Friday, October 31, 2014

What were they thinking?

The news has been full of stories the past couple of days of the release of embarrassing photographs of celebrated female personalities, dressing this up in a somewhat more dignified manner than the situation commands.  One of the online "news" sources was quick to come out with a headline telling us that the celebrated figures are amongst those who are "not to blame".  Bull, they're exactly who should be blamed.

Yes, I'm not excusing the thieves who stole their images, but how darned dumb can you be?  If your photographed and filmed image is your stock and trade, you ought to be protecting that image. For that matter, if a person has any level of decency they should be protecting it.  If a person is a public figure of any kind, and they release a photograph of any kind in any electronic form, they're publishing it and it will get out.

I don't, therefore, feel too sorry for the victims of the crime.  I don't excuse the thieves, but a person should be at least half way aware of reality.

I do feel shame, however, for those whose acts were shameless at the time, and now are shamed.  In one way, in fact, I feel that their reaction is a good thing, in that they are embarrassed by something that should indeed be embarrassing.  We can only hope that the embarrassment is not just that these photographs intended for a limited audience were rained down from the cloud, but moreover that they are embarrassed about having done the act of having such photos taken, or taking such photos. 

An element of this, I'd note, is that some of the reaction to this story assumes a level of poor judgment and conduct, and that people should be protected from the consequences of their own poor judgments in this area.  It's not so much a warning about letting those without sin cast the first stone, but rather an assumption that everyone is universally guilty of the sin society should be careful to make sure everyone turns a blind eye towards it.  But not everyone takes photographs of themselves of this type and shares them, and nobody need do it.  You particularly do not need to do it if selling your image is part of your trade.  Granted, at least one of the person's allegedly violated by this trespass works in an industry in which she is practically fully revealed anyway, but that makes no difference.  Up until this, there's a certain element of personal digity retained, the taking away of which sparks the outrage, to a degree.

It also sparks a certain degree of misplaced feminist outrage.  At least one very left leaning electronic journal was quick to excuse the conduct of the violated, but really, some focus should be placed upon this conduct most of all by that quarter.  Women already have to struggle against the concept that they're objects, and everything in the entertainment and arts industry tends to objectify them.  Visual arts, in and of themselves, tend to favor only those whose appearance allures, but that factor is a much more pronounced aspect of those professions for women than for men.  To find that women will objectify themselves reinforces, in the very worst way, the negative lessons that so many pick up from our society as it is.  It only takes one such example to take the most professional and accomplished of women down a peg on the ladder of respect, and they all hurt in the process.

Again, none of this is to suggest that the thieves are justified in their actions.  Clearly they are not.  But we should be clear about the crime, which was to fully reveal to the general public the self objectification of the victims of the crime, thereby making the objectification deeper, more complete, and universally known.  That's very bad, but the errors in evidence here didn't start with them, although it was certainly completed by them.

A little dignity, in an age with so little of it, would be welcome.


But wait. . . not so fast.

Well, one of the developments in this story has been that one of the victims has expressed "embarrassment".  And, there's been a host of those in print riding to the rescue to defend the embarrassed damsels by proclaiming those who have uploaded the photographs on the net to be debased.

This is interesting, in that it shows an element of shame remains, which isn't a bad thing. The ability to be shamed is the ability to acknowledge an element of guilt.  So, those who have objectified themselves acknowledge a degree of guilt over it, while those uploading their shame are being shunned.  All in all, maybe some good comes out of this.

At some point, it seems, a party has to hit rock bottom in order to bounce back.  That's really unpleasant for those experiencing it, but then we're all guilty of behavior we regret.  The fact that we have a situation here where people are actually drawing a line, and the line is more or less the same on both sides of the line drawing, may mean that bottom has been reached and some push back begins.  If so, that's a strike in women's favor, as it means that there's a point at which being treated like an object just won't be tolerated any more.

Postscript II

Today we learn that some artist has determined to use life size blow ups of these images for a gallery display.

Okay, enough is enough.  Nobody deserves that, and that's totally unwarranted.  It was naive to think that these stolen images wouldn't hit the net, but to have them blown up to life size and put on display is depraved and shameful.

Postscript III

This odd story has continued on, but I've let it sit as I've thought enough was said about the entire embarrassing mess.  But today, the actress involved is reported as having made some comments in print that I thought were intelligent and noteworthy.   She compared the viewing of the photographs, or the searching, to an assault.

You know, I think that's right.  And she deserves credit for noting it in that fashion.

Of course, if we do that, we should make the logical extension. The intentional distribution of such photos by people who they are of (which did not occur here) would also be equivalent to specialized immoral and illegal behavior. That we're starting to look at this, in this sense, is a good thing, however, really.

Postscript IV

This story has died down, and I should let this thread die down here, but a couple of items or comments are perhaps in order.

On the item immediately above, it turns out the written comments also include a comment by the actress to the effect that as she was separated by distance from her boyfriend, a partial motivation was to give him  photos to look at, of that type, so he wouldn't go out and find photos elsewhere, assuming that every man must be looking at that stuff.

Well, bad psychological concept there.

Additionally, today's news indicates that a supposed comedienne has posted an instagram photo of herself without a shirt in a supposed act of protest against sexism.  Hmmm. . . . , sound like Chelsea is completely out to lunch or is confusing public display with protest.  About 190% of the men who go searching for that photo will be not looking at it for its political content.  Of note there's a certain eastern European protest group that takes that approach as well, and it isn't their message that makes up their appeal really.  These groups could use a basic course in how the psychology of this stuff really works.


Pat and Marcus said...

To add to Postscript II, and showing my age I guess, one of the celebrated figures in this flap is, in my view, just a girl, and while she may be old enough to vote, and acted inappropriately, she is still just a girl. It's really shameful for somebody to take advantage of this error and make what amount to big posters of it.

A little societal decency goes a long ways. A mistake is a mistake, and we should learn by it, but for goodness sake.

Pat and Marcus said...

I note that this exhibit is supposed to be part of an anti-google exhibit.

Well, I don't care, even if there is a point (and I don't know if there is). The images were stolen and they're embarrassing. That's point enough.

Pat and Marcus said...

Groan. . . this past week we have to more incidents of young women putting themselves on display. Not by accident, but by design. Don't they realize that this has the same impact, perhaps to a slightly smaller degree, than the accidental leaks do.

One is a well known actress, appearing without makeup, as if that will mean the voyeurs will not leap right in. Believing that proves some point is self delusion.

The other makes no bones about it, a young woman mostly known for putting herself on display has once again, showing that foundational body feature, so to speak that she is best known for. Who would want to be known that way? And once again, it reduce her to an object, and all women with her.