyvbrains). My Instagram and blog are “curated” to present a clean, streamlined image to the world. But I’m never as well-dressed or as pensive as I might come across on social media.

The truth is that I oversleep for class, I stress-eat entire chocolate bars and then skip breakfast to make up the calories, and I have had to crop my blog photos because I still have pasta residue on my face in some pictures.

I’m a mess, I laugh at Vine videos in the middle of class, and I listen to old Jonas Brothers songs when I’m at the gym.

I think I’ve had enough of the year-round April Fool’s joke that the fashion blogging industry has perpetuated: no blogger goes to brunch every day (always ordering the same boring mimosas and avocado toast) or come out of Pilates class with dewy makeup on. No blogger maintains their size 2 figure by eating all the macarons and donuts and ramen on their Instagrams. Some bloggers aren’t even size 2 to begin with, but we photoshop so well that you can’t tell the difference.

So I’m going to continue being the snarky jokester, exposing the fashion blogging stereotypes that have become a tired riff, and I hope more bloggers will join me. After all, it’s not hard to laugh at bloggers when we are constantly writing the jokes about ourselves.

 

Fashion Blog Haters: Women DO NOT Have to Support Women

October 7
50 Comments
Fashion bloggers, fashion blogs, haters, and trolls. How to deal with constructive critcism

It warms my heart that women and girls today are realizing that we need to help each other in a world that disadvantages our gender. Women are primed since childhood to see other women as threats, especially if the other woman is beautiful. But because we know exactly what kinds of issues other women go through, we should do our best to make that journey smoother.

But that is not what I’m writing about today. Sometimes, “haters” are not actual haters, and a lot of the time, fashion bloggers need to be called out on their behavior. Sometimes, the saying “women need to support other women” is just not true and it should not be used as an excuse to disregard constructive criticism.

 

Real comments from a popular blogger’s controversial post.
 

Before I begin, I need to clarify that I DO wish for a world where women can get the support they need from other females. If you’ve read my blog, you know that I think it’s a tragedy that girls consider other girls as competition, a mindset which can lead to negative self-image and self-imposed inadequacy. And I agree, women need to help younger women break into corporate offices, reaffirm each other’s choices, and aid in each other’s goals. I am completely behind all of these ideas, but I want to narrow down and focus on fashion blogging in particular, and the problems I see with validating all blogging behavior.

The reason I have to preface my post with all these long, boring disclaimers is because I know I will end up making some other blogger angry, and they might send their fans over to my blog to accuse me of hating women or being a gender-traitor. But if you are one of those people, I want you to rethink for one second the “women supporting women” doctrine that has been carried into ridiculousness in the world of fashion blogging. Repeat after me:

A critique on a blogger’s deception, their affiliate link non-disclosure, or their attitude towards readers is not a personal attack on the blogger.

Or, to put it more bluntly:

“Women should not always have to support other women—especially if they are acting badly.”

Fashion bloggers, haters, and criticism

Now, before you give me a lecture on, “like, the rules of feminism,” let me explain. Other women should not get away with shady or devious practices just because they are part of our gender/sex and therefore entitled to more protection. Feminism gave us choice right? Including the choice to evaluate other women’s decisions. It did not bind our hands or take away our ability to stamp down unacceptable practices.

My point becomes obvious when you take it outside of fashion blogging. When a woman goes to jail for fraud, where are the supporters shouting “women should support all women!” Or when you see a friend doing something morally dubious, you shouldn’t encourage them; instead, you should be discouraging their unethical behavior.

And yet, the rules are somehow different for fashion bloggers. When a commenter or reader calls out a blogger for photoshopping their pictures, not crediting their recipes, or being rude to their readers, I find it absurd that the blogger (or their fans) will respond with: “wow, what a hater. Haven’t you ever heard of how we need to build up other women?” Um, not disclosing affiliate links or sponsored content is something the Federal Trade Commission requires you to do, and photoshopping pictures and lying to readers is morally wrong. So why do these actions deserve our respect?

While women DO need to band together because of the obstacles uniquely facing us, the truth is, a blogger should not get to use this defense when they engage in sketchy behavior. Some examples of said behavior:

  • A popular blogger affiliate linked her Instagram post about 9/11. She posted #neverforget on a picture, and then immediately linked to a rug and chair that you could buy online. If you did make a purchase, she would get commission (on a 9/11 post!!)
  • A popular Southern based blog has blocked countless readers for revealing where she buys her clothes. Because she does not get commission on her links when these readers inform other readers about the items, she simply deletes their comments.
  • Last week, I saw a blogger misspell the name of their own sponsor and, when a commenter pointed this out, they lashed out at a reader.
  • Another blogger constantly photoshops her pictures (not only are real pictures of her available on other people’s websites, but I used to have a huge problem with photoshopping my own body for a while I recognize her Photoshopping trail).
  • Many big bloggers now bury their affiliate link disclosures (which are required by law!) in their website footers (which breaks the law!).
  • And of course, you all know that I refuse to support Stylish Petite because of the years and years of extensive plagiarism and copy-cat behavior with blogger Extra Petite.
Stylish Petite and Extra Petite, side by side.

Yet these bloggers have chosen to censor comments, delete comment sections, or guilt-trip critics by appealing to the “womanhood” defense. I get it: it’s easy to pass off criticism as “hateful.” It also boosts your ego if you assume that your critics are jealous or inadequate.

Rather than taking this approach and automatically dismissing criticism, I see no reason why we cannot call out these mistakes and deceptions as unacceptable or fraudulent. It’s disappointing when fans or bloggers respond with “women need to build up other women and support each other! Don’t comment if you can’t say anything nice.”

But why shouldn’t I speak my mind? Are you saying that my critical thinking skills should be left at the door when I read your blog (if so, that’s hilarious: you’re basically saying your blog is so mind-numbing that I shouldn’t have to think while reading it)?

Are you saying that I can’t critique your outfit or your sponsorship because you are a girl and we have the same private parts?  Do you know what they call a regime where a person gets a free pass on bad behavior simply because of their gender affiliation? Sexism. That’s right, “good ole boys clubs” functioned on the same principle that these bloggers are advocating: overlooking a person’s indiscretions because they are immune based on their sex. Wow, we’ve come a long way.

The simple matter is, if you do something that deceives or bullies your readers (a blogger recently tracked down critical commentators and posted info that she found on their facebook), I reserve the right to critique, no matter if you are a man, women, girl, or boy. I call that equality.

Women making critical comments should not be silenced and prevented from expressing their opinion with the silly phrase “women need to support other women!” If women are doing great things, if they are truthful, open, and engaging, I see no reason not to support them. But if they are perpetuating negative behaviors and using this trite slogan as a defense, then they need to grow a thicker skin, because there will be a lot more criticism coming their way.

Here are some preemptive responses that I anticipate:

1. “If you don’t like it, don’t read it!”

Don’t worry—as soon as I see plagiarism or mistreatment of readers in a blog, I stop reading. But just because I boycott a blog doesn’t mean I can’t still write about its behavior, just like how you can boycott a store and still critique its abuse. Rather than burying our heads in the sand and avoiding a blog, we should also have the liberty to bring light to any unsavory practices.

2. “How they run a blog is none of your business.”

I’m glad you brought up the word “business.” Blogs these days are a business (if you don’t think your blog is a business, think about your use of affiliate links and reconsider). For instance, Pink Peonies is a licensed LLC business, and Cupcakes and Cashmere is on her second book deal. And like any business, consumers and readers are entitled to their opinions on the product.

Of course, a blogger can say, “I didn’t ask you to review my product!” But the truth is, by publishing material to the internet, promoting the blog, and inviting readers, a blogger has opened the gates to fans and critics alike. I’m sure restaurant owners on Yelp wish they could delete negative ratings, but consumers are free to give their opinion unsolicited.

On the subject of Yelp: has anyone watched that “Kitchen Nightmares” with Amy’s Baking Co.? The co-owner Amy refused to believe Gordon Ramsey; she claimed that her cooking was phenomenal and that negative reviews were just from “haters.” Amy wanted to keep on cooking (bad) food and not receive any repercussions on Yelp!

The internet exploded after that episode aired, with people calling Amy “delusional.” That’s how I feel about some public figures/bloggers who dismiss critics as “haters”: they are acting like Amy, demanding to be able to keep doing what they love, and insisting that everyone loves the end product.

3. “You’re advocating for women-on-women hate.”

No, I’m not: I am only saying that legitimate criticism should not be brushed off with this tired excuse that feminism requires eternal solidarity between women. I will be the first to leap to a blogger’s defense if there is any inappropriate or rude remark.

But in my experience, commentators who even dare to say “I think those shoes are impractical” or “I wish you would make your budget posts less confusing” are immediately censored as “haters.”

In my opinion, that behavior is more damaging than anything I’ve suggested above: it silences women’s rightful opinions and teaches them not to critically think about issues (god forbid any women disagree with a blogger!). Censorship in any form is a negative in my book.

Blogging is such a opportunity for women and girls to express themselves online and find a community. That’s why I feel so strongly against bloggers and fans who censor budding opinions and critical thinking skills. So I ask you to reverse the roles: if “supporting other women” at all costs is so important to you, then let us as bloggers create a space where all opinions are allowed and debated.

Young girls look up to bloggers to see how to treat fellow females. The least we can do is teach them to think for themselves.

A Holiday Wishlist for All Fashion Bloggers (Because We Need Presents Too)

December 12
15 Comments

Ok, I’ll be honest with you: I’ve always thought wishlists on fashion blogs were both puzzling and amusing. Do people really trust complete strangers to recommend a gift for a close friend? And frankly, some of the items being touted by fashion bloggers are flat-out odd: a cheese subscription? Polished oyster shells? A lamp? (“Hey, happy holidays, Beth, thanks for hosting the potluck: here’s a lamp that I bought you.”)


I think part of the problem is that these wishlists are intended to help you get gifts for other people, and someone else’s vision of friends and family might not match up with your own. And hello? What about presents for me? Everyone knows that’s it’s not the holidays unless half the gifts in your shopping cart are intended for yourself. You know, as a reward for being such a good gift-giver.


 That’s why for this wishlist, I put together the goodies that you should ask for from everyone else—items and add-ons to improve your photography and your blog for the upcoming year. For instance, an external hard drive for all those pictures, an upgraded lens that makes Photoshop unnecessary, and some html prep for that website revamp. Go ahead, share this list and see what blogging essentials come down the chimney for you this holiday season.

Holiday wishlist for fashion bloggers


1: Fashion tape (nothing sucks more than shooting an outfit and realizing that something is snagging)

2: Sushi flash drive (so that the Instagram shots of your desk are cute enough to make the popular page)
3: Colorful external hard drive from Amazon (make sure your storage device is as bright as your personality)
4: HTML primer (sometimes, Yahoo answers doesn’t have all the answers)
5: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens (for those perfectly blurred shots) 
6: Pink tripod from Target (for when your bf is tired of taking so many goddamn outfit photos)
7: Hair bows (hey, other blogs are recommending socks and lamps, so why can’t I add in some hair bows?)