The Stolen Nude Celebrity Photos and Online Misogyny

Jennifer Lawrence was one of the many high-profile women that had nude photos stolen from their phones and posted online (Image Credit: "Jennifer Lawrence on the red carpet at the 83rd Academy Awards" by Tabercil via Flickr)

Jennifer Lawrence was one of the many high-profile women that had nude photos stolen from their phones and posted online
(Image Credit: “Jennifer Lawrence on the red carpet at the 83rd Academy Awards” by Tabercil via Flickr)

On Sunday afternoon, nude images of high-profile women began hitting the web after they had been stolen off of their phones thanks to a glitch in iCloud. The revealing images were shared on the forum 4chan and quickly went viral. Close to 100 women, including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Victoria Justice, and Hope Solo, had their private images posted on the Internet. To make matters worse, the images posted of US Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney were taken when she was a minor, making it child pornography. Let’s get one thing straight: These women did absolutely nothing wrong. If someone wants to take photos of themselves to consensually share with s omeone in private then go for it; there is nothing wrong with taking nude pictures to share. The issue here is the fact that these images were stolen and shared without the consent of these women. There are plenty of images online of naked women who consent to their naked images being plastered all over the web. People are seeking out these images because they were posted against the wishes of these women, upping the titillation factor. Viewing these images only furthers the online abuse of these women.

The response to all of this is not to say “Don’t take nude pictures and you won’t have to worry about getting your phone hacked.” That’s the equivalent of telling women not to wear a short skirt or drink too much alcohol and they won’t get raped. Everyone, whether they’re Academy Award winning actresses, sports superstars, or everyday Americans, has the right to privacy. Unfortunately, with so much information available on these celebrities, it’s too easy to hack into their personal information like their cell phones. Sadly, one response that developed in the wake of this theft Sunday was the #IfMyPhoneWasHacked hashtag on Twitter. Users, many of them being women, tweeted mundane pictures currently on their smartphones which continued the body shaming and victim blaming portion of this theft. This crime was not a hack, it was a sexual assault on these women. Sexual assault needs an expanded definition to catch up with technology which furthers the abuse of women beyond the physical attack. When this is done to women who aren’t in the public eye, it is called revenge porn and we are starting to see laws passed against this. Setting the precedent that celebrity women have no expectation of privacy because of their status and are just there for public consumption is incredibly dangerous.

The posting of these photos further showed just how crappy the Internet is for women. Online misogyny runs rampant through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and online message boards like 4chan. To be clear, this was a targeted attack against these famous women to bring them down a notch, because you can’t argue male celebrities don’t also take nude pictures. The responses saying don’t take nude pictures further highlights the backlash women receive for voicing their opinions. Feminist activists, in particular, receive a torrent of online hate everyday. Some respond to these abusers with humor, while others acknowledge the hate makes it difficult to continue using these sites. These online sites should be platforms for everyone to be heard, but how can women be these advocates if they’re constantly worried about violations of privacy and online threats, including threats of death and rape? As we move further into the digital age, we need to answer the questions that are raised surrounding speech and safety on social media. These sites, especially Twitter, have been too slow to confront this online hate and these threats because they value freedom of speech over the safety of their users. We need to be able to talk about our bodies and have the right to celebrate how we look. We deserve to be able to feel good about how we look naked without being shamed and threatened with violence. If you don’t believe this hate speech is used, take a look at what I’ve received merely for having “feminist” in my Twitter bio.

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The next time you decide to make threats from behind a computer screen, remember a human being is sitting on the other side of it.




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