Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Ranting On...the Celebrity Phone Hackings

I have waited a few days in the hopes that calmer heads would prevail and that the general consensus would not head the direction I sadly assumed it would, but I feel like I've waited long enough: I'm going to chime in on the phone hackings that have dominated celebrity news for the past few days.

For those that are unfamiliar, a number of female Hollywood celebrities, including supermodel Kate Upton, actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and most notably, Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence, have had their phones hacked and nude photos of them leaked onto the internet.  While the investigation of the photos continues, and some celebrities (most notably Ariana Grande) have denied the photos are authentic, all three of the women I listed above have verified that the photos are in fact real, and that they were the victims of this phone hacking.

In the wake of this sort of invasion of privacy, the sad truth always seems to be not to blame the people that illegally went into someone else's phone, stole their private property, and then put it out into the internet for the world to see, but instead to blame the women who had the photos taken of them in the first place.  While I feel like there would have been just as much celebrity furor around this if it had been a series of young male stars who had their photos stolen, the victim-blaming seems to always escalate whenever it's a famous woman who has had their phones hacked (see also Scarlett Johansson's similar situation in the past).  They frequently cite the chorus of "they shouldn't have taken the photos of themselves if they didn't want them to be out in the world."

This is wrong for a number of reasons, starting with the fact that Lawrence, Upton, and the like never did anything wrong.  They had a piece of private property that was stolen from them.  We don't blame Stephanie Meyer when someone hacks into her computer and steals her manuscript; we find that rightfully appalling.  We don't blame people when robbers break into their house and steal their possessions.  We don't blame victims of identity theft when their personal information is stolen and used against their will.  This is the exact same thing.  These women have every right to expect that their own phones and computers and email are secure and not going to be the subject of predatory invasions, just like we all do.  Is it risky to do such things?  Clearly, as has been evidenced by this scandal, but that doesn't mean that it's their fault.  If anything, we should feel sympathy for them for being the victims of a crime, not blaming them for having photos pushed on the public that they never hoped would be shared.

It's also wrong because it reeks of hypocrisy.  Let's face it-we all have stuff on our phones, on our computers, in our wallets that we would prefer the world not know about.  The reality is that no one is perfect and immune to a saucy email or a non-password protected financial document.  No one is untouchable, and as was the case with Winstead, these were photos that she had long ago deleted.  This doesn't appear to even be a case where someone sent a photo to an ex and those pictures ended up online (which is still wrong, but in a different, technically less criminal way)-the reality is that having a moment that you don't want the entire world to see tucked away (perhaps even that you forgot about) is not a crime, and I'm sick and tired of people saying "you shouldn't have taken the photos if you didn't want people to see it."  It's victim-blaming, and perpetuates a victim-blaming culture.  And that's not something any of us want to create.

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