Jennifer Lawrence Attempts to Validate Hack – A Perpetuation of Shame?

Last week, Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence spoke out for the first time since her personal photos were illegally obtained and shared in the notorious hacking scandal of August 2014. The actress was one of the many female celebrities targeted by the anonymous hackers who published the photos on the online forum site 4Chan.

Jennifer, addressing the incident for the first time in an intimate interview with Vanity Fair, began by revealing her true fear and vulnerability when the news broke about the photo leak. “I was so afraid. I didn’t know how it would affect my career. Every time I thought about it I began to cry and get angry. I started to write an apology, but I didn’t have anything to say I’m sorry for. I was in a loving, healthy, great relationship for four years. It was long distance and either your boyfriend is going to look at porn or he’s going to look at you.”

“Just because I am a public figure, because I am an actress, does not mean I asked for this. It does not mean that it comes with the territory. It is my body, and it should be my choice. The fact that it is not my choice is absolutely disgusting. I can’t even believe that we live in that kind of world.”

To these words, many of the public have responded with little sympathy, assuming that she has chosen to sacrifice certain dignities for the privilege of fame and fortune. What she didn’t choose, however, was to have her nude body displayed across internet screens for delectation, debauchery and debate. The real issue here being consent; privacy should not be an impeachable privilege, shattered by the insatiable curiosity surrounding the nude celebrity woman’s body.

Jennifer has recoiled at all who cowered to the temptation of her private photos, placing the onus of her exploitation on their shoulders. “Anybody who looked at those pictures, you’re perpetrating a sexual offence. It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime. It is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting. The law needs to be changed, and we need to change. Just the fact that somebody can be sexually exploited and violated, and the first thought that enters someone’s mind is to make a profit from it. It’s so beyond me. I can’t imagine being that detached from humanity.”

Jennifer’s reaction, however, alludes a tone of justification; why does she feel she has to validate her actions? So what, she sent some nude photos to her long-term boyfriend, it’s her prerogative to do whatever she likes in her private life. By rationalising her actions and speaking out against her assault, she may have saved her elevated celebrity status, but the hackers coveted this response. By using Jennifer’s nude body to humiliate and shame her, reminding us that a woman’s body is not decidedly her own, they suggest that women cannot be sexual in certain ways without consequence, in this case, the consequence being the possible downfall of her career. They understood that Jennifer would want to protect this alongside her demeanor, which renders her forever vulnerable to those with the power to destroy her career. Society will always shame women before it blames men. And by apologising, that is something that Jennifer Lawrence has allowed to take precedence in her reaction to the photo leak.

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About the author

Charlotte Dowd

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A recent History graduate from the University of Leeds. Interested in human rights and the impact of colonialism, both overseas and in 20th century Britain, attempting to recover the Subaltern voice. Currently involved in a love-affair with cereal.