Roxane Gay at Comment is Free on the misogyny underlying this trick of stealing and publishing photos of women.
What these people are doing is reminding women that, no matter who they are, they are still women. They are forever vulnerable.
The racy images of these nubile bodies are the biggest story on the internet, and every site that refuses to reprint the images has already left itself absolved while leaving a prurient trail of breadcrumbs. The permanency of such violation is a bitter thing. These leaked images are instantly widely available and they always will be. The images will be downloaded and viewed and shared. These women’s lives and their private choices will be dissected. They are women, so they must be judged.
Revealing nonconsensual nudes of the famous female body is not new. In 1983, Vanessa L Williams was the first black woman crowned as Miss America. She had little time to enjoy her achievement, however, because Penthouse published naked pictures of her, and she was forced to relinquish the crown. Williams has gone on to a successful career in film and television, but her biography will always have this footnote. She will always be reminded of the time someone decided to put her in her place because she had the audacity, as a woman, to rise too far.
Nor is this exploitative exposure of women’s naked bodies an issue that only famous women must deal with. Celebrities are just like us after all. This practice is so pervasive that it even has its own name –revenge porn, nude photos and explicit videos unleashed on the internet, most often by disgruntled ex-lovers. There are websites and online forums dedicated to this pernicious genre. Lives have been, if not ruined, irreparably harmed, because we are a culture that thrives on the hatred of women…
I think a few years ago I might have thought that was overstating it a little. Now? I don’t.