Stop Blaming Jennifer Lawrence

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On Sunday, the latest, and perhaps most massive, naked photo leak of high profile celebrities showed yet again that in this age of the internet, violation of privacy is something people do just because they can.

The master list included Jennifer Lawrence, Arianna Grande, Victoria Justice, Kate Upton, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Some were confirmed as authentic, some were alleged. Reactions from the public ranged from sympathetic to disparaging. The fans who rushed to protect rather than condemn were encouraging and intimated the possible societal progression forward from victim-blaming rhetoric. Sadly, other people’s quick inclination to indulge in shaming celebrities showed that we still have a long way to go. People lined up to wag their fingers and go on to comment on why these celebrities didn’t deserve any empathy from others for their decision to take naked pictures.

Some of the reasoning behind derision against Jennifer Lawrence pointed at her irresponsibility for taking them in the first place. Is this the price of celebrity? Once one becomes a member of the rich and famous, are they signing over their right to privacy? The sentiment among unsympathetic commentators was essentially: if any celebrity dares to complain about privacy, he/she needs to shut up, cradle his/her riches and VIP lifestyle, and suck it up.

One commenter on People Magazine’s article on Lawrence made his indifference towards her plight clear.

“Good thing she can act because she would be a flop in any job that required brains and common sense. BooHoo, Jennifer. If you are stupid enough to have these photos on your phone, you have no right to cry over them being aired without your permission. This has happened over and over to these so called “stars” so it isn’t like your weren’t aware of the possibility of this happening. Dumb.”

Lawrence didn’t choose to have her naked images posted all over the internet. That control was taken from her when someone dug into her personal files and flaunted the ability to invade her private moments and share them with the world. My sympathies lie with Ms. Lawrence, as her fame does not give anyone the excuse to raid her phone & computer files.

Vanessa Hudgens, a former Disney actress and one of many celebrities who has experienced the embarrassment of having naked pictures in the past, apologized for the nude leaks because the public expected her to. Someone creeped into her life and dragged out pictures that were never meant to be shared with anyone other than the intended recipient, yet she was blamed. In order to soothe mass public lashing, she had to express regret over her actions. The public’s reaction and her apology seemed to underline a lack of responsibility and “moral turpitude” on Hudgens’ part. Hudgens and Lawrence shouldn’t have to go on apology tours for a wrongful action that was committed against them. They did nothing wrong.

With the internet, we are used to knowing everything about everyone and having an inside look at people’s lives, but we need to think about the implications of this case. What does it mean for our own privacy? Should we never record moments in our personal lives that we wouldn’t want the world to see? Should we censor our lives because if anything gets out that we don’t want the world to see… it’s our fault? That sounds like a pretty crazy world to live in.

When a crime is committed against a victim, the culpability lies with the perpetrator. This case is no different. The person who made the conscious effort to dig for and expose Lawrence’s most private moments is extremely unethical, to put it lightly. It’s an appalling invasion of one’s privacy, and it’s also illegal. And despite popular dismissive attitudes toward A-list celebrities, this incident shows that something of this nature could easily happen to you or someone that you care about. Instead of reproaching the victims, we should be proactive and protect the victims.  Whether you are a member of the “elite” or not, you have a right to be protected from people using the Internet as a means to publicly and shamelessly prey on people. Hopefully, this dialogue will move away from its shameful victim blaming and celebrity loathing and turn towards a necessary conversation about victim rights and a right to privacy; especially, in regards to cyber laws.