I’m gon be who I be
And I don’t feel no faults
For all the lies that you bought
You can try as you may
Break me down when I say
That it ain’t up to you
Gon on do what you do
Hate on me hater
Now or Later
Cause I’m gonna do me
You’ll be made baby
~ Jill Scott, Hate On Me (A-Z Lyrics)
Like with Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, I am somewhat amazed and abashed that I am still writing about the great Celebrity Internet Photo Hack of August 2014.* (Named so very precisely because, as Roxane Gay reminds us in The Guardian, there are likely to be many more such acts of thievery and digital violation in weeks and months to come.) Turns out that here, as with so many things, that the more deeply I study anything, the more facets I find deserving of examination and expression.
Today’s examination was prompted by a post on Son of Baldwin’s Facebook page, linking to a brief article in the Washington Post that contrasts the differing responses — both by Internet trolls “in favor” of the leaked photos and by “white feminists” speaking out against the hacking incident — to the distribution of photos depicting Jennifer Lawrence as opposed to photos “depicting” Jill Scott.**
[SIDEBAR] Before any Caucasian-type people get defensive in a #notallwhitegirls kinda way, let me refer you to this helpful primer by BattyMamzelle, which uses the quotation marks around the phrase “white feminism” to indicate:
a specific set of single-issue, non-intersectional, superficial feminist practices. It is the feminism we understand as mainstream; the feminism obsessed with body hair, and high heels and makeup, and changing your married name. It is the feminism you probably first learned. “White feminism” is the feminism that doesn’t understand western privilege, or cultural context. It is the feminism that doesn’t consider race as a factor in the struggle for equality.
I don’t know for sure that Justin Moyer was consciously replicating a similar distinction, though his use of quotation marks in his article and its title give me hope that is the case. Regardless of Moyer’s intentionality, I am going to mirror/adapt Mamzelle’s coinage in this post by talking about White Feminism/ists and (if the more general language turns out to be needed) white feminism/ists.
So, for example, by nature of my ethnicity and feminist beliefs, I am always a white feminist. But when I’m being blind to intersectional issues and to my racial privilege (like when watching Miley on the 2013 VMAs, for example), I’m having a White Feminist moment. And I expect this post will be about those discomfiting moments when I’m wavering between those two positionalities. [/SIDEBAR]
[SIDEBAR #2] That was one helluva long sidebar. Sorry ’bout that. [/SIDEBAR #2]
So anyhow, some of the basic points of contrast:
1. An embarrassing silence on the part of many White Feminists and White Feminist news outlets about the violation of Scott’s privacy, and that of other black women.
This part of CIPHA*** broke big across my radar today, and as the hours ticked by, it’s been beyond embarrassing to see so many White Feminists proclaiming their utter cultural ignorance, asking “Who’s Jill Scott?”
I’m not that culturally ignorant — own two albums, was fortunate enough to see her in concert once. But I’ll admit I had no idea Scott had been victimized by this until today. Now, I’ve been very deliberate in NOT wanting to look at the list of who was victimized because everything I’ve had to say about this type of violation is, in my eyes, applicable to everyone ever victimized in this way, whether right now during CIPHA or a non-celebrity subjected to “revenge porn” two months or two years ago. So, since I was interested in writing about the event as a whole, and since checking out the list of names felt a little bit like I would be participating in the ongoing privacy violation, I just referred to the few celebrities that were named in my core sources — HuffPo, EW, etc. — and moved on with my cultural analysis form there.
I knew it was completely exploitative, the way so many news outlets have made Jennifer Lawrence into the poster girl for this event. Still, I played right along with that in how I pulled quotes from my sources without calling attention to the extra level of media exploitation in building the whole news campaign around one crime victim out of dozens. And I didn’t spare a thought at all to the ways that by propagating this focus on the white, blond celebrity I played right along with the dominant narrative of whiteness as “normal,” thus “othering” the true diversity of human ethnicity and skin color. (Remember that controversy about Rue in The Hunger Games movie? See also.)
2. An unbalanced level of protectiveness around Lawrence as compared to Scott
As reported by Ariel Leconte on Revolutionary in Pink Pumps, Twitter has taken down nude photos of Lawrence and suspended the accounts of those propagating said photos, while no similar actions have been taken to protect Scott.
Undeniably reprehensible. Come on, Twitter, Inc.! Get some ethics and fairness in gear!
3. Responses to Scott’s photo has included a nasty thread of fat-shaming
Here’s where a third axis of privilege — gender, race, and now thin privilege — gets added to the intersectionality tango we’re dancing. Julie Sprankles at SheKnows provides a solid summary around this:
Unlike the seedy but flattering (if you can call perverse come-ons and sexual innuendo such) responses being tossed out in response to Jennifer Lawrence’s nude photos, Jill Scott’s photos were met with a barrage of cruel, body-shaming tweets — despite the fact that only one of the leaked photos of Scott was, in fact, real and actually taken by the star.
Both women are talented. Both women are stunning. So what’s with the wildly dissimilar responses to these women’s photos? Is it due to their inherently different body types? Feminists flocked to the internet to support Lawrence in droves; where’s Scott’s feminist cavalry?
What’s interesting to me about these threads of dissimilarity and discourse is the ways I feel as if I would have actively been defending Scott — especially with the intersection between the fat-shaming she has suffered and the ways that fat acceptance is such a leitmotif for me — if I had known about any of this.
Maybe there’s a sort of half-comfort in knowing I didn’t make a conscious priority to say that Lawrence’s privacy or suffering is more important than Scott’s. I wasn’t actively discounting Scott’s experience, I was just ill-informed. Or would ignorant be an apter term?
So: maybe not even a half-measure of comfort in that line of thought.
It is incredibly discomfiting to see and to study how deeply unconscious my support of that value proposition continues to be, simply by way of the news sources I pay attention to. Clearly, I need to add some new voices to my news feed, and wake the hell up.
* Shall I call it CIPHA? Oh, why the hell not…
** Irony quotes used to indicate that of the two CIPHA photos labelled as depicting Scott, only one has been verified by the singer as actually an image of her.
*** Sorry, I refuse to dignify use of the “Fappening” nickname.
Image credit: “Jill scott-07-mika” by Mikamote. Unaltered. Used under a Creative Commons license. (Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jill_Scott#mediaviewer/File:Jill_scott-07-mika.jpg )