Though she wasn't obligated to speak out at all, Jennifer Lawrence finally released a statement today in reference to her personal nude photos being stolen and posted on public forums like 4Chan and Reddit last month. It was an unapologetic, empowering, great statement as a whole, but — as a young female myself — I found that this specific sentence resonated the most:
I started to write an apology, but I don’t have anything to say I’m sorry for.
It's terribly tragic that we live in a world where something like this needs to be said. But after spending a good amount of time reading comments on the Internet from users who feel that women like Lawrence, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Kim Kardashian, Kate Upton, and others affected should be shamed and blamed for their personal nude photos being stolen and posted publicly on the Internet, it's sadly clear that it does: Jennifer Lawrence has nothing to apologize for in the wake of her nude photos being leaked on the Internet. The crime — which is what that whole situation was, by the way, a crime — was committed and therefore should solely be blamed on the troll hackers who have nothing better to do than participate in the violation and degradation of female celebrities.
While it's amazing to see that Jennifer Lawrence stood up for herself and said as much in her statement today, it's unfortunate that there are people who feel that the leak was somewhat the fault of the women who were victims: Internet commenters who won't be named, for instance, or rapper RZA who told TMZ that celebrities who didn't want their nude photos leaked onto the Internet simply shouldn't take any. Thinking like this directly places the blame on the women, not the hackers, and there's something seriously wrong with that.
In a way, Lawrence's proclamation that she's (rightfully) not sorry unfortunately echoed some very different statement from stars affected by risqué photo scandals in 2008: Vanessa Hudgens and Miley Cyrus. Though Cyrus' "scandal" was actually just revealing photos taken for a Vanity Fair spread by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz, she immediately apologized when Disney and parents kicked up a fit about them — similar to how Hudgens was forced by her bosses at Disney to take the blame when her nude photos were stolen and leaked.
Cyrus' statement, for starters:
The pictures of me on the Internet were silly, inappropriate shots. I appreciate all the support of my fans, and hope they understand that along the way I am going to make mistakes and I am not perfect. I never intended for any of this to happen and I am truly sorry if I have disappointed anyone. [...] Most of all, I have let myself down. I will learn from my mistakes and trust my support team. My family and my faith will guide me through my life's journey
And Hudgens', which is even more heartbreaking to read:
I want to apologize to my fans, whose support and trust means the world to me. I am embarrassed over this situation and regret having ever taken these photos. I am thankful for the support of my family and friends.
Hudgens in particular was violated in one of the worst ways, and it is not her fault at all that her personal photos were stolen and made public. Yet she was forced to apologize as if she should be ashamed of her own body.
When have male celebrities ever been forced to apologize for their nude photos leaking? When have males, in general, been told not to take and send nude pictures? It's rare, at best — but, when it comes to women, not only are we taught to never send take or send nude photos of our own bodies, but we're also viciously slut-shamed if we do.
In a way, it's this thought process that directly feeds into and perpetuates rape culture. I cannot count the amount of times I've been told to fear walking home alone, and to ask a male friend to accompany me until I'm inside my apartment; or the amount of times I've felt too afraid to take the subway late at night, so I dished out extra money to take a cab back to my apartment instead. We're taught to protect ourselves from crime and violation so often — don't walk alone at night, don't wear revealing clothes to a party, don't drink, don't take nude photos and keep them on your personal computer — but how frequently are people simply taught not to commit the crimes themselves?
Not that frequently, unfortunately. Case-in-point — back in 2008, following Vanessa Hudgens' nude photo theft and leak, Megan Fox dropped some serious truth bombs about just that during an interview with GQ :
With any of the Miley Cyrus sh*t, or any of that Vanessa Hudgens sh*t—I would never issue an apology for my life and for who I am. It’s like, Oh, I’m sorry I took a naked, private picture that someone is an asshole and sold for money. I’m sorry if someone else is a d**k. No. You shouldn’t have to apologize. Someone betrayed Vanessa, but no one’s angry at that person. She had to apologize. I hate Disney for making her do that. [...] They take these little girls, and they put them through entertainment school and teach them to sing and dance, and make them wear belly shirts, but they won’t allow them to be their own people. It makes me sick.
While I think that people should always be smart about situations, there is a correlation between telling these celebrities (and, by extension, all women) not to take personal photos of their own bodies, and victim-blaming in general. Even if the intention is well-placed, it comes along with extremely problematic undertones — and no one should ever be taught to be ashamed of their bodies and their own sexuality. If someone wants to take a nude photo, more power to them; and if someone doesn't want to, also more power to them!
This is why Lawrence's statement specifically spelling out that she's not sorry is so important.
Let's start teaching people to do what they want and put the blame where it really belongs: With the hackers who commit crimes like this. Because, again, it is their fault that these photos were leaked. Lawrence did not ask to have her private photos stolen, and neither did Hudgens or Kardashian or Upton or any of the other women who were affected — and they have nothing to apologize for, either.