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What Nude Photo Scandals Tell Us about How We View Women

By Courtney Enlow | Think Pieces | September 1, 2014 |

By Courtney Enlow | Think Pieces | September 1, 2014 |

Last night, I had my emotional outburst. I got to react with outrage, and have now had the night to become calm and measured and to deliver a thoughtful response, unencumbered with the kind of reactionary language some commenters have pointed out makes it difficult to take me seriously.

And, seriously, fuck this whole thing.

This summer has been a horrifically enlightening one. Ferguson, the response to #YesAllWomen, a variety of terrible events have provided a level of transparency to exactly who and what and in what situations society has determined as worthy of empathy, respect and understanding. And it would appear that women, people of color and the impoverished don’t make the list.

Not that we needed reminded.

While I’ve never been blind to the issues faced by women, this last month has lifted the veil of white privilege for me. I am sad and sorry to admit I didn’t fully understand the concept until only recently, and while I’ve always considered myself a very liberal person, understanding of the plight of most people, it wasn’t until Ferguson I really saw the horrors faced by people of color in this country every day. And eventually this summer will end. Eyes will turn away from Ferguson. But that won’t change. Racism will still exist—heavily littered with the type of unaware delusional “I’m not racist but” racism we see so much of today.

And, yet, people will continue to say racism doesn’t exist, or that racism against white people is just as bad, which is the most telling statement a person can ever say. Similar to the men who’ve decried every desperate attempt by the women of the internet to explain what everyday life is like by crying “misandry!,” a concept that shares the same level of unawareness and ego as the racism against white people part.

I’m not saying it doesn’t exist; but it certainly cannot possibly exist in the same systemic, institutional way it does for the ones you are dismissing and derailing from. If you haven’t experienced what another person has, in the way they’ve experienced it, you can’t understand.

That’s why the 4chan photo leak is so upsetting. Because a single glance at Twitter will tell you that victim blaming is not only rampant, it’s likely the majority. For every statement of sympathy to the women whose massively personal, vulnerable information was shared, there are several posts about the idiocy of posting these pictures on the internet (which they didn’t) or taking them at all (which is none of our business).

The individual who posted these photos is a sick societal festersore to be sure, but the issue at hand is much larger—doing so was rewarded with bitcoins, which is apparently a very big deal in societal festersore currency. And it’s not limited to 4chan, which is largely known for its availability of images most sites wouldn’t share. TMZ allegedly attempted to buy the photos, which it would likely then attempt to sell to those in the photos, as an act of philanthropic blackmail, assuredly indebting these women and their management teams to the site for future purposes. And the posted images have been shared and spread to all corners of the internet. And there’s more to come.

Imagine you are Mary Elizabeth Winstead. You and your husband take photos for personal use and delete them. Then, years later, some evil troll on the internet finds them and shares them, and what feels like the whole world has now seen you at your most intimate and vulnerable. Can you imagine that? Try. And if you feel anything other than a sickness in your stomach, if you still feel as though she is at fault (she being the operative word—no one is remotely concerned with the actual takers of the photos since only some are selfies, let alone the sex criminal who shared them) or that she’s done something wrong by taking the photos, you’re the problem.

A woman’s body, we have learned, is something of a right not a privilege. We get these bodies and are told to love them and appreciate them exactly as they are. But don’t get fat (they’re just concerned about your health, after all) or too thin (boys like curves, not sticks, ladies), and dress that body appropriately (you’ll get yourself raped) but not too appropriately (prude). And if you get catcalled? It’s a compliment, you ungrateful shrew. If someone makes an offensive comment? It’s just a joke, you humorless feminist. If you’re bothered by rape in television or videogames? Stop trying to taint male enjoyment of male things, you oversensitive bitch.

You can’t win. There is no win. There is only survival, and sometimes that seems impossible.

Be respectable, be polite. Dress right, don’t take pictures of yourself, check your drink with your chemical-detecting nail polish. Then everything will be OK. Right?

Honestly? I don’t know that everything will ever be OK. And I hate it.