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Opinion: Women Should Not Be Blamed For Their 'Leaked Online Scandals'

A never-ending story

With all the talk about women empowerment and the rise of the #MeToo movement, you would think that better treatment of women would finally become the standard. However, whenever celebrity scandals get leaked online, the true and horrifying nature of gender-related double standards emerge. Case in point: Avengers' star Chris Evans being protected by the public after he accidentally shared a nude photo of himself online.

Now, let me get this out of the way first: I have no issue with Chris Evans nor his fanbase. In fact, it’s quite interesting to me that people have come together to flood his trending hashtag with nice photos of the actor to distract from his leaked nudes. He even got praised for turning the situation around by using the hype to ask people to vote.

But I can’t help but ask where the effort, understanding, and overwhelming support is when women are the ones at the centre of the "scandal"?

Within the same week of the incident involving Chris, the same thing happened to a young Japanese actress, albeit the issue trended only in Twitter Japan. Talking about it in English may also end up in a Google search tied to her name even two, three or more years later. We don’t need any more of that. We’ve had enough stories of women being at the centre of these so-called scandals that tarnish their names.

Person holding smartphone

Women are always at the disadvantage when 'scandals' arise. (Photo from JÉSHOOTS via Pexels)

An alleged sex scandal involving the Japanese actress was supposedly leaked by her ex. As usual, she trended because people kept blaming her for the situation. The ex-boyfriend? Barely mentioned and would most likely come out of this situation unscathed. Fans tried to salvage the situation the same way Chris’ fanbase did. But, alas, the judgement and persecution — which ironically also came from fellow women — are a lot stronger. The actress has since deactivated her Twitter account and has turned off her Instagram comments as of writing.

Meanwhile, model and media personality Emily Ratajowski also penned an essay this week, talking about her own sexual assault experience — and yet it's not getting the same buzz.

She shared that in 2012, photographer Jonathan Leder booked her for an unpaid lingerie photoshoot. She was underaged, not yet an established name, impressionable. The photos from the shoot never saw the light of day — that is until she gained fame months later for appearing in Gone Girl and Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines music video. 

A photobook containing the images were published without her consent, much to her surprise and dismay. She expressed that no one cared about nor bothered with her protests, claiming that people assumed that since she’s posed sensually for other publications, the book published without her consent shouldn’t be an issue. 

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? It was nonconsensual. So why are we treating these women as if it’s their fault for being compromised? It’s one thing to pose for photos or channel your most empowered self on camera — or in real life — with full agency, it is another when someone exploits you for it.

We’ve seen this again and again. Vanessa Hudgens, during her High School Musical days, was called a bad role model by parents because of her own ‘celebrity leaked scandal’, meanwhile, her then-boyfriend Zac Efron got nothing but thirst comments. Jennifer Lawrence also received flak when her nude photos were shared online without consent; people immediately forgot that there’s more to her than just those leaked photos (aside from being a human worthy of respect, she is a multi-Oscar nominee and is one of the youngest Academy awardees). Sure, it fizzled after months or years, but its traces are already laced all over their careers. 

So why does this keep happening? Why is there a double standard when it comes to female celebrity leaked scandals?

I believe that it all starts and ends with us. Our preconditioned minds make us receive these things negatively when people — especially those we look up to — behave unexpectedly than we believe. But before we pick up the rocks and get ready to throw them as soon as we see the news, I implore everyone to reflect.

For one, these people are human. And what they do in their free time (as long as it doesn’t impinge on the rights of anyone) is their business. Next, their body, their choice. Whether it be a sex video or a nude photo, it was meant to be shared privately or intimately with someone that they trusted at the time. Shouldn't the blame be on the people who broke their trust? 

Girl in bed

Their 'nakedness' should not be the issue. (Photo from: Oleg Ivanov via Unsplash)

Lastly, we should be fighting this battle with our fellow women, not against them. It is incredibly disappointing that we are willing to extend courtesy to a man who can take care of himself — and mind you, whose own fault his photo got leaked — and not the same for our fellow women.

Two girls in denim jackets

It is us, women, who should be backing others up, not tearing them down. (Photo from: Becca Tapert via Unsplash)

At the end of the day, calling these situations an online leaked scandal is a disservice to these women and the many nameless others who do not have the liberty of an audience to speak openly about their situations. We should call it as it is: a crime.

And as with any crime, it should be the culprit, not the victim, who should be given the rightful and just verdict.