Rebecca Schuman of Slate has been taking selfies while flipping off her infant. She converses with Jill Delston of University of Missouri – St. Louis about the moral advisability of this. It strikes me that analysis of how humor works might help here. On Ted Cohen’s (fun) account of humor, one of the ways we find relief in humor is by mocking powers we cannot defeat. That’s why jokes about death work as they do. So, maybe infants and death just go together – both are rather unrelenting.
My initial thought on seeing this was that any distress it provoked (for those who would find such images distressing) would likely arise from gendered social expectations, such that the gentle nurturing expected of mothers is violated here. But I doubt that images of a father doing the same would play better on this score and indeed might awaken worries about the menace and threat such a gesture could suggest. So, while the images would play differently for mothers and fathers, it’s not clear to me that any of us are well free to flip off our babies in the way they so often richly deserve.