Maybe your internet looks like mine, and you’ve seen regular updates about the weekend’s happenings: someone uploaded a massive amount of nude photographs of female celebrities to the internet. Twitter blew up, Gawker blew up, Facebook blew up. Maybe, like me, you grabbed your iPhone and made sure that your photos weren’t automatically uploading to iCloud, as some suggest is what happened in this case. If your phone is set to upload photos to the cloud, you could take a string of photos, delete them all on your phone, but they still remain in the mysterious cloud.
Immediately I started seeing people call these celebrities unsavory names – people who deemed them hot/gorgeous/etc the week prior – and post sentiments like “If you don’t want naked photos on the internet, don’t take naked photos.” Which, sure, I suppose that statement is true. But also, “If you don’t want to ever get mugged, never leave your house.” That’s usually not the first thing we say when a friend calls us in tears because she was robbed for her phone and handbag. These sort of nonchalant statements – this victim blaming – always make me wonder what society will be like when my daughters reach their teen years. Women are the victims of a sex crime (not a scandal, as Scott Mendelson deftly put it), and we’re pointing our fingers at them.
Never mind that I *too* would be mortified if my photos ended up on the www. Never mind that I was swimsuit shopping and texted photos to my girlfriends from the fitting room. This one? How about this one? Are the straps on this weird? Never mind that I’ve texted a photo of the birthmark on my backside to my BFF with the caption “I think it’s starting to look like Alaska now.” Never mind that I think when we’re all 80 we’re going to be like “Hnnnnghh why didn’t I take naked photos of myself when I was 30???” Plus, a good chunk of these leaked photos were women sending sexy pictures to their husbands. Who can criticize that? IDK, go for it, spice up your life.
Instead there’s a whole of lot victim blaming on the www, when maybe we should all be pointing fingers at the hacker, at TMZ for wanting to buy them, at all of these gossip magazines in general.
What would I say to my own daughters, if they were teenagers right now, with all of this info in their Twitter feeds? Girls, sit by me, let me tell you a story, and let’s hope it has a happy ending. Society sends confusing messages: women are supposed to be hot, but also puritanical. Be sexy, but in an unassuming way! Be sexy, but without knowing that you’re being sexy! Be sexy, but not too sexy.
You’re expected to wear a t-shirt to cover your swimsuit clad body at church youth group pool outings, but let’s talk about how safe and streamlined it is to be in the deep end with yards of heavy cotton fabric floating around your collarbone. Women are supposed to be sexy; women are supposed to age flawlessly; women can’t gain too much weight nor lose too much, either. In religious circles, it may get even more complicated. Women are supposed to be attractive, but not too attractive, but definitely not frumpy. Good luck finding a balance where you’re neither chastised nor pitied.
And then some men, darlings, will not care if you’re brilliant or generous or kind or accomplished or talented or warmhearted. They’ll still call you a dumb bitch after you ignore their catcalls while walking down the street. If a woman wins a Pulitzer, or ties for second fastest knock-out in UFC history, or is an accomplished chess player, there will still be someone commenting on her appearance. It goes beyond misogyny; there’s a lot of self-importance involved. Does anyone in the whole wide world care if @brianxyz or @cupcakeprincess989 on Twitter thinks a politician or an athlete or a celebrity is ugly? No, dear. No one does.
Please note that there are many men out there that are revolted by this sort of behavior. Many, so many. As you get older and establish friendships, make sure you choose friends wisely. Anyone (man or woman) who calls anyone a ‘dumb bitch’ is not someone you need to keep in your company. Anyone who reduces a person to simply his or her appearance need not be a friend of yours.
Choose friends of both genders that are kind and good, that listen to your podcasts about your research of life in the ancient 1900s, friends that cheer you on when you have a track meet, friends that discreetly tuck in the tag in the back of your shirt for you while you’re out in public, friends that will talk with you about ideas and dreams and goals, not people and their bodies and the way they look or dress. Be a good friend back.
I don’t have to have this conversation with my daughters right now, because they’re still quite young and they don’t have internet access. And I’m hopeful that in ten years, we’ll have changed enough as a society to not fuel the kind of discussion that TMZ so generously affords us (imagine if we all stopped visiting; who, then, would care about celebrities gaining weight?) and I won’t have to explain how weird and double-minded we all can be.