First, let’s lay down the obvious. This isn’t a “sex scandal” or “leaked photos”. A criminal (or group of criminals) used sophisticated hacking techniques to steal data from the devices of hundreds of women in hopes of making a profit on selling their personal information. Experts believe this was not a one-time incident but that the data breach has been on-going and only recently released. This is a sex crime and not a small incident to be brushed aside. These women were victimized and now being shamed for expressing their sexuality in the way that they chose in the privacy of their own homes.Media response to this news have been varied. Stolen photos popped up all over the internet. Twitter acted quickly and disabled accounts that were known to have posted stolen photos. Playboy – the original nude photo company – told it’s readers “You should not be looking at nude photos of women that were shared without their consent.”
However the Metro decided to take a different approach. They downloaded a copy of one of the stolen photos, added a filter and some text, and used it as the cover picture for their publication. They knew it was a stolen photo when they selected it. When asked via Facebook why this photo was used, the Metro responded “We focused on an event in the news to illustrate the problems of large scale data collection and storage.” When the poster followed up to point out that the photo was stolen and used without the consent of the person who legally owned the photo, the Metro did not respond. At minimum, the Metro obtained and used stolen property. But the problem is much deeper.
This is just one example of the misogyny that persists in our culture. These woman were targeted as victims because hackers believe these women’s bodies should be available to anyone who wants them. Criminals that steal personal photos do not see their victims as real human beings – to them women are in the world to be sexually objectified. When the Metro used that stolen picture, they gave these criminals legitimacy and told women like me that my body doesn’t belong to me.
I write this as a call to action. Let us stop shaming women and blaming the victims. Instead, shame the people who take advantage of us. The Metro used a stolen photo to their profit without regard of the victim of this deeply personal crime. This time they exploited a celebrity, but it could be any one of us. Jennifer Lawrence is not just a beautiful young actress. She is a person. And we should demand that our media treats each of us as human beings and not a means to make money.
NLC-SV Advisory Board member Mia White is a Mills College MBA Candidate (’16) with a focus in socially responsible business. Views and opinions expressed are entirely her own. This blog post originally appeared on The Left Hook.