The ethics of looking away
By JESSICA VALENTI
There is an obsessive tendency in American culture with elevating women—young, beautiful women, especially—to celebrity status just to bask in their eventual fall. There’s also a tendency in American culture, meanwhile, to shame women for their sexuality. So I would not be surprised in the days ahead to see arguments as to why this is somehow the fault of the celebrities whose phones were hacked—that these women took the pictures, that they were posing, that generating publicity is part of their job.
But victim-blaming is just that, no matter how famous the victim is. We live in a culture with a peculiar relationship to female celebrity. In much the same way that misogyny tells men that women are there for male consumption, the public and media tell us that famous women are public property. It’s why models and pageant queens are expected to smile graciously and respond to horny teen boys asking them to prom, or why they’re called uptight bitches if they don’t smile for every camera shoved in their face. The underlying premise is that these women have consented to being there for public entertainment—whether they like it or not.