August just couldn’t end on a good note. After the severely troubling and still continuing issues in Ferguson, the internet ran amok with nude photos – stolen photos – of multiple celebrities, a crime that swept the front pages of every news site I’ve come across and filled my twitter feed with responses ranging from angry to frighteningly gleeful. Many have protested but others have celebrated, bringing to light the ever present rampage of sexism in our modern world and society’s obsession with stripping celebrities of their dignity as human beings.
Honestly, I hesitated to write this post, hoping that we could look past this incident with enough disdain to discourage it from happening again. At least we could show the world that this was no big deal to us and deflate the enthusiasm regarding this topic. It is now apparent that this will not happen. As it stands, this cannot be ignored, but how can we speak about the issue without drawing further attention to it? What might we do to voice our disgust without making yet more people aware that these photos exist, are out there, and are easily accessible?
Celebrities take nude photos. Wow, what a shocker. Even Jennifer Lawrence, precious, innocent Jennifer Lawrence. Yet therein lies one of the many problems. Expecting someone like J-Law, known for her quirkiness, her sense of humor, and her outspoken views on body image issues to suppress her sexual side is blatantly problematic and an indicator that society will not condone women to be sexual beings, and should they dare to express that side of them, they ought to be humiliated and punished. August 2014 hit us with one of the biggest two-punches against feminism in recent years. Beyoncé’s performance at the VMA’s, proudly standing in front of a FEMINIST sign, in her full power, unashamed and bold, was one of the great images of the year. A short-lived victory. Only one day later, the Emmy’s propped Sofía Vergara on a rotating stage as a sexual puppet for all to gave at. And then this leak. Calling it a leak is itself a misnomer, this is a crime, pure and simple. A property theft where the stolen property is not just a photograph, but a woman’s body itself. No surprise. We’ve been using women as property for so long, the mere suggestion that a woman might be more than eye candy sends many into a frenzy of ignorant rage.
The truth remains: women are people. Three words, not a difficult sentence to digest, but apparently a concept so foreign to us it may as well be completely extra-terrestrial. Nobody has to explain that men are people. Nobody. This is never an issue. Why does having a different anatomy change everything so drastically?
The jokes have run from somewhat clever but misplaced to horrendous and it is clear to me that this problem isn’t going anywhere. There will undoubtably be more leaks this year, and we will see more celebrities exposed in the future. People have been taking nude photographs since people have been taking photographs. Before that people made nude portraits. Before that, I’m sure people made nude other things. Taking a nude photo is not a big deal, not an anomaly. It is definitely not something worth getting into a fuss over. So why was this such a big deal?
Linda Holmes said it.
We know celebrities are naked. Despite all our continuous obsession with discovering how “celebrities are JUST LIKE US,” we actually know this. We don’t need a magazine to tell us insider information about their lives to know that they also eat, date, shower, go to the bathroom. We know this. So we also know that they must take naked photos of themselves.
This is blatant sexual abuse. This is a lack of consent. This is hearing “no” and thinking she means “yes.” This is the appeal of the forbidden taken too far. Way too far.
This is just the surface.
The larger issue remains, as long as women cannot gain equal treatment with men just because they are a woman, we will never live in a fair society. This extends to racial treatment and LGBT treatment as well. It even includes treatment of the elderly, the disabled, the disadvantaged. Everyone not part of “the norm” – which is almost everyone, by the way, as cis, white, middle/upper-class males is not that large of a group – is affected. All these groups, everyone who strives for equality, for equal treatment, can call themselves a feminist. Beyoncé made this clear. How quickly have we forgotten.
Do I dare say that nobody looked at these photographs out of curiosity? Nobody accidentally stumbled across them looking for porn. No, we stood by and looked precisely because we knew the offended didn’t want us looking. This is participation in abuse. It hurts to know that, and this is not an accusation intended to punish. The deed is done and no point remains in reprimanding anymore. The people have spoken out and by now many have likely realized what they did was wrong. We must understand the crime. We must look inward and open our eyes.
Many will not do this. The jokes in the comment sections on websites still swarm in, the sexism, the victim-blaming.
“If they didn’t want us to see their nude photos, they shouldn’t have taken nude photos.”
Excuse me? Your empathy is broken, please see a doctor. I’m not always the most comfortable with being out in public, and sometimes I don’t want people to look at me when I’m trying to decide what I want to eat while I wait in line, but that doesn’t make it my fault when others look.
A poor analogy, but the best attempt I can make, because there’s no real comparable issue. Actually, let me try this one on for size:
Flowers do not exist for the sole purpose of humans looking at them and thinking they are pretty. Flowers are part of the ecosystem, playing a vital, essential role in a larger picture. Without flowers we all die. Do you know who flowers are important to? Bees. Do you know how a bee sees a flower? It looks something like this:
Flowers serve a purpose far, far greater than being pretty for people to look at, or pleasant for people to smell.
Women also serve a purpose far, far, far greater than being an object for men to look at, play with, and discard at will.
Does that satisfy you? Is this a metaphor that will finally crack through the sexism prevalent in society? I suspect for many it will not. If I can reach at least one of you, then I have done my job, but I will be disappointed that I could not reach more.
Enough is enough. Time to begin respecting women as free-willed creatures of equal worth and measure to men. If this photo theft doesn’t illustrate the problems women face on a daily basis – the fear of abuse, the inability to walk on the sidewalk without being harassed, the inability to dress how they want instead of having to conform to various and conflicting “standards” laid down by people wishing to control the women in their lives, the blame for other’s actions, the constant denial of opportunity, the ever-increasing financial disadvantages, the dismissal by the legal system, the accusations from irresponsible boys, the judgement on physical appearance, the name-calling, the slut-shaming, the fear for basic safety, the inability to be taken seriously, the disempowerment, the sexual suppression, the physical attacks, the leering eyes of onlookers, the sexualization by the media, and on and on – then I don’t know what will.
What does it take to start a revolution?
It takes you, and you, and you. It takes everyone who believes in fair treatment, everyone who believes in love, everyone who believes in hope for a better future, to stand up and say we will not take this anymore. It takes women and men, it takes the disadvantaged, the ignored, the minorities. It takes those in positions of power, it takes those with the ability to start change, it takes those with influence. It takes an entire people to unite and come together in the name of humanity and progress.
It starts with the one and continues to the many. So you have the responsibility. You hold the torch.
What you do with it will define today and change tomorrow.