On September 21, Emma Watson delivered a speech at the UN Headquarters in New York calling for more feminists and stressed the importance that feminism can have in the lives of men and women. Rather than supporting her in advocating for gender equality, she has been vilified by 4chan and Reddit users for her beliefs. It’s official: Women cannot feel safe on their own computers anymore.
That may sound like a slight overreaction, but let me explain. We are currently living in a world of modern, technologically enabled sexism where anyone with an internet connection and half a brain can attack a woman. Before the internet came around it was political pundits or column writers or even men on the street who told women “to get back where they belonged.” These means of expression are all still alive and well, but now there’s the added element of the internet, where women are assaulted with completely anonymity from people who could be anywhere from another continent to the apartment upstairs.
This modern form of internet sexism is hardly a new fad. Just ask Anita Sarkessein, a popular feminist vlogger who became the subject of an online game where you punch her in the face until your screen turns red. The culprit of this game was discovered, however the many people leaving anonymous comments on her videos were not. Any woman on the internet, feminist or not, is liable to sexist comments.
So if it’s not new why am I writing about it? Well, because when you take Emma Watson’s fame, beauty, and youth, combined with the recent outcry against her “feminist rant”, and add the recent nude photo hacking scandal, you have yourself a dangerous mix.
Rather than anonymously criticizing Watson for her not so misguided beliefs, someone has taken it so personally that they have decided to release her nude pictures to the world on Tuesday at midnight. As science-fiction-villainy as this may sound, it is all too real. There is no confirmation as to whether this person does have any pictures, but after the release of all the other pictures – dubbed “The Fappening” by media outlets and the 4chan community – this could be the real deal.
She’s a victim of modern sexism where the comments are completely anonymous and the threats may or may not be based in reality. Her character is called into question by people she can only associate with usernames rather than faces. Her private photos might be leaked to the entire world by people who were never intended to see them.
Modern sexism is faceless and swift. It gives people a way to send their criticisms to women on the internet without ever having to deal with the effect their comments may have. An intelligent sexist (an oxymoron if there ever was one) can even sexually harass a woman by hacking her computer and releasing her naked pictures online. It lets people assassinate a person’s character in any way they choose while negating any interaction with the emotional fallout.
We need to acknowledge that while the feminist movement is changing, so is the chauvinist one. The tactics used to discredit women are growing in ways that are getting harder and harder to ignore. While looking at the leaked naked pictures of these women, people are not realizing that they are endorsing the sexual harassment of these women. This growing movement of tech-savvy sexists have access to a person’s most private moments and can use them to slut-shame that person into retreating from their views.
The comments that are made online, the pictures you share, and jokes you laugh at are all part of this modern sexism. Fight back! Where’s the tech savvy feminist to release the nudes of these hackers? Where’s the faceless feminist who can take these commenters down a peg? Let’s fight fire with fire! Please consider this the next time you think about clicking on another round of celebrity nudes.
Banner created by Antony with credit to UN Women CC