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Why do we put so much responsibility on Chiara Ferragni?

Does a businesswoman who uses her image have to demonstrate ideas of gender awareness and morality?

Why do we put so much responsibility on Chiara Ferragni? Does a businesswoman who uses her image have to demonstrate ideas of gender awareness and morality?

All eyes are on Chiara Ferragni, as they have been so many times before. The reason for the controversy this time is a photo in lingerie that the influencer posted on her Instagram profile. This is not the first time and probably will not be the last. Chiara has always shown herself in lingerie and very low-cut or transparent dresses on her social channels, claiming her freedom as a woman, despite the criticism and especially despite those who say that a mother should not show herself like that.

There were many, many comments. One of them was from Tg5 journalist Elena Guarnieri, who wrote: "Do you really feel free? Or are you sometimes a prisoner of your figure? This photo makes me tender because it makes me lean towards the second option." However, it was the statement of an 11-year-old girl that most added fuel to the fire of controversy. Her statement summarised, "I am 11 years old (almost 12) and when I see little girls of 15 taking photos like this, I honestly think they are inappropriate. One more reason why it makes sense for you to do this? [...] What is the message for us young girls? That we have to strip naked to be noticed? I do not think that's a good message to give. [...] My mother is 34 years old and she posts pictures of herself in a swimming costume on the beach. I have a beautiful mother, but if she posted a picture like that, I would feel terrible, I would think that I should be ashamed of her behaviour. I would not be proud of it at all. [...] La Vitto will be my age in not too many years and these are photos that will stay on the internet forever." Chiara replied emphatically to the latter. "Have I upset the puritans? Mission accomplished." This answer was not particularly well received either, as it was seen by many as too aggressive and tranchant.

The debate has branched out into a million micro-debates, spilling over from social media into the Italian press and the living rooms of TV. The positions are diverse, even nuanced. There are those who side with the commentary, those who use it to advocate adult reactionary positions. There are those who go back even further and absolutely challenge the presence of an 11-year-old girl on social media, reminding us that the minimum age is 13. There are those who condemn her parents and warn of the danger of giving too much importance to the comment and therefore to the person who wrote it (whether you agree or not, this is still a very young person who may not yet be ready to receive that kind of attention from users and media) and those who instead blindly side with Chiara Ferragni and her freedom and desire to provoke. Malicious ones speculate that this is a publicity stunt to stay afloat during the release of the second season of The Ferragnez on Prime Video, which some say has disappointed expectations and is not achieving the success hoped for. Finally, there are those who point out that Chiara Ferragni, whether she is allowed to brag or not, is the biggest influencer in Italy and therefore has a responsibility that goes beyond her job in the narrow sense.

Apart from the child, who has the right to have her own opinion and to develop or change it according to her background and upbringing, and her presence on Instagram, which in turn opens up a wide and multi-layered discourse, two considerations seem to be the most important to derive from this uncontrolled flourishing of opinions and hot takes. The first concerns the expectations that the public places on celebrities and, consequently, the responsibility that is placed on them. Does a female entrepreneur who uses her image to sell, among other things, also have to convey ideas of gender awareness and morality? Set herself up as an example of morality? Not only that, can the task of educating young people be delegated to social media and those who use it professionally? If the answer is yes, we are entering dangerous territory and delegating, for better or worse, other social functions to profiles on Instagram and their characters. By burdening Chiara Ferragni with responsibility, we elevate her above ourselves and society.

If we could separate the working woman and the social brand from the woman who occasionally feels like showing off her body, and free Chiara Ferragni from the burden of making herself a champion of the right, of feminism, of activism, the same ideals that are now demanded of anyone who shows up (especially if they are a woman) and are flaunted by anyone who wants to please a certain segment of the public would come out cleaner. This constant mixing of the level of business, sales, personnel and marketing with that of social messages can only ultimately lead to a dilution of the same. It is a widespread problem that goes both ways. The more someone stands up for something, the more the public demands righteousness and conformity to its rules.

The second problem is, if possible, even more convoluted and ramified because it goes deeper. It is often pointed out that sex is sold. What is being sold, however, is the desire to see it, the voyeurism and sexualisation of bodies. Only on the terms and for the eyes of those who enjoy it, as a product. When a woman, whether she is sympathetic or not, shows herself to be shown, that tolerance is immediately broken. Why is it so complicated to accept this nudity (the same nudity that has been on billboards, in films, in music videos and in advertising for decades) when it is a form of self-expression? In short, the matter is complex and brings into play such multi-layered concepts as the pursuit of power, the place of women in the entertainment industry and its sexualisation, the all-too-new role of influencers, the way they constantly invade and infiltrate our homes with only seemingly no secrets or censorship, and finally the whole celebrity culture. Thinking about these issues as viewers could lead to a new awareness and a healthier way of enjoying influencers and their social world. Without losing sight of the real world.