Double Standards

It’s common in the murkier realms of the web, to claim that ‘there are no girls on the internet.’ It’s an unpleasant meme that is used to celebrate the fact that everyone on the internet is presumed to be male, because women in real life have the unfair advantage of being desired, purely for being women. So, to bring attention to the fact that you are a woman is to state that you desire this advantage once again, and all the male attention that comes with it – so it is right that you are shamed for this audacity, or, at least, so runs the “logic.”

You see it everywhere, from online communities to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Two recent examples are entirely representative of the trend. On one popular online forum, when a particular woman uploaded a photo of herself with a baby owl on her shoulder to a social networking website, she happened to be wearing a vest – and so the moral arbiters of the internet swooped in immediately to castigate her for attention seeking, choosing rather to comment on the indecency of her having breasts than on the cute feathery ball nestled up on her shoulder. A moment later, a man shared a photo of Jennifer Lawrence in a low cut top, the comments all remarked on how perfect her body is.

It seems that women are condemned to be ashamed of their appearance and envious of others, while men are left sharing pictures of women to ogle and creep on amongst themselves. Not even necessarily just men, women are complicit too.

Anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss had a theory about marriage, whereby women are traditionally exchanged between two families in order to cement social bonds between the men of those families. Feminism has (mostly) put paid to that kind of patriarchal nonsense, but what if men trading photos of women between themselves to strengthen their various bromances is just the latest incarnation of that?

It’s all part of a culture that demands that women are gazed at without confrontation, where women’s bodies are there for the sole purpose of being leered over by men. It explains, in part, why selfies are so often derided – a list of the most popular selfies of 2013 mocks women’s self-indulgence, and celebrates men’s achievements. A woman framing how she chooses to be seen poses an implicit threat to this natural order, and must be mocked, or stopped.

This naturally comes into play when referring to explicit photos of women. A woman who posts a photo of herself is a slut, a whore, or any other of those hideous terms designed to keep women in their place; a man who shares photos of his girlfriend or his ex-girlfriend is a hero. When the so-called king of revenge porn was finally brought to justice just before Christmas, it wasn’t for humiliating women, by publishing private candid shots in a public forum, it was for extorting money. His main crime in the eyes of the law was a financial one. Even though his website was reprehensible, at the end of the day, revenge porn is just the most extreme form of a mindset in which we are all complicit.

A petition has been created by a student at the University of York to ban Revenge Porn. It will prove difficult to legislate against when we still find it acceptable to continue to trade in pictures of women, even without malice.

5 thoughts on “Double Standards

  1. Typical feminist trite, nothing here based on real evidence- just gut feelings and a few examples of some particularly nasty men -who apparently represent all males… Things like: “it seems women are condemned to be ashamed of their appearance”… What?? Seriously? How on earth can you make such a massive statement like that!! Evidence please! And not just examples of one internet forum where one picture was derided by some men….

  2. Dobby, alright, the article does have a lot of hyperbole, but the point it makes is legit. Revenge Porn is simply abusive and sick. Yeah, the “model” consented to the taking of the photos but clearly did not consent to it being published. Forcing sexual gratification without consent? Yeah it sounds a bit like something else to me too.

  3. Standard feminist logic. Something bad has happened to a woman, therefore it’s sexism.

    It never works like that when the shoe is on the other foot, though, does it?

  4. Surely the main thing that makes revenge porn difficult to legislate against is the fact that legislation that attempts to censor the internet often doesn’t work?

    The issues concerning the limits of California’s proposed revenge porn law certainly point towards a similar difficulty in getting a law that is anwhere near as broad as demanded in the petition above. Perhaps the practical problems of defining the limits of such a law is a larger barrier to legislation than anecdotal evidence of people “trading” in pictures of women?

  5. It’s a common fallacy that censoring the internet is nearly impossible. Try downloading child porn and see how long you last before you get a knock on the door. Revenge porn could be adequately dealt with if it was given the same resources, but there’s no political will to do anything about it.

    “Things like: “it seems women are condemned to be ashamed of their appearance”… What?? Seriously? How on earth can you make such a massive statement like that!! Evidence please!”

    Try the Daily Mail website? Or look at rates of self-harm and eating disorders? Or listen to women about their own experiences instead of assuming that your worldview is the right one?

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