Celebrity Culture and Victim Blaming

By now, most people have heard, discussed, and/or have seen the leaked photos of a number of celebrities. Originally, I wasn’t going to discuss this topic. Obviously, I didn’t think it was my place. I don’t know how these women must feel having the whole world discussing their bodies, but after reading some of the comments about the “scandal” (crime), I decided that I needed to vent in the only way that I know how to: by writing.

“Celebrities give up their right to privacy the minute they manipulate the media in order to sell their latest film/album/ TV Show whatever.”
“They should know better. You expect to get hacked if you’re in the spotlight.”
“They deserve it for taking photos like that.”**

Listed above are a very small sampling of some of the comments that I have found associated to articles and posts based around the topic of the leak. When I scroll through Twitter reading replies to celebrities that (thankfully) don’t apologize about what happened, and you have people calling them “slut,” “whore,” or asking them to “suck my dick.” Yeah, I get it. Most people don’t think that the person is going to read their reply, but to think that someone would have the indecency to respond like a animal to another human being is so dumbfounding to me.

It’s dumbfounding to me that we live in a society where we place more blame on the victim rather than the person who violated that individual’s privacy. Since when is someone hacking into another person’s private photos and selling them online encouraged? Why does the perpetrator get a pat on the back and people rejoice these photos, while the victim has to be shamed?

It isn’t fair that this happened. It’s not fair that in today’s world, people find it okay to look at these images as if they aren’t actual people. “But, they’re celebrities!” I can hear people crying, but they’re people first. Just like People Magazine says, “Celebrities, they’re just like us.” They have the right to privacy. In the world of paparazzi and social media, that privacy is very limited, but they do have the right.

Victim blaming is something that happens nearly every day to women. You get catcalled? It’s your fault because your legs were out. You get stalked? It’s your fault, you shouldn’t have been nice to that boy. You get assaulted? It’s your fault for leading that boy on by accepting his drinks at the bar. You get raped? It’s your fault for wearing that dress, you were asking for it. Do all those examples seem as ridiculous to you as it does to me? Because it should.

When my friend was raped her freshman year of college, it was the first time that I started to realize the vastness of victim blaming.* She went to a party at a fraternity house that had quite a negative reputation, but it was her first college party, she was with a group of friends, and she was excited. At the party she was roofied, dragged up the stairs (half-unconscious), and raped. The guy taunted her about it for weeks because he had photos of him in the act. He told her that if she told anyone, no one would believe her. It took her two months to come forward. Two months of constant torment. Two months of wanting to kill herself because of what happened to her. When she finally went to the police, the support of her parents on her side, the police asked her two questions: what had she been wearing and had she been drinking? She was wearing a dress, and she had a drink. The cop looked her in the eye and said that they couldn’t put a case together because she accepted that drink. They couldn’t put a case together because she was wearing a dress, she should have been wearing pants because that would have prevented someone trying to rape her.

Fortunately for her, she had a great support system from her family and took a different avenue to file a police report. It took six months for them to go to court, but they did. The sad part is the boy got off almost scot free. He had to do a bit of community service, but since his parents had a lot of influence and wanted to keep matters hush-hush, the court justified the parents reasoning. They didn’t want to ruin the boy’s future.

A similar case is the Steubenville High School rape incident. The media talked about how awful it was for these boys because they had such bright futures when it came to football. They were going to get scholarships. They were going to do so well. CNN’s Poppy Harlow stated that it was “Incredibly difficult, even for an outsider like me, to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart…when that sentence came down, [Ma’lik] collapsed in the arms of his attorney…He said to him, ‘My life is over. No one is going to want me now.’” Yet, the media hardly reflected on the poor girl’s violent rape. They inadvertently blamed the girl.

And here we are again, with nude photos of celebrities and hoards of people claiming that it’s Jennifer Lawrence’s fault, it’s Brie Larson’s fault, it’s Kate Upton’s fault. They let the photos be taken of them. They should know better. If you look closely at the comments, they’re only pointing fingers at the women in the photos. They’re not blaming Dave Franco. They’re not blaming Justin Verlander. They’re blaming the women standing beside them in the photos.

In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think people really evaluate what they’re doing by looking at these photos. And I’ll admit, I’ve seen them. When someone texted me saying that Jennifer Lawrence’s nudes leaked and sent me a link, I clicked it. I thought it was a joke. I thought maybe a photoshop of Lawrence on a nude baby’s body would appear (how funny would that be?), but I was sickened to know they were real. Not sickened because of her posing for a nude photo, sickened because someone would put that out there. We live in a culture where this is normal. We take photos of ourselves in mirrors naked to send to our partners. Usually for people who don’t want to send photos themselves and like my friend Paige explains, “this invincibility complex people have drives me crazy. They don’t want their personal nudes circulating the world, yet they press the button to forward on someone else’s.” But as soon as these photos are found by someone else, everyone acts as if it’s not normal to send these types of photos. We live in a society where we over-sexualize the female form and when “our” celebrities have photos come out of them in an exposed way, we objectify them.

It’s dumbfounding to me that I think these are items that need to be pointed out to people. It’s saddening that people feel the need to blame the girl in the photo. It’s saddening that we can over-sexualize women to this insurmountable point, yet we criticize when they’re too sexual. Victim blaming needs to end. The perpetrator should be condemned, not the innocent. When did the lines get so blurred?

*My friend allowed me to tell her story. I will not release her name or anything relating back to her. I respect her privacy because everyone is entitled to that. Unless you’re a celebrity, or so it seems.

**The article that I copied the comments is THIS Guardian article.

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