Even for the most respected news organizations, one thing has been proven of journalism this week: Naked women make headlines. Hacked nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence (among other celebrities) were leaked to the public this week and provoked a total media frenzy . . . but movie stars aren't the only people making headlines for their racy pictures. University of Florida sorority Alpha Omicron Pi is now dealing with the repercussions of a semi-nude group photo that the sisters took for fun and was subsequently posted onto social media. The photo has since gone viral.
The members of University of Florida's chapter of the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority were reportedly celebrating their very last year of recruitment by taking a silly photo together, and a few of the girls flashed their breasts to the camera. The photo, although reportedly meant to be a private joke, somehow ended up on various social media sites, including Twitter and Yik Yak, according to the Independent Florida Alligator.
As a University Florida student myself, I've been seeing this news float around my social media feeds for a few days. An edited version of the picture popped up in my Facebook newsfeed, and my first thought was probably like a lot of yours. "Well, that wasn't the smartest picture to take," I said to myself.
But then I thought of the comments I've seen surrounding the recent, massive celebrity nude photo scandal, and I realized that I was just as bad as the people who say that the solution to the problem of celebrity's privacy being invaded was simply for them to not take racy photos.
Of course, it's fair to mention that as sisters in AOII, a service organization that prides itself on leadership, participating in a photo like this during a AOII event is probably not a very smart decision. And this photo was not obtained through hacking of private phones and computers. But as University Florida students and the media both take aim at these girls for taking a racy photo, there are some things we're forgetting to discuss entirely.
To start, this was not a photo that was meant to be published. It was not created to represent the sorority. But a bigger issue? Read any of the comments on an article about the sorority's racy photo and the comments you will see are crass, ugly, and most likely untrue. "Sluts" and "nice tits" were among the more PG-rated sentiments I saw on the photo/post. On the particular version of the photo I saw on my timeline, the girls' faces had been blurred out with a white eraser. One particularly classy gentleman commented on the photo saying, "I bet that isn't the first time they've had white covering their face." Disgusting.
Smart decision or not, these girls were taking a photo to have fun. No, it may not be a decision you or I would make, but it is every adult's right and choice to take a funny, silly, racy photo if they want to. Whether the choice is wise ultimately doesn't matter as much as the fact that it's their right to do so. Regardless of the circumstances, it's unacceptable for them to then be shamed, scrutinized, and humiliated because of it.
And what is true of the nude celebrity pics is true of the University of Florida scandal too: If you view the photo, seek out the photo, or share the photo with your friends . . . you are complicit. You are just as bad as those first people who shared the photo and posted it on social media. And you are doing more harm than you probably realize.
As Lyrissa Lidsky, dean at UF's Levin College of Law, mentioned in the Independent Florida Alligator article, all the people who are writing such horrific comments on the photo are not just shaming the women — they are participating in cyberbullying, an act that has the possibility of inflicting serious emotional damage.
The past week in media has shown that female nudity makes headlines, period. Would this have gone viral if it had happened with a fraternity? Probably not. If it had, my guess is that it would have been explained away with alcohol and guys "just being guys."
Yes, these girls are part of an organization that prides itself on "service, leadership, and scholarship," and maybe those qualities aren't exactly emphasized in this picture. But you and I would both be lying if we said we didn't make some questionable choices during our college years. We've all done something a little bit unwise, and I don't think any of us view ourselves as any less of a successful, intelligent person or leader for those mistakes. Keep that in mind before you place judgment upon these girls.