Tuesday, September 9, 2014

One Hand Tied

Last week in the news, one of the primary topics (sadly) was the hacking and leakage of nude photos of several female celebrities, most notably Jennifer Lawrence. Images that were taken by these women and were intended for private, personal use were hacked from their cell phones and put on the internet for a world of Peeping Toms to see. Apple has reported that the leakage was not due to a vulnerability of iCloud, but the images were taken from online storage devices that I can't begin to explain. See BJ's blog if you're interested in that techy kind of stuff.

Much of the response to this exploitation seems reasonable to me: a large number of individuals see this as a breach of moral conduct on the part of the hackers, believe that the hackers should pay for their crimes (yes, I said crimes), and do not place blame upon those whose photos were stolen. There is a subset of society, however, that immediately lashed out at Lawrence and others, blaming them for their role in the 'scandal' and admonishing them to do better next time. I won't even link to these latter articles because I don't want to draw further attention to them.

The complexity of problems within this culture is too large in breadth to expand upon here, but much of it boils down to one very large dysfunction: the sexualization and objectification of women. It is undoubtedly one of the largest problems that our society has created, and it is also one of society's biggest stumbling blocks in terms of social progress. If women are not viewed as more than what they can do for men sexually, then this country is essentially operating with one arm tied behind its back. We will never succeed and reach our potential as a collective unit if one half of us is limited by the other--generally speaking, as I am fully aware that there are decent, active men working to silence the idiots amongst us.

Why is this country so uncomfortable with the idea of women having sexual rights? The 'blame the victim' mentality held by so many people, including many women, is as damaging a notion to the women's rights movement as has ever existed. Doesn't a woman have the right to wear the clothes she wants without being held responsible for how it makes a man feel? Doesn't a woman have a right to have a drink too many and not get sexually taken advantage of? Isn't it unfair that a woman gets raped by a turned-on male who says he couldn't help himself because she was 'asking for it' by the way she looked or the way she flirted with him? Doesn't it suck that a woman can get raped by a man and, when she tries to press charges against him, the fact that she was drunk is a strike against HER? And here, with the Jennifer Lawrence situation, isn't it scary that a woman can take nude photos in the context of a private relationship, have those photos unethically hacked, and then we turn to her and chide her for not being more responsible, for not having stronger passwords or for having a nude photo of herself in the first place? Imagine this for a moment: replace the words "Jennifer Lawrence" with "small business" and replace " nude photos" with "financial statements." If a hacker got into iCloud and accessed the financials of a business, then blackmailed that business and made their account information available for all to see, that would be a legal issue. What in the world is the difference? Is it because Jennifer Lawrence is a person and not a business? Or is it because the nature of what was leaked is not as important as money---it's only the body of a woman?

So, again, why is this country so uncomfortable with the idea of women having sexual rights? I think it's because, in acknowledging those rights, society has to embrace the notion that women are individuals with faces, aspirations, and personalities--and sacrifice the deeply, long-held notions that women are just faceless bodies, just hot commodities to compare or disparage, just bitches when they're angry and hos when they're participants in sexual activities, just punching bags when others are angry. When we as a society can learn that a woman has a voice and right when it comes to her own decisions and her own body, and that her body is for herself to share with whomever she chooses, then a huge number of problems in this country will begin to subside. We will see less violence against women. We will see less pornography. We'll see more women contributing with their full potential, in whatever way they feel most enriched, and we will see more fulfilling sexual relationships. We will see more legal action when women are sexually exploited, and we will see less blaming the victim when sexual assaults do take place. We will see a return to the normalization of breastfeeding in public, because people will reject the notion that breasts are purely sexual objects and thus won't be disgusted and uncomfortable with the idea of using boobs to feed babies. We will essentially see a country operating with no hands behind its back, with all of its brains and talents being used to drive us full-throttle into the betterment of life for us all. Be you female or male, use your voices, and use them for good.You may be surprised to find out just how loud and strong they are.

Sesame Street approves!

For a similar past musing, check it.

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