Reel Women: How Jennifer Lawrence and Womansplainer Show a Need for ‘He for She’
This week, Jennifer Lawrence finally broke her silence regarding the massive hack that resulted in her nude photos (as well as those of several other female celebrities) being released onto the internet, aptly describing the incident as a "sex crime." Meanwhile, Reddit users are actually suggesting that Lawrence and other victims of the hacking attack unite to contribute to a fund to develop powerful encryption software. Why is it that, when women are put under attack, the onus is on us to clean up the mess?
For weeks now we've sat in the fallout of this shameful incident, a cyber sexual assault on a massive scale that is so horrific and depressing, and one with which -- unfortunately -- many women can empathize. To have your privacy violated, to have your right to say no and choose what happens with and to your body taken from you, is such a personal violation. There's a disconnect that occurs between men and women in particular cases like this because there's a lack of empathy involved here. It's impossible for the man or men who perpetrated and perpetuated this crime to empathize with what they've done because what are the odds that someone would violate or humiliate them in such a specific way? And the people online who have viewed these photos and have been participants in their own way -- and who are largely male -- lack that empathy, as well.
Empathy comes from a place of having gone through similar experiences and being able to emotionally relate. I can't speak to the bizarre behavior of the women out there who seem to believe it's somehow the fault of these female celebrities for taking or sending the photos in the first place, or for having the nerve to exist. Maybe they've just been blessed with blissful lives where no one has ever violated their privacy or assaulted them in any way. It must be nice to live in a bubble.
When Lawrence finally spoke out, my first thought wasn't relief or joy or gratitude, but that she didn't owe us a response at all. That she is speaking out is fantastic, and we should be grateful that she has a strong voice that she's willing to share. Her candor about her inclination to apologize in her statement to Vanity Fair is heartbreaking, and an emotion to which too many women can, sadly, relate -- it's the shame too many women feel after being violated, and the odd feeling to apologize as if they've done something wrong to deserve what's happened to them.
Then, of course, came the inevitable reactions. Users on that charming bastion of integrity we call Reddit, calling her a hypocrite, posting more misogynistic BS and, the best of all, actually suggesting that she -- along with other victims of the hack -- start a foundation to fund encryption software so this doesn't happen again. You have got to be kidding me. The thinking is horribly misguided, and puts the responsibility on the shoulders of the victims.
Meanwhile, this past week, comics creator Elizabeth Simins joked that she should create a service to charge men to explain feminist issues -- and then she actually did it! She created "The Womansplainer." For $20, she will Google something for you, and for $50-100, she will spend various amounts of time conversing with you on Twitter about subjects ranging from rape culture, rape jokes, what "systemic" means, and how women are not treated equally. While it's mostly a very clever joke, it serves as excellent commentary on our ongoing societal problem with putting all the responsibility on women to constantly deal with the misogyny directed at them. Why is it our job and ours alone to clean up, explain and deal with the issues that devastate us?
While I am certainly glad that Jennifer Lawrence has spoken out about this aptly-described sex crime (and it is without a doubt a sex crime), it shouldn't be her responsibility to do something about it. It's been weeks since this nightmare began, and the biggest developments on the timeline of this shit storm of events have been (A) another release of photos and (B) Jennifer Lawrence says something about it. Apple denies that there was a breach in their holy and magical Cloud and refuses to do anything about it, and that's it. We're just basically done and sitting on our hands, waiting for more female celebrities to speak out and say something smart and strong so we can figuratively pat them on the back and say, "You go, girl!"
And it will be the women who speak because it is always the women who speak. When it comes to misogyny, it often feels as though we stand alone on an island. This isn't something that's exclusive to the nude photo hacking incident, either. Whether we're dealing with issues like domestic abuse, sexual assault, the wage gap, or even something I might write about in this space like the unfair treatment of women in Hollywood. If it's misogyny, we're not only the targets and the ones who have to deal with its effects, but we're by and large the most vocal opposition to it. It seems patently unfair to throw mud at someone and then act as if they should be the ones to clean it up.
As Emma Watson famously detailed in her 'He for She' speech at the U.N., these are not just female problems. These are human problems. The mere fact that we should have to say so suggests something like, "What if this was your mother? Your sister? Your daughter? Your spouse?" is ridiculous. That shouldn't matter because a woman's rights should be respected regardless of her relation, physical proximity to you, or how attractive you find her. You are not entitled to anything from us, period. We shouldn't have to say those things to elicit sympathy because these things just shouldn't happen at all. There is right and there is wrong, and we shouldn't have to "Womansplain" this too. Unless you're paying, of course.[googleAd adunit="cutout-placeholder" placeholder="cutout-placeholder"]