Illinois GOP Congressman Aaron Schock isn't your regular congressman. He's a cool congressman. He's amassed close to 6,000 followers on Instagram, many double-tapping for his overall appearance. A majority of those double-tappers happen to be men, too. Which shouldn't be a big deal considering many heterosexual men have homosexual followings. But, when it's a congressman who has been vocal about his antigay stance in the past, it is.
On Wednesday, The New York Times published "Aaron Schock and His Popular Instagram Persona" which starts out like any other profile. Jeremy W. Peters outlines the hip things Schock does, like attending Justin Timberlake concerts, skiing across the West, working out, and playing outside sans shirt. As Peters points out: "The photos of him shirtless have garnered the most attention." And, it's true. The surfing Instagram he shared, along with a video of him zip-lining, are the most popular in his feed. But, the Times only focuses on the comments and adoration Schock receives from men.
"'Ride it, baby,' a man from New York wrote. Another man commented, 'Rawr!'" Peters wrote, quoting commenters. Due to the lack of female fans represented in the copy, the Times phrase "popular Instagram persona" comes off as a euphemism for gay. Schock has been very adamant in denying gay rumors that have been floating around since January. And, yet the Times published a profile alluding to it.
Whether Schock is gay or not isn't the issue here (though all the antigay policies he supports might be a point of contention). It's the phrase "Popular Instagram Persona" used in place of the word "gay." Just because a man has a gay following doesn't mean he's a homosexual. So, when the Times focuses on the men who virtually catcall and admire Schock, but fails to mention the women who do the same, the subtext begins to read as a side-eye toward his sexuality. This isn't even the first time the Times has pointed a finger at Schock's gay male fans, either. It published a story earlier this year that inadvertently tried to out the Congressman because of who followed him, and led Schock to privatize his social-media accounts due to the sudden surge of coverage he was receiving. The private accounts are now public again. Whether that's because he realized how silly it is for others to assume his sexuality based on his followers, or he just doesn't care is up for speculation. Either way, it doesn't seem like he'll stop being shamelessly shirtless anytime soon, because that's what you do when you're a "popular Instagram persona," or whatever. (Gawker)