Victim Blaming and the Reddit Nude Photo Leak

By Emma Zyriek, Class of 2017

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Photo Courtesy of opensourceway

Last month, the Internet exploded into a frenzy over a mass leak of nude pictures featuring the images of over 100 celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, Lena Dunham, and Lea Michelle. This leak, which was facilitated by users of Reddit, a social media image sharing site, immediately received attention from news sites and organizations around the world as well as from thousands of internet users eager to access the photos.

These nude pictures are a shameless violation of privacy, and serve as a blatant example of the unlawful release of images. However, the conversation surrounding this so-called “scandal” has not been one dominated by demands for privacy rights or calls to protect victims of online harassment. Rather, many of these conversations have revolved around a handful of pervasive comments directly criticizing the celebrities who have been affected the most:

“If [insert celebrity name here] is so famous, why would she EVER take naked photos of herself? What was she thinking?”

“Anyone who takes risqué photos is simply asking for the world to see them. These celebrities probably want the attention that they are getting.”

“Why do these celebrities care anyway? Many of them have been naked on screen before, it’s not like they are afraid of the world seeing their bodies!”

While not stated verbatim, the comments above have been articulated by pundits on news stations, cited by authors of articles across the Internet, and embraced by users of social media sites from Facebook to YouTube. These comments, legitimized by the claim that celebrities don’t have to be treated like “normal people,” are cookie cutter examples of victim blaming, a phenomena where the victim of a crime is held responsible for the crime itself. By holding the victims responsible, these commenters inadvertently justify the actions of the true criminals, in turn encouraging the unaccountability of the perpetrators themselves.

Perhaps just as disconcerting as victim blaming is the fact that these nude images only feature female celebrities, pointing to a culture in which it is somehow “ok” to possess and share women’s bodies. Among celebrity fan circles and tabloid magazine readers, one must combat the idea that a woman must put up with sexual harassment solely because she is a sex symbol or role model in the public eye. While successful actresses and entertainers, the countless victims of the Reddit leak are also individuals who possess rights and liberties, guaranteeing them privacy and freedom from abuse.

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