July 18, 2008
Women’s bodies are not public domain: how many times does this need to be said?
A really great post at Hoyden About Town on a recent incident of a man photographing an “upskirt” shot in public, and posting it online. The comments she lists in the post are really great…the first set makes you smile and the second makes you pissed.
But reading these particular comments from the skeevy guy’s post got me thinking:
- “He photographed in public a nice pair of legs and he added the photo onto he’s [sic] PERSONAL blog”
I read a lot people justifying various breeches of privacy with the excuse of “well, she’s in public.” What is it about public space that means anything goes? “Public” space only means anyone can be there–no one can be refused to be in public space. How does “anyone can be there” translate to “anyone can be there and should understand that at any minute they could be photographed or videotaped doing whatever they are doing and wearing whatever they are wearing and can be distributed in any context for free and by entering public space people are consenting to this.”
You know honestly, I don’t care whether some dude videotapes a woman bending over to pick up something she dropped or a person eating their lunch on a bench, both are wrong. Both are invasions. Why do people feel the right to photograph people they don’t know and post them online? Photos of any content, displayed in any context. Why does anybody think this is ok? And why does being in public mean you cede the right to own your body? I’m starting to get really irritated with the arrogance and entitlement of these justifiers.
And it’s not as if people can help being in public. You can’t feasibly survive without leaving your house.
- “Nicu didn’t try to photograph anything that the girl wanted to keep hidden.”
For the nth time, since when is allowing to be visible for fleeting glances the same as allowing to be visible for photographic capture and display online? This would be like saying that all women who go to the beach are consenting to or want to or wouldn’t mind photos of them in said suit posted online. All together ladies: “HELL, NO!” How asinine is this reasoning?
I mean geez, how hard is it to just leave people alone? Live and let be? Seriously?!
So I had scheduled the above post for Friday. On Thursday, I checked back on the Hoyden thread’s discussion, and sure enough a douchebag had entered the discussion, reeking with male privilege. I really couldn’t let his fallacious comments go unaddressed, so I commented on the thread, and wanted to post what I wrote here as well, since this is a topic I am very passionate about and I write about often.
So again, from Hoyden About Town (and I encourage you to check out the thread and the blog, it’s good reading):
Oh, and by the way: I demand that you all ask for my permission before responding to this post directly or indirectly. Anything else will offend me.
Actually–wrong. By commenting on this blog you are consenting to discussion. That’s part of the rules of engagement in the blogging medium. She walked outside of her house. Into her community. And traveled by public transportation as a human being and community member. That is not consent to anything. You have consented to this activity; she did not consent to his activity. That is the crucial difference.
I know I rail on this issue a lot, and it might seem a small thing on The List of important issues. But I think this is very important: it says an awful lot about what women’s “place” is, who has rights to women’s bodies, and to what degree to women own their own person; in other words, to what extent are women really Lockean liberal subjects, who own property in their own person?? To me, this is an important question that has implications for all sort of women’s issues–issues legal equality (“rights”) and issues of social equality.
As I’ve said before, I don’t know what to do about it, practically speaking. For one, how could you stop people from doing thing things you aren’t aware of! And second, the internet is so expansive that making a law that make this kind of crap illegal would do little to stop it–because it could only be stopped if the person photographed, or someone they knew, actually saw it.
It’s more reasonable to attack the root cause of this: that in our society, women** do not own the right to their bodies in public, and increasingly in private. This is what needs to change. As I said above too, why can’t people leave other people alone? That’s still true, but this isn’t just an individual issue; it’s a cultural one, exacerbated by recent technology that makes this nearly impossible to solve through law. There has to be a paradigm change in the discourse on women’s bodies. And is this not part of the unfinished sexual revolution? I think so.
**And I know this kind of thing affects men too, mostly in the celebrity world, but the entitlement attitude repeatedly comes from men about women, and I think it’s more a gender issue than, say the celebrity/paparazzi issue is. Although that, too, is about public “ownership,” and while it affects male celebs too, again, it affects women disproportionately more.
Check out the comment discussion on this post at my feministing community page.