In the information age, the internet is being used to spread knowledge and understanding to millions. It’s also being used to spread stolen pictures of boobs. What are the implications of the latest online gender war?
We live in interesting times. We read of technological advancement, socio-political shifts, expanding knowledge. But it seems increasing that for interesting things to happen, something terrible is first its catalyst. In this interesting moment in history, it seems the internet is collapsing under the weight of misogyny. Each week a new festering boil of internet driven discrimination opens, be it the backlash and bomb threats against Anita Sarkeesian, the furore over the Jane Austen £5 note or one of any number of similar such vile scandals. The latest and most far reaching of these has come to be known as ‘the Fappening.’
Early this month, a catalogue of famous names and the opportunity to view their highly private candid photographs at the click of a button appeared overnight. There’s no doubt that this was a heinous invasion. Yet still debate raged: victims were blamed, some commented that famous women should never take photographs of themselves nude without acknowledging that these would end up in the public realm. Further insidious comments complained at the quality of the photos, and of the women’s bodies. The myriads of still life taken proved too mundane for some, although they still had the odd “fap” over them.
This wasn’t just an invasion of privacy, this was sexual harassment on a grand scale, and now the same threat looms over a young star who stood before some of the world’s most important people and publicly declared her support for gender equality. Emma Watson invited men and women to stand together in support of the UN’s ‘HeForShe’ initiative, a campaign that aims to break the shackles of gender stereotyping and a patriarchal society. Of course, trolls have issued her a threat. At the time of writing this article, Emma Watson has three days and just over five hours until her nude photographs are leaked online. To those who participate in sharing the images, to those who click to view, to those who threaten further action, are advocating the belief that women have no use beyond their benefit to the male gaze.
If there is a battle of ideologies at play, the proponents of internet sexism are on the losing side. Despite their endless attacks, or perhaps because of them, you would be hard pressed to find any institution or public individual with a modicum of intellect and respectability who doesn’t clearly and firmly proclaim support for gender equality, or speak out against the trolls and the comments. Despite our country’s most read newspaper patronisingly reporting on Emma’s Watson’s speech with a headline about her lovely clothes, and despite the odd celebrity exposing their ignorance by telling interviewers that they’re not a feminist because they still love men (um, yeah… because the two are mutually exclusive, obviously), the current wave of feminism seems to be gaining strength now more than ever. We’re more likely now than we were a few years ago to proclaim feminism, or at least that gender equality is a necessary and pressing issue.
Despite what the faceless miscreants of sites such as 4Chan and Reddit have to say, the internet is doing as much to spread support for feminism as it is to try to subdue the movement. The great irony remains that every rape threat on Twitter, every inflammatory YouTube comment, and every invasion of privacy that seeks to silence our cause only fuels our support and smears our opponents. In the meantime, don’t read the comments, and don’t feed the trolls. Instead, let the trolls feed us.
Image from Google.