Holding the Wrong People Responsible

Save for the celebrity involved, photo leaks seem to be nothing new—and unfortunately, neither is the tired, misguided dialogue surrounding them.

By Aliyah Thomas, Mount Saint Mary College


During the first weekend of December, semi-nude photos of “Game of Thrones” star Maisie Williams began making their rounds on the internet, having originally been posted on the self-proclaimed bane and burden of the internet’s existence, Reddit.

The photos, presumably stolen from a private Facebook account, don’t matter content-wise, so anyone centering their attention on Williams’ boobs means that they are missing the point: Williams is a victim, and I make no apologies for not being able to sweeten the reality of that. Williams may make a living by a public-facing career, but that doesn’t mean that she asked to be in this kind of cruel, critical spotlight.

She is still a woman—despite those preconceived notions about her A-list celeb status making her any different from you or me—entitled to the same level of privacy as anyone else.

Maisie Williams’ Facebook Hack: Putting Nude Photo Leaks into Perspective

Image via Getty Images

An article from the “National Post” even goes so far as to sexualize her pictures despite Williams’ representative reiterating that they are “not explicit in nature,” and it’s very likely that the intention of these photos wasn’t sexual anyway. Maisie Williams is another casualty to some 16-year-old boy’s sexual chimera—so far untrue, but I’ll bite—and the snide, sexist remark that always follows these purported “scandals”: “Well, if she didn’t want the photos leaked, she shouldn’t have taken them.” Cue the confused ellipses.

It wasn’t so long ago that that was the pathetic and equally as god-awful mantra of “Celebgate” (or “The Fappening,” if you prefer), where nude photos of celebrity women—and men, but those select few only caught the wandering public eye, so it’s not my focus here—were leaked from private iCloud accounts to the internet. Suddenly you’re all incredibly wary about backing up your iPhone, aren’t you?

Jennifer Lawrence, Jill Scott and Kirsten Dunst were among the women affected by the leak and, while most assumed responsibility for their photos, others rightfully criticized the hackers for their invasion of privacy. If you weren’t already familiar with “Celebgate,” you’d have been surprised with how many people blasted holes in those already humbled and disgustingly exploited women. And you wouldn’t believe was how fast their photos were re-distributed on social media. Blame the woman and then guiltlessly ogle her boobs. Sounds legit.

People forget that women and men take nude photos, but have you ever seen anyone get as uptight about a dick pic as they did with ScarJo’s boobs in their face?

The conversations that continue to follow leaks of these stolen photos (because they are stolen, there’s no getting around that) are, at their cores, mean-spirited and sexist. What do people mean when they talk about the plight of these clearly victimized women—even blame them? And what’s the fascination with crossing a plainly defined line into privacy violation?

First and foremost, they are victims. All of them. There’s simply no way around it, but I can’t say that I’m surprised by the totally expected and insanely pejorative refrain telling these women to stop celebrating their own bodies and sharing that celebration with their loved ones. How could anyone else be surprised with the negative response to Maisie Williams and “Celebgate” considering this world’s history of victim-blaming and simultaneous victim-shaming?

Maisie Williams’ Facebook Hack: Putting Nude Photo Leaks into Perspective

Image via DarnIT

God forbid you get your brains beat out in the street and people start blaming you for having such fragile bones.

Remember when Kim Kardashian was bound and gagged and robbed at gunpoint? Social media flooded with self-righteous responses like, “She’s rich. What did she expect?” or “She’ll do anything for ratings.” Personally, I don’t give shit if we can’t figure out whether or not the robbery was staged, because the point is that the world downplayed this woman’s trauma like it was some menial case of petty theft. Bound and gagged at gunpoint. At what point does the world acknowledge a victim’s pain as physical and genuine?

You’re entitled to your hot-blooded dislike of the Kardashians, but Kim was and still is the victim here. Can you imagine how different the response would’ve been if Kim Kardashian was just a working class woman visiting Paris for vacation? She’s a mother, daughter and wife, and her bank account doesn’t make her any less of a victimized woman. Who would’ve known that celebrities were human beings, too? In other news: water is wet.

Pardon the aside, but this whole thing is just one giant, scathing load of absolute nonsense.

Nude photos have become tools that are used to shame women whom we otherwise know to be charming and relatively upright when it comes to their image. None of these incidents seem to be revenge porn per se, but damnit, let’s make better laws to protect ourselves.

And really, what does any of this mean for soon-to-be victimized women who don’t have Academy Awards, Emmy nominations or regularly chart the Billboard Top 200? Average Janes like me? People love to use, “So-and-so is a celebrity, so all of her shit is already out in public.” Incorrect, abominable and absolutely untrue. Miss me with all of that “holier-than-thou” bullshit.

Just for the record: being half-naked or baring your boobs to a camera for a film isn’t the same as having nude photos (that were taken in private) released to the public. The latter is unwelcomed exploitation. Those images belonged to their owners and no one else. I want to shout a hearty and extra loud, “Right on!” to those women for having actively sought out ways to press charges against the jerk(s) who wronged them.

You shouldn’t just care about Maisie Williams’ or Jennifer Lawrence’s stolen photos because you’re realizing right this second that the internet isn’t a perfect place or that iCloud is as faulty as any other storage service. What’s even greater than that is how susceptible everyone is to something like this—yes, this could happen to you, to me or to someone else you love. It’s a blatant breach of privacy, and the responses to Williams, “Celebgate” and even Kim Kardashian’s break-in should absolutely terrify you.

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