We Are All Jennifer Lawrence by Martha Cecilia Ovadia


Martha Cecilia OvadiaI don’t want to be an angry feminist.

I don’t want to be angry.

I’m angry.

I’m angry a lot.

I’m sad more often than I am angry.

The sadness that I speak of runs deep.

I had an entire blog ready to go for posting this week, but as news broke of Jennifer Lawrence’s stolen pictures, I couldn’t bring myself not to speak up.

If you have not heard yet, hackers broke into Jennifer Lawrence’s personal accounts and uploaded quite a stash of private photos on to the internet. They are currently threatening to upload stolen videos as well.  You can find the story chronicled here. I’ve decided to link to a feminist website that is withholding the photos because, trust me, you do NOT want to wade the waters of what is out there in regards to this story. It is rage inducing.

Celebrity hacking scandals are not new, but every time a new one happens, I am surprised by the general apathy and sometimes glee I see expressed all over the internet.

“Well, if she didn’t want them leaked, she should not have taken the photos or put them in a public place!”

“It’s probably a publicity stunt!”

“If you are going to act like a whore, be prepared to be treated like one…” 

For some reason, the Jennifer Lawrence leak in particular has hit me hard. Not because I celebrate celebrity culture, but maybe because I’ve watched her career from the beginning and sadly kept waiting for something like this to happen. Isn’t that awful? Is that the world we live in? There have been many other celebrities who have experienced hacks like this recently, (and there are many other celebrities leaked in this one batch) but because she is a prime example of what happens to women–the arch by which we all live by–I think it is important we talk about it.

Jennifer Lawrence has been built up by Hollywood (and those who follow it) to the point of it being slightly obnoxious (which she has talked about in interviews). The pedestal on which she has been standing on is a high one. It was only a matter of time till someone (society) took her down. This isn’t a cycle that only celebrities experience. Women experience this cycle of pedestal/fall time and time again. With the virginity myth, we constantly see how, if you do not fit the mold of the virginal bride, you suddenly fall– no longer able to define yourself by the patriarchal structures that deem you worthy of respect. This arch is a life cycle for most women. We start off as girls asked to follow simple rules. We are allowed to be children for a time. We are then allowed to date (respectfully and discretely), marry and then (quickly) are asked to have babies. That is it. That is our cycle. If we do not follow it, we fall and we fail by “societies” standards. Its simple: if you are a girl, be virginal. If you are a wife, be motherly. If you can’t fit those very defined terms, you are labeled words like slut, whore, and “fallen”. I firmly believe the terms used in the Church to describe the secular words are even worse: broken, dirty, used.

I’ve already seen people on my social platforms explaining away how celebrities being violated by hackers are responsible for their own demise. The victim blaming is immediate and almost reactionary. “There is no misogyny involved!” they say. “Stop making everything about patriarchy!!”  I always wonder–if there is no misogyny involved, why have I never seen Justin Timberlake’s or Jay Z’s nude pictures plastered all over 4chan or Reddit? Why have we yet to see a nude selfie of the selfie king himself, Kanye West? Why?

It’s because men only feel ownership over women’s bodies–not mens. That ownership extends and enables hackers to feel the right to hack into these women’s accounts and then plaster them all over the Internet. That same ownership discussed above also allows the millions and millions of people all over world to view those pictures without giving a second thought to the fact that those pictures are STOLEN. They do not belong to them. They were not meant for their eyes. They are a violation. And by viewing them you are violating another human being. I can’t believe I even have to make this argument, but what if those were your sister’s stolen pictures? Or daughters? Or nieces? What if it was your neighbor? Best friend? Wife? Best friend’s wife?

As if this isn’t enough of an argument, this isn’t solely a celebrity problem. Most people do not realize that the stolen picture problem extends to them. There are places on 4Chan and Reddit that keep pictures of young girls in their bathing suits catalogued by “creepers”. They are legally taken from facebook and other platforms and even though they are innocent enough on their own, when they are put together and curated by pedophiles they are an awful place to be on the Internet. The name of these Internet chambers? Creepshots. Don’t believe me? Here is an article about how hard certain communities have been fighting to get these taken down. It is so sad. It is nearly impossible to do. Once pictures are up on the Internet it is almost an impossibility to take things down, and the Internet protects places like creepshots. Cyber crimes are the new Wild West and these guys are the worst sorts of outlaws. There is also revenge porn, a crime that time and time again shocks me. This is when a boyfriend or husband uploads and disperses private photos or videos after a relationship is over. One of the most famous cases is that of Holly Jacobs, who after trying to fight her experience alone took her abuser all the way to court. To read about her experience (and courage), click here. 

Still not convinced? Not you? You’ve protected your children and their Internet usage and you would NEVER take a nude picture? Well, there are a lot of women fighting revenge pictures and porn where their likeness has been added to already an existing picture or video and uploaded. So even if you did everything “right”, you can still be attacked online with material that isn’t even you. There are also creepshots of women taken illegally while they use the restrooms.

None of this is easy to read. I don’t enjoy typing this. But the war on women is real, and sometimes we have to talk about it, even if the catalyst is a celebrity who is experiencing it on the world stage. I hope that whoever leaked the pictures of Jennifer Lawrence is brought to justice. I hope they are charged for cyber crimes, but I won’t hold my breath. The biggest change, the real change, has to come from within. We have to, as feminists, challenge the way society views our bodies and their ownership over them. This is no small matter. Even as I say and type this I wonder–what on earth does that mean? How do we do this? What can be done? Quite a bit actually, though none of it is easy. I’ve come up with a small list but I would love to hear your suggestions for how we tackle this head on as a community.

  1. The cyber world is quite new in terms of laws. We need to pressure lawmakers to protect women. We need to speak up every single time. We need to write lawmakers and join our voices with campaigns that already exist. The other side is actively fighting AGAINST cybercrime laws so this one is crucial.
  2. We can challenge those around us when they speak in ways that encourage slut shaming and perpetuate the virginity myth. Again, YES ALL WOMEN.
  3. We can challenge gaslighting when it happens. I find this one to be quite challenging but very important. I had one friend recently say that she shuts down in the face of “mansplaining” because it is exhausting to constantly fight back. It is exhausting–but sometimes it is all we have.
  4. Hold people accountable. If someone says, ” Did you see the JLaw pictures? Did you see that video of that drunk girl at that football game getting #@%^&* by those guys?” Say something. Sometimes it just takes bluntness. BE BRAVE. “No I didn’t see it. You know those pictures were stolen right? Its awful that you looked at them.” Or say, “I can’t believe you watched that video on Reddit. That girl was being raped.” (It sounds weird to even type this but videos of girls being raped and taped have not only gone viral this year, but have had explosive view numbers–its unreal).

So, I end tonight with the same thought I started this morning with. I wish the world we lived in were different. I am angry. I’ve been angry for a long time. But I am mostly sad. I want more. I expect more–but the older I get, the more I realize that I must demand the change I want because it is not coming and there are new girls being born every day who deserve better.

And in true Internet fashion I end with hashtags. #yesallwomen #wearealljen

Martha Cecilia Ovadia is an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Student in Feminist Theology and Children’s Literature at Claremont Graduate University.  She holds a MA in Religion, Ethics and Culture, focusing on Catholic Sexual Ethics and a BA in Religious Studies. She has written extensively on Revisionist Catholic Theology and has dedicated quite a bit of her studies to her very special interest: Harry Potter. Her proposed dissertation is on feminist writers and emerging young adult dystopian literature. She currently works with academic journals in the publishing industry in Los Angeles. When she is not working on her dissertation or editing journals, she can be found working on her debut novel or cuddling her two ferocious Pomeranians.

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Categories: Activism, Body, Ethics, Feminism, Gender and Sexuality, In the News, Media, Men and Feminism, Patriarchy, power, Power relations, Rape Culture, Sexual Violence, Social Justice, Violence Against Women, Women's Agency, Women's Rights, Women's Suffering

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30 replies

  1. Creepers and photo manipulation to misrepresent the party(ies) involved is wrong, in no uncertain terms. Pornography is wrong, especially that pertaining to children, and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    But you are mixing rotten applies and dumb bunnies here. Anyone who puts a revealing photo onto the web, even behind a “passcode” has got to be lacking a few brain cells. Did she hear nothing about how hackers continually breach security passwords, and even break into massively protected databases like those held by major banks? What in the name of Beelzebub makes her think she is so special that her images will never get hacked? Good grief, this has been known since the internet first came into existence, and hasn’t gotten any better in the interim. And it is so true: If you don’t want someone else to see it or know it, don’t put it up on the web. duh.

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    • Sadie– your response is what is commonly referred to as victim blaming. It is no different than blaming a rape victim for their assault by deflecting the blame off the perpetrators and referring back to what the victim of the crime was wearing or drinking… It is not ok.

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      • I think both statements are “true” in some way. Women, and men, need to be “street-smart”, or prudent. We need to be aware of the society we live in, now, and it’s injustices and capabilities to injure others whether by stealing private photos, harassing others, hacking into bank accounts, etc. We need to educate ourselves and each other and sharpen our survival skill so we can live more fully.

        At the same time, we need to demand respect and name the crimes loud and clear, to work to change laws and societal attitudes that consider women, children, and all of creation as a commodity to be bought, sold, or profited from in some way.

        So I think we need both – street smarts and activism, which is best served cold and calculating rather than hot and angry. But it took me about 50 years to discover that!

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      • No, Martha, that’s not it at all. I see nothing wrong with any woman posing for photos for her sweetie. That’s fine. And if her sweetie wants to see those images 24/7, that’s fine too — just load them onto a flash drive, and not into the cloud. Use some common sense. Keep private things private if you want them kept private. I am not saying the perpetrator was “right”; I am saying that the victim was old enough and wise enough to use some common sense, so this is really a non-story.

        Barbara mentions banking on line, and that is very different. Banks are required by law to protect our assets from hackers, and there is a a massive international army of enforcers who track the hackers down. That’s just not true with images of any kind. There is NO ONE protecting images.

        And what about the privacy of banking/credit records? If someone did hack Max’s credit card account and discovered — and publicized — that there were multiple transactions to a known online pedophile account, would we consider that an unlawful terrible wretched no good invasion of Max’s privacy? Probably not, whether Max was a male or a female. If Max were a well-known politician, we even consider it our “right to know”.

        Online privacy is a huge issue. But there just comes a point where we have to realize that the only protection is our own good sense. For decades I’ve called the “www” the “Wild and Wooly Web”, and that’s still not far from the truth.

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    • Sadie. I want to clarify that these photos were hacked from phones and computers- with some having been deleted years ago by those involved (some have admitted to having deleted them years before in past relationships). But with our digital technology– everything has an imprint–even if you moved it to a flash drive and delete it. That imprint can be hacked. The discussions about how to do that can easily be found online. A flash drive would only be useful if plugged into your computer? I think we are splitting hairs really. 20 years ago a private video (as you describe–private pictures) would have been the same argument. A couple makes it, it is stolen and dispersed (Pamela Anderson comes to mind). It is still not meant for anyone and blame is still not ok. The digital age changes nothing in my opinion.

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  2. The following is a tweet that sums up my stand. We would be angry if someone hacked our online financial accounts. And we certainly wouldn’t say well you shouldn’t use credit cards.
    “Farhad Manjoo ✔ @fmanjoo
    Follow
    I’ve never heard anyone respond to financial hacking by saying, Just don’t use online banking. That’s what you get for using credit cards.
    6:01 PM – 1 Sep 2014”
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/02/sexting-tweet_n_5755582.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000046&ir=Women

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  3. The new all-night pool bar (not strip bar) that opened recently in rural & touristic Greece where I live pays women to dance in bikinis to rock music on the stage. Suffice it to say that men in jock straps are not being employed to join them. No one with whom I have discussed this “performance” of women’s bodies was offended by it. This all goes to show how widely accepted the commodification of women’s bodies is. I am angry because this “practice” and the widespread acceptance of it affects every woman in our culture(s) whether we know it or not. And like you I am very sad underneath my anger.

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    • It’s funny. I’ve always been able to handle the anger. I can channel it and work with it. The sadness? I don’t know what to do with it. . And the double standards we see everywhere make sad too– particularly because a vast majority of people seem blind to them or even champion them.

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      • Martha —

        I recognize this problem. Your sadness is our feminist sadness. It’s harder to deal with, because it acknowledges the HUGE project that feminism constitutes. Anger is easily channeled into activism. The sadness underneath it gives a tinge of reality to that activism. But perhaps you can reframe your sadness as: “Im excited, happy, enthusiastic, determined, etc., because changing the world so that it’s safe for women is a huge and vital undertaking that I dedicate myself to.” And when the sadness becomes overwhelming (which it does from time to time), I suggest that you take a news vacation (not read, view, or otherwise focus on women’s issues) for a while in order to rejuvenate yourself. We passionate people need time off once in a while.

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      • You are so wonderful Nancy. I love your idea of reframing the sadness. It is so powerful. I just recently found out that I am INFP (same as Anne Shirley :) ) . It describes me to a the nines. I’m proud of it. I just sometimes need to find sanctuary from the world, as we all do. So when it becomes too much– time to cuddle with my dogs, take a walk, and lose myself in a wonderful book till I have that inner peace back and can continue on. Thank you so much for your comment!

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  4. When I was young and working in a museum, I posed naked for a photo shoot taken by a friend and fellow artist — I did it for free as a help to her, because she couldn’t afford a professional model. She transformed the photos into some gorgeous drawings, which looked like me, but were far more beautiful than I. One of the drawings was placed in an exhibit which I attended and some were purchased, one by a famous collector. I have no idea where those drawings are now, or what happened to the photos, etc. But every time I see a nude in a painting, I identify it with some profound, enduring part of myself, something timeless, I can’t quite explain, except that it is connected to the archetype of the role of “model” in the classic idea of the “artist and the model.” If someone were to use those old photos unkindly, it would indeed be very sad, but it still could not take away all the wonderful things I learned from the experience, or the joy of the memory of it even now.

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    • Sarah, your story reminds me of a wonderful scene in the mini-series “Parade’s End.” The main character, a young British (still virginal) feminist at the turn of the century, sees a painting of a nude reclining on a divan and is intrigued, when another young feminist cuts through the canvas with a knife, yelling expletives about denigration of women’s bodies. I identified with both women. I think my daughter, a 3rd wave feminist, helped me to understand this. One day she was going out with pretty skimpy clothing on, and I asked her if she didn’t want to cover herself more. She responded that I as a feminist ought to know that objectification of women’s bodies was not OUR fault. It was men’s problem. As a feminist I realized that she was right, but, of course, as a mother, I wanted her safe.

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      • Nancy, I can relate to your protecting wing as a mom, absolutely. I am rather sheepish physically and was then as a young woman also. I have no idea how I got up the nerve to do the modelling. My friend and I had studied art history together in college, so we took the modelling very seriously, and she truly needed a real life subject to work from at that time. No regrets.

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  5. Sarah. I love everything about your experience! Everything. Our bodies are profound and timeless– and I honestly could only hope more people would have experiences like yours that reinforce that type of positivity and joy when it comes to how intrinsically beautiful and not full of “baggage” our naked bodies are.

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  6. Martha – Thank you so much for this post! My first reaction to the scandal was to “blame the victim” for having/taking the photos, but after reading your post, I agree that the “big picture” is much more complicated than I first thought. I can’t actually remember the last time anyone got upset about the posting of a photo of a naked man. Hmmmm. Patriarchy again. I feel its collar around my neck every time I consider going out in public without wearing a bra. Sigh.

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    • Hi Katharine,

      Thank you so much for your comment. Even more shocking (or not)– apparently quite a few male celebrities were hacked in batch as well– but those photos were not leaked. This is that double standard that Carol hinted at above. Like you said– Sigh.

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  7. I wish JLaw could see this. She’d thank you. I’ll thank you instead.

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    • Thanks Laury! As much as some of the reaction has made me sad and angry– I have to tell you that I saw the tide turn quickly. The fact that this was very quickly labeled a sex crime and the current pictures have (mostly) been removed makes me feel hopeful. I know the main hacker is on the run and threatening to leak more (including child pornography because McKayla Maroney–Olympic medalist– has admitted some of her pictures were from when she was underage) and that is infuriating but I’m trying to take heart that at least this time the discussion quickly turned and is challenging people to think past just the reactionary blame game.

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  8. Reblogged this on The Rouge Reader.

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  9. Marci,
    I feel this post may be one of the best things I’ve ever read on FAR.

    I think this tweet summed up most of how I feel about people’s varied responses –
    NSA snooping: WORST THING EVER.
    Trolls doing hate crime shit: CAN’T DOXX THEM BECAUSE INTERNET PRIVACY AND ANONYMITY ARE SACRED PRINCIPLES.
    Anything to do with women: IF THOSE BITCHES WANTED PRIVACY THEY SHOULDN’T HAVE TAKEN NUDES.

    I feel that when people don’t get “it” they too go to the blame game and most of the time that goes directly back to the person who is the victim. Please know that there is nothing wrong with being an “angry feminist” or being “angry” in general. If we didn’t have angry feminists, we wouldn’t have a lot of what we treasure today!

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    • John, I really appreciate your support. It means a lot. The response from the internet community involved in the actual hacking and distribution, as you have stated, is just the tip of that double standard that always goes with privilege/misogyny and women’s bodies. NSA= worst thing on earth. Hacking women’s personal files: OUR RIGHTS AS INTERNET USERS! ugh. I struggle. I really struggle.

      I also appreciate your comment about anger. I can’t tell you how often I hear: calm down. be happier. stop reading bad new stories. Could you not have studied something less intense? I want to tell people, “NO! Join in. Be angry with me. Be aware. Be informed. Don’t wait until something happens to you or your loved ones to have to feel something!”

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      • Anger can be as much of a driving force as anything else. Yes, there are times we need to sit back and think before we speak but mostly, for me, when someone tells you to calm down, they are scared of the passion you are showing. Anger makes people uncomfortable. Sadness makes people uncomfortable. However, people feel more able to deal with sadness than anger because dealing with anger means having to then confront your own.

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      • This is so true, John. Only lately have I begun to notice (#ferguson) how afraid people are of anger– of others but mostly of their own– what would happen if we all felt righteous anger? Could we change the world? I love what you said here. So powerful.

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      • I LOVE your passion and relate to it intensely!!! The problem is that we need downtime in order to be passionate, so be careful to allow yourself some instead of burning out.

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  10. Martha —

    This is a great post!! You bring together several (supposedly) disparate feminist issues in enlightening ways: virgin/whore understandings, double standards, the male (ownership) glance, sexist pedophilia, pornography, revenge porn (which is different from just plain ole pornography) within a framework that says that our society does not believe that women’s bodies are our own, i.e. society has to control women’s bodies. I could go on and add reproductive rights, women’s health care, women’s dress codes (e.g. not being able to take off our shirts and bras when it’s hotter than hell or breastfeed in public), women’s mothering, etc. Thanks. I can’t wait to read your next post.

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  11. Nancy! I really appreciate it! These issues are so complex and yet (as I get older) they become so transparent IN their complexity. Like a beast that has nowhere to hide. I look forward to the discussions here at F&R and growing with the community.

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  12. Women’s privacy villated by men. The horror of how women are portrayed in the media, I have so had it with the whole thing. Somehow, I missed this news story, and actually have no idea who Jennifer Lawrence is. I hope they track down the creeps who stole her privacy and throw them in jail. I won’t look at those photos, I won’t look at porn, and this is how men destroy women. I’d have to say the entire celebrity culture is a horrifying epidemic of femininity forced on all women, and women’s very bodies out for display by Porn Nation, Porn Men and Patriarchy. Thanks for putting this together Nancy. I wish all women would declare a war on femininity itself and the culture that makes women objects to begin with.

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