Gender, Privilege, and Body (Participation)

Published September 1, 2014 by djlwsu

The Great Naked Celebrity Photo Leak of 2014 is just the beginning 

There will always be another leak, because there is always curiosity in the bodies of nude celebrity women. There is always danger in being an Other

naked jennifer lawrence
BREAKING: beneath their clothes, celebrities are naked – even Jennifer LawrencePhotograph: ADREES LATIF/REUTERS

Privacy is a privilege. It is rarely enjoyed by women or transgender men and women, queer people or people of color. When you are an Other, you are always in danger of having your body or some other intimate part of yourself exposed in one way or another. A stranger reaches out and touches a pregnant woman’s belly. A man walking down the street offers an opinion on a woman’s appearance or implores her to smile. A group of teenagers driving by as a person of color walks on a sidewalk shout racial slurs, interrupting their quiet.

For most people, privacy is little more than an illusion, one we create so we can feel less vulnerable as we move through the world, so we can believe some parts of ourselves are sacred and free from uninvited scrutiny. The further away you are from living as a white, heterosexual, middle-class man, the less privacy you enjoy – the more likely your illusions of privacy will be shattered when you least expect it.

For celebrities, privacy is utterly nonexistent. You are asked intrusive questions about your personal life. You can be photographed at any moment. Your family is investigated, photographed or harassed daily – parents, children, sometimes even siblings also losing any semblance of privacy simply because you share the same blood or name. Celebrity is, in some ways, an infection that is only marginally beneficial.

We’re not going to cry for celebrities, of course, not really. When you choose that life, you must sacrifice certain dignities for the privilege of fame, of fortune. For the most part, these intrusions or privacy are all in good fun, fodder for gossip magazines and websites – because … celebrities, they’re just like us! They go to the grocery store! They drink coffee! They wear sweatpants! Celebrities are just like us until they aren’t, until such intrusion involves the celebrity woman’s body, in intimate poses, splayed across the internet for delectation and debauchery and debate.

On Sunday, a user on 4chan made good on a promise made several days ago and leaked nude and otherwise revealing photos of Jennifer Lawrence, Lea Michele, Kate Upton, Kirsten Dunst, Hope Solo and other famous young women. This leak is likely only the beginning. Because there will always be another leak, because there is an insatiable curiosity when it comes to the nude celebrity woman’s body. She puts herself in the public eye and, in turn, we are entitled to see as much of her as we so desire, or so I am sure the justification goes.

It goes without saying that there aren’t many nude photos of men being released. Men are largely free to bare their bodies as they choose without repercussion, unless, as is the case of Dave Franco with Allison Brie and Justin Verlander with Upton, the man happens to be in a picture with a young woman, collateral damage.

It’s not clear what the people who leak these photos hope to achieve beyond financial gain and a moment of notoriety. I suppose such impoverished currency is enough. The why of these questions is hardly relevant. These hackers are not revealing anything the general public does not already know. BREAKING: beneath their clothes, celebrities are naked.

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, of anyone who is Other in some way, of anyone who dares to threaten the status quo.

The Great Celebrity Naked Photo Leak of 2014 – or perhaps we should call it The Great Celebrity Naked Photo Leak of August 2014, given that this happens so often that there won’t be only one this year – is meant to remind women of their place. Don’t get too high and mighty, ladies. Don’t step out of line. Don’t do anything to upset or disappoint men who feel entitled to your time, bodies, affection or attention. Your bared body can always be used as a weapon against you. You bared body can always be used to shame and humiliate you. Your bared body is at once desired and loathed.

This is what we must remember. Women cannot be sexual in certain ways without consequence. Women cannot pose nude or provocatively, whether for a lover or themselves, without consequence. We are never allowed to forget how the rules are different girls. I suppose we should be grateful for this latest reminder.

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15 comments on “Gender, Privilege, and Body (Participation)

  • Like the article said celebrities know the price of fame, they should know that taking a naked photo of themselves no matter how private it is would not do anything positive for them in our culture today. It’s sad so many talented celebrities have to learn that the hard way.

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  • By saying what this author said she is actually removing the ability of women to see that they are responsible too and thus their power and say from this situation. Here’s why.

    I feel the language of this article is a bit strong. I do however see the point of the author that women are more vulnerable than men when it comes to their bodies and private life. How many nude photos of famous male actors are released like this? I also see the point that anything different from the male white norm is scrutinized because let’s face it its new and different from that perspective and is therefor interesting.

    However I don’t agree it’s done to keep women in their place. I could see how such photos could be used to manipulate a woman but I feel on a whole it doesn’t really tell women to stay put, to not be as sexual as men as the article implies that the photos imply. This sort of thing on a large scale shows the vulnerability of some men to desires, and their weakness of protecting that which is vulnerable for petty cash.

    I can see how it would make one hesitant to share themselves. On a small scale of nude photo releases like with couples. A good partner would not do this. Find a good partner. If one does feel this way that “is meant to remind women of their place. Don’t get too high and mighty, ladies. Don’t step out of line. Don’t do anything to upset or disappoint men who feel entitled to your time, bodies, affection or attention. Your bared body can always be used as a weapon against you. You bared body can always be used to shame and humiliate you. Your bared body is at once desired and loathed.” Then that is probably not a relationship to be in and one probably should think twice about being vulnerable such a person. If one is having insecurities and doubts then talk to one’s partner. And I understand horrible things happen to good people with someone they once trusted. But it’s not simply the man’s fault all the time as the author implies; one has to be smart of who they share themselves with. This is simply not true for a healthy relationship, “This is what we must remember. Women cannot be sexual in certain ways without consequence. Women cannot pose nude or provocatively, whether for a lover or themselves, without consequence.” I completely disagree in the case of most normal relationships. By saying what this author said she is actually removing the ability of women to see that they are responsible too and thus their power and say from this situation.

    I can see how the author is pointing to men dominating over women, that women are being hurt. It is, however, not just themes of domination or suppression but of responsibility of both sides. The author drew a conclusion that doesn’t necessarily align with what happened. The photos simply are not meant to put anyone in any particular place. I can see why she would say that but it was for cash and lust I feel and not a reflection of women’s complete sexuality suppression to men. Is there some suppression? Yes. It’s mostly women nudes out there. Is if complete and utterly like the author writes of? No, definitely not.

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  • This just shows how men and women have such different places in society. Women have a double standard we are expected to live up to. It’s okay for men to walk around with their shirts off or wear as much or as little clothing as they want however when a woman does such, she is called names, she is made fun of, she gets whistled at or provoked; she is being judged by the double standard put on all women. Like the story said, we are all naked under our clothes, we are all equal. Women shouldn’t be treated any lesser because of a choice they personally make.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly what i was thinking!! Why women are judged and men are not. But yet they still do the same thing as women do anyways. People shouldn’t be judged on what they look like from the outside. Just because they did something they weren’t proud of doesn’t mean that someone can judge them and make the person feel bad about themselves. We are all equal!

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  • The piece is really highlighting the double standards, and the ways that sexism operates here. Why were there no male celebrity photos? Do we think there aren’t any or does the lack of them being stolen and shared with the world tell us something about male privilege? How does privilege not only operate in whose photos are safe and protected, but in who can go to Internet to consume? How does gender, sexuality, and even race operate here? How does it connect to “slut shamming” and the regulation of women bodies? Also, how does consent fit into this discussion because the pictures were stolen from them without their consent and then shared with the world without their consent? She is also connecting to larger systems of privilege .. who is Othered, who is subject to public scrutiny, who enjoys privacy, and who is treated as a commodity. She writes, “Privacy is a privilege. It is rarely enjoyed by women or transgender men and women, queer people or people of color. When you are an Other, you are always in danger of having your body or some other intimate part of yourself exposed in one way or another. A stranger reaches out and touches a pregnant woman’s belly. A man walking down the street offers an opinion on a woman’s appearance or implores her to smile. A group of teenagers driving by as a person of color walks on a sidewalk shout racial slurs, interrupting their quiet.” This is so important because she is pushing us to think beyond this moment.

    I want to also highlight two other articles because they raise some important points

    “Also raises the awareness that you shouldn’t be putting nudes of yourself online…Maybe the lesson learnt from this should be “don’t be stupid”,” read a comment since deleted on The Verge. This is shameful logic, trying to shift the blame back onto the victims. But it also ignores how very common it has become for both men and women to take and share naked images of themselves online and across mobile devices. According to a recent study from the Pew Research Center, the 44 percent of teens reported sending or receiving a sexually explicit text, or sext, a jump of nearly double the 26 percent who reported doing so in 2012. The number of users among all age groups who say they have received a nude photo is now one in five, compared to 15 percent two years ago. A separate study from Purdue University found that among 21 year olds, 80 percent had sent or received a sext and 46 percent had sent a nude selfie. A report from the security firm McAffe found half of adults surveyed had used their mobile device to send and receive “intimate content” and half of those kept the images and texts stored on their phones” (http://www.theverge.com/2014/9/1/6093539/nude-selfies-increasingly-common-hackers-naked-photos)

    And

    “If Jennifer Lawrence was to pose naked on the cover of Playboy, for example, I’m sure it would be a best-selling issue. But it wouldn’t have the same scandalous, viral appeal as private images stolen from her phone. Because if she shared nude images consensually, then people wouldn’t get to revel in her humiliation. And that’s really the point, isn’t it? To take a female celebrity down a notch? (We have a term for when this is done to non-celebrity women: “revenge porn.”) There is an obsessive tendency in American culture with elevating women—young, beautiful women, especially—to celebrity status just to bask in their eventual fall. There’s also a tendency in American culture, meanwhile, to shame women for their sexuality. So I would not be surprised in the days ahead to see arguments as to why this is somehow the fault of the celebrities whose phones were hacked—that these women took the pictures, that they were posing, that generating publicity is part of their job. But victim-blaming is just that, no matter how famous the victim is. We live in a culture with a peculiar relationship to female celebrity. In much the same way that misogyny tells men that women are there for male consumption, the public and media tell us that famous women are public property. It’s why models and pageant queens are expected to smile graciously and respond to horny teen boys asking them to prom, or why they’re called uptight bitches if they don’t smile for every camera shoved in their face. The underlying premise is that these women have consented to being there for public entertainment—whether they like it or not. The fact that photos have been shared already is beside the point and a weak justification for violating someone’s privacy and sense of safety. Even if we’re not the people who stole the pictures, and even if we’re not publishing them on blogs or tweeting them out, looking at naked photos of someone who doesn’t want us to goes beyond voyeurism; it’s abuse” (http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/09/leaked-photos-nude-celebrities-abuse/379434/)

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  • Another useful article, where the author writes, “This is the “sext abstinence education” approach to scandalous selfies: ‘If you don’t take them, they can’t get out into the world and embarrass you.’ This is true, but much like telling people not to have sex until marriage to protect themselves against STDs and pregnancy, it’s not practical advice for most people. The digital age has changed courtship in many ways, and this is one of them. Texting nude photos is increasingly part of the sexual repertoire; phones have become sex toys. Studies show that the number of people sexting is on the rise. Nine percent of people were willing to admit to Pew Research this year that they’ve sent nude photos to someone else, while 20 percent fessed up to receiving nude shots (a curious mismatch). That’s up from 6% and 15%, respectively, in 2012. I too used to preach not taking scandalous selfies, but given their inevitability, it’s far wiser to shift to a focus on practicing ‘safe sext.’” (http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2014/09/01/sext-abstinence-education-doesnt-work/)

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    • After reading this article I strongly felt that I agree with the double standard in society but however in some ways it is the women who are at fault. Although I do strongly believe that women are abused in media wether its nudes or scandalous photos, I also believe that many times women set themselves up for this type of harassment. Although people should not be judged by what they feel comfortable in, many girls in this generation wear very revealing clothing and almost like the attention given by this scandalous attention. I am not saying that it is ok in any means but it has almost become casual to act in these ways. Like you (Dr. David Leanord) were saying it has come to be very common in this generation to send nudes or scandalous pictures. Instead of taking the approach of playing the blame game of some sorts we should just look at these situations from a different view. Since these types of so called shameful events keep happening and won’t stop at this rate, the public should just start by not being judgmental and not make it as big of a deal. All in all, it seems as though the best approach would be to try to make a change in the way people think rather then to try and stop the actions itself.

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  • Roxane Gay did an excellent job describing this issue that is seldom discussed. the 21st century opportunities and conflicts for gender and color seems be equal in nearly every profession and environment today. With that said there has always been lingering sores on society’s perception of the “other”. This is immensely amplified in the media even if your not a celebrity.

    Media is really taking its toll on the youth today, young people are easily influenced by what they see on the T.V. or their social medias which really isn’t monitored and has access to just about every kind of content This nude leak scandal happens every day in high schools and middle schools across the country. According to dosomething.org a cyber bully prevention website said “Girls are about twice as likely as boys to be victims and perpetrators of cyber bullying.”. This is the same for female celebrities its just more widely viewed and discussed do to their stature.

    This is not just an issue in Hollywood this is an issue in everyday life that is increasingly growing especially with guys like Hunter Moore on twitter who consistently publicly be little’s females and gets famous for it. I can relate this to Roxanes words when she says “celebrities are just like us until they aren’t”. These celebrities are not the only ones facing this conflict, their actually causing more of a problem by putting themselves in this situation. When you have 13 year old girls who are hunger game fanatics see Jennifer Lawernce posing nude that might be more inclined to put them own selves in this situation. Obviously these highly respected women had there privacy invaded but they are also a part of a problem growing in society. I’m not saying that these women are by any means at fault for their injustice but celebrities are held to a higher standard especially men. Tiger woods did something that men across the world do everyday but because of that name and his personal brand it impacts him more.

    The real problem is people are looking for anyway to have attention, whether its a million followers or likes. They worst part is to get that attention they are willing to do it at the expense of others and its the people in the lime light that have created this.

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  • This article has a good point but at the same time I feel like celebrities are asking for it. By having their pictures out they are also gaining fame, people them become interested in them. It such a big deal when naked pictures of women are leaked rather when pictures of men are leaked. We never see leaked pictures of guys and if their pictures are leaked its never a big deal but rather being seen as eye candy. Women and men are treated differently when it comes to scandalous attention. The difference between men and women in this generation is that women are not only judged by other men but harshly judged by women as well. So the change would need to begin with how we are all treating each other. If we simply change how we treat each other then it can eventually change how “scandals” are viewed.

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  • I think the author is wrong and out of line for trying to turn this into a feminist movement, the fact that these photos got leaked has nothing to do with females rights. Men are at just as much risk as women to have personal photos exposed. Men are not exposed as much as women strictly due to marketability. I do not think it is fair to blame men for this more than women, rather we should blame our society as a whole for letting it be acceptable to hack into someones personal devices and expose their private pictures.

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  • The important point regarding the ubiquity of people taking naked selfies as it relates to this article is that the difference in this case is not that they took the pictures but rather that they are female celebrities. It wasnt male celebrities or non-celebrities; this tells us a lot. Even the notion that marketable requires unpacking because what aspects are turned into commodity? Their bodies? Their sexuality? So, in many ways, their marketability is tied to the sexualization of women. It is also important to remember that these photos were not leaked but rather stolen and then shared without consent. We should think about the language of blame and claims that “they wanted it.” How often do we hear language that blames women for sexual harassment or sexual violence. Check out this article – http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-opinion/this-is-why-you-shouldnt-click-on-the-naked-photos-of-jennifer-lawrence-20140901-3eo6s.html

    “1. This is not a ‘scandal’

    It’s a crime, and we should be discussing it as such. Some media outlets are salaciously reporting it otherwise, as if the illegal violation of privacy involving intimate images is little more than subject for gossip. When associated with sex, the word ‘scandal’ has been typically interpreted as something that assigns responsibility to all parties involved, a consensual act unfortunately discovered and for which everyone owes an explanation or apology. Remember when private nude photos of Vanessa Hudgens (whose name also appears on the list of victims) were leaked online and Disney forced her to publicly apologise for her “lapse in judgment” and hoped she had “learned a valuable lesson”? Never mind that Hudgens was an adult and a victim of privacy violation – the ‘scandal’ was painted as something for which she owed her fans an apology. Which leads us to:

    2. These women do not ‘only have themselves to blame’

    While depressing, it’s sadly unsurprising to see some people arguing that Lawrence et al brought this on themselves. Part of living in a rape culture is the ongoing expectation that women are responsible for protecting themselves from abuse, and that means avoiding behaviour which might be later ‘exploited’ by the people who are conveniently never held to account for their actions. But women are entitled to consensually engage in their sexuality any way they see fit. If that involves taking nude self portraits for the enjoyment of themselves or consciously selected others, that’s their prerogative.

    Victims of crime do not have an obligation to accept dual responsibility for that crime. Women who take nude photographs of themselves are not committing a criminal act, and they shouldn’t ‘expect’ to become victims to one, as actress Mary E. Winstead pointed out on Twitter.”

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  • Fame is made to make the average person believe that all that goes into it is glam, attention and money. Of course, there are several stars out there that I’m sure wouldn’t change their life for anything in the world as they are living their dream (singing, acting, modeling, etc.). However, many famous people would argue that being famous in a world that revolves around social media and gossip is not all that it is made out to be. How could you ever be yourself around the constant paparazzi and cameras? One simple mistake is made out to be a huge ordeal and rumored up to make celebrities sound like horrible people. Its really not fair because famous or not, we are all human. A nude photograph does not make someone any less of a person, and yes, we all have to be more cautious about what we make public but in the end its really unfortunate that we have to be something were not just to be looked at in an acceptable manner.

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  • When discussing the issue of privacy when it comes to celebrities, it is important to remember that they chose their lifestyle, and that they need to accept the consequences of being “stalked” by all types of media. Im not saying that they should be blamed for everything bad that they do that gets out to the public, just that they should be aware of the consequences of their actions. Nude pictures are indeed the fault of the celebrity that poses for such photos. They cannot expect it to stay unseen by the public. This article does a great job of explaining this concept.

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    • It is really important to distinguish between media scrutiny and people breaking into clouds and stealing their pictures. The later is what happened. So, what does their “lifestyle” (and are all 100 women that have reportedly had their pictures stolen have the same lifestyle) have to do with their right to privacy? What does their job have to do with having the right not to have things stolen? And where in the article does it say that the celebrity is to blame? I have a question: if someone broke into a celebrity’s home and stole something, would we be “that this the price for being a celebrity”? And how does the statement here fit with your discussion: “Privacy is a privilege. It is rarely enjoyed by women or transgender men and women, queer people or people of color. When you are an Other, you are always in danger of having your body or some other intimate part of yourself exposed in one way or another. A stranger reaches out and touches a pregnant woman’s belly. A man walking down the street offers an opinion on a woman’s appearance or implores her to smile. A group of teenagers driving by as a person of color walks on a sidewalk shout racial slurs, interrupting their quiet.”

      Also, check out this quote: “There’s a misconception, the Independent’s Lucy Hunter Johnson noted, that “because these images are of famous women, women who pose on red carpets and even (gasp!) appear naked on screen, they are somehow ripe for us to view. That because these women use their image for work, they have no ownership over it… A topless scene from a tightly controlled film set is not the same as a grainy image taken by a lover in a hotel room…Celebrities do not exist purely for our entertainment and titillation. There is a difference between their life as they allow the public access to it, through interviews and shoots, and their real, personal, life. The way in which we share our bodies must be a choice. Pictures of naked women must not become the latest meme to be shared and joked over. Do not be part of this abuse. Do not click on these pictures.” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/09/02/leaked-nude-celebrity-photos-when-a-cybercrime-becomes-a-sex-crime/) and this piece that speaks about the potential criminal charges: http://abcnews.go.com/US/hackers-leaked-celeb-photos-face-jail-time/story?id=25218744. And here is another piece that talks about the criminal actions related to theft and distribution of these images: http://www.dailydot.com/news/reddit-fappening-celebgate-mckayla-liz-lee-child-porn/

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