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Molly Soda Should I Send This Dazed
Photography by Molly Soda

Molly Soda silences the haters

Last week the digital artist caused a stir when she leaked her own nudes – here she talks about how her work isn’t just for clicks

Love her, or hate her, you can’t deny artist Molly Soda’s talent for stirring up a storm on the internet. From publicly dating a teddy bear to recently leaking her own nudes, the digital artist’s vision of sex, romance and intimacy is no secret. Last week Soda premiered her zine, Should I Send This?, on Dazed, shared her thoughts on love and loneliness through a collection of unseen sexts and starkers selfies – and her message of body positivity was all but lost. It took a total of five minutes for Tumblr’s early Queen to come under fire after the electronic zine was published. Speaking to us on the release of the zine, she explained her intentions for the projects: “I have a lot of girls messaging me about how my stomach hair makes them feel better/less self-conscious about theirs­­. That’s what I care about – not about whether or not men find it attractive.” We caught up with Soda as the dust settled to discuss the haters, what it’s been like putting herself out there as a ‘digital artist’, and why the internet doesn’t like the way she challenges femininity.

You’ve been a creative on Tumblr since 2009, but what have you learnt since putting yourself out there as a 'digital artist’?

Molly Soda: I think what I’ve learned is to not take myself or anything too seriously. Putting yourself on the internet essentially invites others to comment/judge/make assumptions about literally everything you do and who you are. It used to get to me a long time ago and I used to make it a point of responding to everyone. I read everything that comes my way still, but I probably only respond to ten per cent of the messages I get. I’ve used the messages (both hateful and positive) in the past as inspiration for my work – I made a ten-hour video of myself reading the contents of my Tumblr inbox in 2012 titled ‘Inbox Full’. I also made an updated eight-hour version of ‘Inbox Full’ in 2013 for the Paddles ON! digital art auction at Phillips Auction House in NYC. Which was sold but never put online. It’s crazy to think I was able to monetise off of criticism in this weird way.

Prior to the release of your artwork, have you ever worried it might get misconstrued?

Molly Soda: No, in general I have a pretty good idea of what people will react to and how they will react. And like I said before, I am aware that doing anything on the internet is going to get some form of criticism, no matter what it is. However, I didn’t think that Should I Send This? would receive some of the negative reactions that it did. But looking back on it, I’m surprised I didn’t see it coming. I think I’ve become more trusting of the internet over the years and created a bubble of support for myself in a way. It was oddly refreshing to see people so opinionated over work I’d made.

“I don’t feel a need to defend my work or myself as a feminist. These comments seem to speak for themselves and shine a light on why I need to make work like this in the first place” – Molly Soda

The concept of your latest zine, Should I Send This?, was obliterated at the sight of your pubic hair. Would you like to reiterate its real message?

Molly Soda: The zine was a way for me to sort of purge all of my thoughts on romance, intimacy, sex, etc. Things were piling up in my head and literally on my cell phone, so I wanted to put it out there as an act of letting go. I don’t want to be afraid of saying or doing anything – if I am, I need to figure out why and squash it.

Why do you think it is hard for a modern phenomenon like the selfie to be considered as art?

Molly Soda: I’m not sure. Self-portraits have always been a theme in art (Cindy Sherman and Francesca Woodman were big influences on me growing up). Perhaps the ‘selfie’ (since it’s taken on a cell phone or webcam) comes off as a bit ‘lowbrow’ since ‘anyone can do it’. But that’s what’s beautiful about it – ACCESS! I’ve always used the tools that were available to me. I’ve been taking photos of myself since I was 14, it’s just always made sense.

The internet doesn’t always agree with the way you use yourself as a subject to challenge notions of womanhood in your work – why do you think this is?

Molly Soda: A woman who is too sure of herself or ‘into herself’ is seen as vapid/shallow/narcissistic and I think that’s really dismissive. Women SHOULD be feeling themselves; women SHOULD be taking control of the way they are represented in media/art by photographing themselves – that is power.

Do you think it’s a shame girls still can’t publicly be in touch with their sensuality without being labelled negatively?

Molly Soda: Yes.

Are there any projects you've completed and decided not to publish?

Molly Soda: I’ve started a lot of pieces that just never developed the way I wanted them to. But I’ve never decided not to publish something because I was scared or nervous about it. Although I do have thousands of unpublished selfies and videos just sort of hanging out ­– maybe I should publish those all at once? ;)

What do you have to say to your ‘haters’?

Molly Soda: In regard to these comments: I don’t want to ‘honour’ or respond to any of these specifically; that’s generally what people want you to do when they make hateful comments. I don’t feel a need to defend my work or myself as a feminist. These comments seem to speak for themselves and shine a light on why I need to make work like this in the first place.

See I Will Never Be Soft Enough, Molly’s latest work exploring femininity, self-criticism and the desire for beauty in the age of the internet, here