TURNING THE BIG 4-0 can be a difficult hurdle.
Amanda Schoonover, a South Philly-based actress, was no exception. But instead of hiding from her age the way so many in her profession do, she decided to celebrate the fact that she was entering her fourth decade by posing for some boudoir-style photos. Nothing overly risque or graphic. She wanted to pose in lingerie and strike some 1950s-era style pinup poses. Tasteful images taken by a professional photographer.
"I wanted to do something that would make me feel good about myself," Schoonover told me yesterday. "I was a little nervous about turning 40, especially in our culture where I feel that women are taught that our value decreases the older we get."
The pictures, taken by Kathryn Raines of Plate 3 Photography in Northern Liberties, turned out better than Schoonover had dreamed. She was so thrilled, she decided to post one a day for 40 days on her Facebook page as her own personal birthday commemoration.
But she didn't get far.
Shortly after she posted a beautiful picture of herself with her back to the camera and wearing nothing but her tattoos, Schoonover got a notice from the social-media giant advising her that she was in violation of its policy regarding nudity.
Schoonover was stunned. And rightly so. After all, it wasn't as if she were spread eagle like a Hustler centerfold. In the offending photo, she had her back to the camera with her arms extended gracefully over her head. The only thing she had on was her tattoos, but you see images like that on TV and in movies all the time. It's PG-13 at best.
But one of her Facebook friends or someone else who happened upon the image got weirded out and reported her. Facebook is infamous for enforcing its rules regarding nudity, even going so far as to pull images of mothers breast-feeding babies or photos of women exposing their chests after undergoing mastectomies for breast cancer.
"They say if you don't remove them they'll shut down your whole thing and you'll lose everything that's on there," Schoonover said. "I removed that picture and a couple of other pictures.
"I can't really post the ones I wanted to," she said.
For the record, here's Facebook's policy on nudity: "Facebook has a strict policy against the sharing of pornographic content and any explicitly sexual content where a minor is involved. We also impose limitations on the display of nudity. We aspire to respect people's right to share content of personal importance, whether those are photos of a sculpture like Michelangelo's David or family photos of a child breastfeeding."
In Schoonover's case, it's a shame, really. In a world in which so many women struggle with issues regarding body image, aging and self-esteem, she should be applauded. She's proud of her body with its womanly curves - not squeezing into Spanx to achieve some sort of idealized Kim Kardashianesque image. For her shoot, she insisted that her images not be touched up. She doesn't look especially skinny or like some underfed model. Just naturally curvy and healthy. Like the 40-year-old she is.
"I wanted to accept that this is the way I look," she explained.
Schoonover's busted 40th birthday plans haven't escaped notice. Philadelphia magazine's Victor Fiorillo last week blogged about what had happened and posts also have popped up on Cosmopolitan's website, as well as on Jezebel and TheFrisky.com. Sexologist Jill McDevitt, who used to own a sex-oriented shop in West Chester, sees a double standard in all the violent or hypersexualized images on Facebook that remain up while tasteful nudes have to come down.
"When women own their sexuality, that's when the problems come in," said McDevitt, who has a doctorate in human sexuality.
For Schoonover, who opens in a play at the Luna Theater on Saturday called "BrainPeople," all the media attention has made this a birthday she'll never forget. She pointed out, "I turned 40 and got into Cosmo."