Scandal or crime?

October 11, 2014

It is assumed that since actresses are on cinema and TV screens, it is somehow justified to rob them of their dignity and privacyCelebrity scandals are nothing new. Famous people being caught doing...

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It is assumed that since actresses are on cinema and TV screens, it is somehow justified to rob them of their dignity and privacy

Celebrity scandals are nothing new. Famous people being caught doing something they are not supposed to do, the entertainment media and its views relish in such news. The stories get a lot juicer if the celebrities are young and beautiful.
Nude photographs being published for mass consumption is also nothing new. They might be consensual or taken by paparazzi as was the case with Kate Middleton. A disturbingly common way for nude photographs to make it into the public sphere now is through the perverted individuals who consider it within their rights to hack personal web accounts and phones of famous people.
When Hollywood actress Jennifer Lawrence along with several other actresses was targeted in this way, a few months ago the coverage that followed focused mainly on the ‘celebrity scandal’ aspect. The photographs were quickly distributed and viewed by millions and as is the case with everything else on the internet, they are now forever available to anyone who cares to spend a few minutes searching for them.
Several of the women attacked have spoken up about the incident and Jennifer Lawrence too has recently added her voice to the protest. She has spoken about the emotional distress caused by the incident, not only to herself but also to her family and friends. She has labelled the incident a sex crime not a scandal and held everyone – from the hackers, the host websites and those who viewed the photographs – responsible for perpetrating it.
Her fury at what has happened and the way in which it has damaged and altered her life is completely justified. Usually after such incidents, internet users especially women, are cautioned to be more careful about their personal data. This is sound advice that should be imparted as frequently as possible and its importance cannot be undervalued.
But to glide over the injustice of having to live through such horror because someone chose to take advantage of weak privacy controls to not only get a glimpse into one’s life but also to make it free for consumption is unacceptable. When someone becomes the victim of a crime like robbery, is the responsibility of society and law enforcement to caution and shame the victim rather than to catch and punish the perpetrator?
However, when it comes to sex crimes this is usually what happens. The victims are named, blamed and shamed. They are told exactly how what happened was their own fault. For these actresses, their fame and good looks were used against them. It was assumed that since they are on cinema and TV screens, since their photographs and interviews appear in magazines and gossip columns, it is somehow justified to rob them of their dignity and privacy.
What this says about attitudes towards women in the public eye is another matter, this incident and others like it show the lax moral standards when it comes to online behaviour. Lawrence rightly pointed out that the viewers of these non-consensually distributed photographs are as much part of the problem as the publishers. It is the appetite for such crass material that encourages people to distribute it.
If instead of looking at, discussing and sharing the pictures, the online community had spent some time berating the perpetrators and speaking up against such crimes, it might have had the effect of mitigating some of the emotional damage suffered by the victims and could even help curb the frequency of such violations of privacy in the future.
The internet is still in the early stages when it comes to moral development. One can only hope that things will improve with time.
The writer is a businessstudies graduate fromsouthern Punjab.
Email: asna.ali90

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