On Monday, Whoopi Goldberg sparked controversy with her comments about Bella Thorne’s weekend response to a blackmailer, who threatened to release stolen nude photos of the 21-year-old actress. Instead of paying off the anonymous hacker, Thorne chose to post the NSFW pics to Twitter herself, along with a note that said in part, “I can sleep better knowing I took my power back. U can’t control my life u never will.”
On The View, the panel discussed Thorne’s decision. Well, they mostly talked about her body and the hacking. Joy Behar cracked a joke then said Thorne should be proud of her looks. Sunny Hostin felt “saddened” that Thorne had been “extorted,” adding, “It’s terrible that someone did that to her.” Then Goldberg interrupted to blame Thorne for taking the pics to begin with.
“Listen, if you’re famous, I don’t care how old you are. You don’t take nude photos of yourself,” Goldberg declared. “When they’re hacking you, they’re hacking all of your stuff. So whether it’s one picture or a million pictures, once you take that picture, it goes into the cloud and it’s available to any hacker who wants it. And if you don’t know that in 2019 that this is an issue? I’m sorry. You don’t get to do that.”
You can see the exchange below, courtesy of The View’s Twitter account.
BELLA THORNE POSTS NUDE PICS TO THWART HACKER: Actress Bella Thorne said she took her “power back” by sharing nude photos of herself after blackmailers threatened to leak them - the co-hosts discuss if this was the right move. https://t.co/1091s9Fn2d pic.twitter.com/VqFXmggPle— The View (@TheView) June 17, 2019
Online, responses to Goldberg’s remarks varied. Some agreed with her that in a post-Fappening era where hacking is a well-known danger, taking nude pics on your phone—especially as a celeb—is inviting trouble. To them, this is simple advice. Don’t take nude pics, nude pics won’t be leaked.
Others argued that Goldberg’s statement is victim blaming, because it blames Thorne for having nude pics, and so excuses or at least downplays the culpability of the unknown blackmailer who pushed her to release the photos.
Essentially, Goldberg’s opinion is that hackers are an inevitability, so anyone who has private material on their phones is inviting attack. Which first off, is all of us. Maybe not nude pics, but we’ve all got private things on our phones we’d like kept private. But more importantly, some are drawing a line from Goldberg’s assertion to rape culture apologists that say women know rapists exist, so to prevent rape women should never get drunk, go out alone, dress sexy, or generally exist while female.
Thorne made this connection herself in an emotional Instagram story. She explained, “Saying, ‘If you take a sexy photo, then it basically deserves to get leaked, don’t feel surprised at all and don’t feel sorry for yourself.’ So, if I go out to a party drinking and I go out dancing on the dance floor, do I deserve to be raped too? Because I see those two things as really f*cking similar.”
Thorne also announced she’d be canceling her upcoming interview on The View, which was presumably to promote her new book The Life of a Wannabe Mogul: Mental Disarray. Thorne explained, “I don’t want to go on The View anymore because I don’t want to be beaten down by a bunch of older women for my body and my sexuality.”
After noting that leaking private nudes has pushed some not-famous young women to suicide, Thorne said she wouldn’t want to expose her young fans to The View because, “I don’t really want you talking about your views to young girls, because I would not want my daughter to learn that and I would never say that to her.”
“Shame on you, Whoopi,” Thorne said, “Shame on you for putting that public opinion out there like that for every young girl to think that they’re disgusting for even taking a photo like that.”
You can view Thorne’s videos below, courtesy of TMZ.
Goldberg’s argument is sadly nothing new. When the Fappening happened, Kathie Lee Gifford said something similar on Today, declaring coolly that if celebs didn’t want their private photos leaked to the public they shouldn’t put them on their phones. (She instead suggested Polaroids.) However, this ignores several major elements of the ongoing debate.
First off, lots of people take nude self-portraits. They might do it for flirtations, long-distance lovers, or just because they feel like it. That’s their business. Those pics existing doesn’t mean anyone else is entitled to them. By dismissing those who are hacked with “what did you expect,” you contribute to a culture that punishes the victim over the criminal. That’s how Thorne’s story ties into rape culture and slut-shaming. Because when we criticize a young woman for feeling her sexuality in private photos, we are condemning her flat-out for having a body and a sexual urge, WHILE we ignore the criminal who violated her privacy and put a bounty on her body. We are basically blaming her for having a body that might be exploited or violated by a criminal. And so that criminal wins. Because we’re not talking about what might be done to better capture and prosecute hackers so these kinds of violations don’t run rampant. We’re not even discussing the best way to deal with being hacked. Instead, we’re talking about Thorne’s right to her own nude photos.