iCloud hack raises eyebrows: Why victim-blaming is never okay

By Jessie Kuenzel
Staff Writer

In light of the recent iCloud hack and subsequent release of several private photos of celebrities, there has been much discussion of who’s “at fault” in this situation.

After I posted an article titled “Jennifer Lawrence Nude Photo Leak Isn’t A ‘Scandal.’ It’s a Sex Crime,” from forbes.com, a close friend of mine shared the following comment:

“So…here’s my wallet. It has $5,000 in it. I have an ‘expectation’ that if it’s found no one will steal the cash. Unfortunately, [that is] not the real world.”

I was thoroughly shocked by her words, especially coming from someone who—all summer—had been my only liberal-minded ally who agreed with me at every turn in an office full off uber-conservatives (all of whom I love dearly as friends, just not as political debate partners).

Later, in a conversation with my mother she said something very similar. “Well, [those people] just shouldn’t have taken the photos. You can never be sure with things like that, which is why you just shouldn’t have them in the first place.”

My response to everyone who thinks like this is:

If your friend’s identity gets stolen, do you blame a person for shopping online, or do you blame the person who stole the card number? What if a bank said “oh sorry, you were using it, so it was unrealistic for you to expect someone wouldn’t steal your credit card number, we aren’t reimbursing you.”

The fact is that it’s not a woman’s—or anyone’s—job to structure her life around the negative actions of others in order to avoid them. Women shouldn’t have to dress “better” to avoid getting attacked, people should just not attack them. And women shouldn’t be expected not take photos of their own body if they choose; people should just not violate their privacy, steal them, and then post them online.

People often make the mistake of thinking that somehow when a woman—or anyone, as this conversation definitely applies to more than just cisgendered men and women—gets the courage to be proud of her body, she, in some way, is then responsible for the gross and sexist actions that can be potentially taken against her. That’s pretty messed up.

Those photos were taken in private and not meant to be shared with the entire internet. It’s not too much to expect someone to respect her privacy. By saying things like that, it’s enabling that type of behavior and attitude towards women that we don’t have to respect them because “she took those photos, so obviously I can’t refrain from sharing them with the whole world.”

This is a call for raised awareness to the fact that this is more than just a cool bit of this week’s celebrity gossip, so instead of everyone just being like “hehehe I saw her boobies,” we’re also aware that it’s an unfortunate circumstance in which someone acted really inappropriately towards another human being and violated their privacy.

Why is it our job to stop bad things happening to us? Why shouldn’t we just be able to expect people to not do them?

I for one have taken my fair share of risque photos that I wouldn’t be too happy to see floating around the internet without my explicit permission.

There’s no doubt that the man who hacked the iCloud was at fault, but there has been so much chatter that “if she hadn’t taken them it wouldn’t have been an issue,” and it is just not acceptable.

We don’t tell victims of break-ins that they “just shouldn’t have bought all those things, because if you hadn’t bought them, they wouldn’t have been stolen,” or someone who has just been mugged, “you just shouldn’t have been walking on the street.”

I don’t imagine that there are many people out there who would have the gall to blame a murder victim for being murdered, but there are plenty of people right now blaming celebrities for doing nothing worse than having the expectations that their private lives would remain private.

We’re living in a transition period between the worlds where “leaking a photo” involved a whole process of hard-copies and copy machines and newspapers to a world where all it takes is just a click of a button and your image is everywhere from Boston to Bangkok. But regardless of what, when, where or why, there is no excuse—none at all—for blaming the victim of a crime, and really that’s all that needs to be, or should have to be, said.

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