Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities have had (nude) photos stolen. I noticed three, of many, recurring responses, mostly it seems from my fellow men dictating what women should do with their bodies. Cos, yeah: of course.
- “Who cares?”
Celebrities may be annoying to many; celebrity culture itself is to me largely horrible. Celebrities are not necessarily talented, merely people with a large audience. However, the key here is “people” – not monsters. Presumably we want a better world for people – thus if bad things happen to people, we should defend and support them. This isn’t about whether they themselves actually notice – but it does mean setting up an environment that reacts appropriately to when women have their photos leaked and aren’t berated as “sluts“; it’s about reinforcing a space, like the Internet, that doesn’t spread stolen information from people because they’re “hot”. After all, women who are not celebrities at all, have the same thing happen to them.
That the victims are celebrities is irrelevant; that the victims are women and the same people react the same way to women’s bodies is revealing.
The same people would probably not be this dismissive were it a loved one: it’s precisely about creating an environment in which no one’s loved one – i.e. no one – is treated in such a dismissive way that we should care.
- “You shouldn’t put private data in unsecure locations: you’re kinda asking for it to be taken.”
Unless someone says “Do you mind hacking into my secure server (or whatever) and stealing my private information?”, no one is “asking” for anything.
This is victim-blaming, pinning the wrong behaviour on the person mistreated and targeted, as opposed to the perpetrator. You probably hear this when people “explain” to you that you shouldn’t leave valuables in the car, your wallet lying around, etc. No one who is an adult doesn’t already know these things – so the advice isn’t unwelcome, it’s already known. And advice to victims becomes blame because the advice wasn’t followed through (properly, 100%); criminals are turned into a Sauron-like force that arises the minute human “error” (according to victim-blamers at least) occurs – this is victim-blaming.
It’s the short-skirt assertion that so many know is wrong and yet so many keep reiterating: “If she didn’t want to be sexually assaulted, she should’t have worn a short skirt.”
Looking at the latter wardrobe assertion highlights what’s wrong with the security one. Here’s what the evidence says: Sexual assault isn’t caused by what people are wearing; it’s caused by people assaulting. Further, such assaults are for many/most cases between known individuals. Some random evil force doesn’t materialise wherever short skirts are being worn.
The reason this matters is targeting short-skirts means using finite time and energy on the wrong object. If we’re having a discussion about what to do about assault and put effort into wardrobe advice, it means less focus on male entitlement, disregard for consent, etc. Indeed, having to explain this is itself a way to not talk about what, say, men can do to curb sexual assault (for example: don’t rape, don’t street harass, etc.)
People need security, whether on the street or online. To blame them when such security fails only adds to the overall environment being unsafe. While physical safety is of utmost priority, we should also be caring about digital security. This doesn’t negate efforts on the ground, only extends our concerns into a space we all use.
In terms of digital security, we’re undermining what such services are supposed to offer. It is supposed to be secure. It is supposed to be about protecting our information. Data being stolen isn’t what we sign up for, but exactly the opposite. Of course violation and theft are ever-present dangers, but we expect online services we sign up for to prevent such events from occurring. If they do occur, we can blame incompetent security only to the extent that they did not deliver on their promise of protection; but primarily, we should blame the person who stole the information in the first place.
I’m starting to think that I’m more angry toward people who aren’t condemning the act and the criminal behaviour, and instead mock, deride and blame those who are victims and their supporters. There’s nothing brave or edgy here: you’re dismissing a violation, a criminal act, and using your time, which could be used to create an environment of solidarity that supports victims, to instead make a bad environment worse. You’re adding spikes to the ceiling instead of the roof, while criminals raise the floor.
3. “Well, that’s the Internet/world/life.”
Women can do what they like with their bodies. They can wear as much or as little clothes as they want; they can sleep with as many or as little people as they want; they can take pictures of their bodies for select people – or no people – if they want. None of this is about you; none of it allows entitled men to leer, look at, demand access to said bodies because these bodies exist.
The other element of blaming women for violations is how it also undermines men: to perpetuate assault as being the result of some evil force undermines men’s humanity, too. We, men, are no longer in control, apparently. We can’t make decisions about what to do when presented with women’s existence. For example, you could choose to not look at leaked photographs; you could decide to not catcall women because they have legs. But no: instead men are made out by victim-blamers to be mindless, knuckle-dragging orcs powered by the Sauron-like force of assault. Not rational, moral beings who can not only not catcall but oppose it.
And, to be fair, when reading comments and responses, it isn’t actually that far removed to think men really are like this. I don’t blame people for thinking of men this way – we need to be doing more.
Sure: not all men (heh) catcall, assault, and so on. But there seems there are men who victim-blame, who shrug and say that’s the world, that’s the Internet, that’s what happens – as if they’re not dealing with fellow humans but an uncontrollable force. We oppose and speak out and respond – that’s the Internet, too; that’s the world when people are angered and won’t stand for bullying. So yes, it might be true that people are horrible, but it’s also true there are those who will oppose such violations.
What are you hoping to achieve by shrugging and highlighting the very horror people are opposing? Why not join the voices opposing the violation instead of telling people that violations occur – of course they occur, that’s why people are upset, that’s why they’re opposing them! The problem’s ubiquity is part of why people are this invested in opposing it.
Telling people who are fighting women’s mistreatment that “it happens” is no different to telling a doctor “sickness occurs”.
Well done, Sherlock – everyone knows. What are you doing about it?