Things I’ve learned from Ariel Winter’s Instagram

By now we all know that the comment section on any social media platform is home to rampant verbal abuse, misogyny, and unforgivable grammatical and spelling errors. Even so, every so often there are cases where the comments seem to get even more extreme. Sometimes the comments section goes too, too far.

One such case is the Instagram account of Modern Family star Ariel Winter.

I began following her account quite a while ago, as I am a huge fan of the show, and her character, Alex, happens to be my favorite.

While it’s important to note that many Instagram accounts of young female celebrities seem to be targets for truly disgusting commentary, I chose Ariel for a couple reasons.

  1. She is 17. Though she was recently emancipated, she is what is referred to as an “emancipated minor.” The emancipation means that she can sign contracts, control her own finances, stay out past the curfew normally reserved for under-18-ers, lease an apartment, etc. However, the laws of consent still apply in cases of emancipation and — fun fact — the age of consent in California, where the actress lives, is 18.
  2. I found out she was 17, and therefore underage, when I took literally 12 seconds out of my life to check her IMDb page and saw her date of birth and the accompanying photo in which she looks about 14:

ariel imdb

Full disclosure: I initially looked at this page because I was thinking that she had grown into a stunning young woman through the series, and then wanted to check if that was actually true or if she was actually still a child. What do you know? She is. So I promptly cut that shit out after feeling like a disgusting asshole for quite a while.

All of this leads me to the point of this post which is that A) this young lady is still underage, which means that B) the comments she receives on her Instagram account are appalling, shocking, and downright disgusting. Hell, a lot of them are what I would even consider legally questionable.

Let’s take a quick look at one of the most recent photos posted by Winter — a photo of her and her boyfriend at Disneyland:

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A quick rhetorical analysis of this photo tells me that Winter probably posted this photo as a way to share her happiness not only in that moment, but also contentment in her relationship with a boy she loves; a move made by many 17-year old girls. However, a quick look at the comments reveals that her audience seemed to be focused with something completely different:

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While focusing on an aspect of a teenage girl’s body is bad enough, things got even worse when they turned very sexual very quickly:

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Take a moment to let that sink in. These were comments made on a 17-year old girl’s photo portraying a fun night out with her boyfriend.

Are we supposed to pretend that these kinds of comments don’t further perpetuate the sexualization of young girls in our society? Not only that, but since many of these comments were posted by users I perceived to be men and boys, doesn’t this show how our culture teaches males that it is okay — or even good — to be sexually aggressive/dominant and that a woman/girl is theirs to look at and fantasize about?

At this point I’d like to point out that there are good people in the comments sections as well — little guardian angels speaking up in a sea of “dat ass” literature:

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Here’s where I add that all of these were posted by people I perceived to be women; which is not to say that women are in any way better than men — that’s not how feminism works — it’s just that most of the time women are the only ones speaking up for women, which is also an issue.

However, the good, feminist-y posts are far outnumbered by the bad, and oftentimes the users who called out the inappropriate comments were met with ridicule, rudeness, and more straight-up ignorant comments:

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And for every good comment made, it seemed there was, at minimum, one bad one:

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Now, at the end of the day, I think we can all agree that Winter is beautiful. That’s a given. She is. It’s that simple. What’s apparently not as simple to people is that there is a right and wrong way to say that. If you want to say that a 17-year old girl is “cute,” “pretty,” “beautiful,” “gorgeous,” that’s okay. It’s when you start throwing around words like “sexy,” commenting on her body and specific body parts, and explicitly stating what you would like to do with or to her sexually — that’s when we’re going to have a problem.

And for those of you who may be saying that Winter invites this kind of attention with the photos she posts, the clothes she wears, or the makeup on her face, let me stop you right there.

No. No, that does not happen. No, that is not a valid explanation for what you are doing.

I don’t care if she decides to post a topless photo, a photo of her in a “revealing” outfit, or even if she posts a nude photo. The point is that unless the caption on a photo reads “Hey, look at how great my ass is! Tell me that I have an awesome ass!” you have absolutely no right to comment such a thing.

Not ever. But especially not when the account belongs to a 17-year old child.

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