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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

OK, so about the hacking of certain actresses’ computer files and the posting of nude photos found therein:

Can we be frank?

There is, within every healthy, heterosexual man, something which, upon viewing an attractive woman clad scantily or not at all, stands a little straighter, smiles a little brighter, and breathes a quiet “Yowza” of appreciation. This is true whether the man be piggish sexist or enlightened feminist. It is true whether he be plumber, pipefitter, professor, rabbi, imam or priest. It is rumored that it is even true of that ultimate paragon of moral rectitude, the newspaper columnist.

To argue otherwise is to argue against biology. And it has always seemed to me that if an adult woman of sound mind decides — without coercion and of her own volition — to trade on her sexuality in that way, it’s her call. Granted, some of us worry about objectifying women. But we should also be wary of infantilizing them. If some actress poses in the altogether for public consumption — and some guy enjoys it — I find it hard to define that as de facto sexism, so long as the choice was hers.

Which is precisely what’s wrong, creepy, slimy and profoundly distasteful about the hacking of those files and the posting of those pictures. Jennifer Lawrence didn’t make that choice. Nor did Kate Upton, Kirsten Dunst or any of the other women whose unclothed images were stolen by unknown hackers and splashed across the Internet on Labor Day weekend by celebrity gossip Perez Hilton (he’s since apologized) and two popular message boards.

Let no one argue the women never should have taken the photos in the first place or entrusted them to digital lockboxes. To do so would come perilously close to blaming the victim for her own misfortune, something with which women who were raped were once all too familiar. So let’s be clear: These women are not at fault. No, the blame lies with the sentient filth who raided their files.

There is an obvious argument to be made here about the shrinking of private spaces in a culture of invasion. And given that there’s no shortage of women who have made the choice to pose publicly naked and that those images are available for the price of a mouse click, it is doubly reprehensible that some fungi with legs would go after women who have made different choices — and that the rest of us would provide a market for their ill-gotten goods.

It’s as if we’re telling women that no matter what decisions they’ve made about who to be and how to present themselves in this world, we will impose our own decisions upon them.

It has been a good week or two for sexism. Besides this, you had Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) sharing prize comments she’s heard from male colleagues (“Don’t lose too much weight, now. I like my girls chubby”) and a mostly female panel on Fox “News” — where else? — defending the practice of catcalling. “Let men be men,” one said, as if to be a man is to be automatically crude and unalterably boorish.

Thankfully, in the midst of all these reasons to be disheartened, the Internet also coughed up a reminder to remain hopeful about the world we bequeath our girls. Google this picture if you haven’t seen it. It shows Yasiel Puig, outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, with Mo’ne Davis, the 13-year-old pitcher who was the sensation of this year’s Little League World Series. The big-league ballplayer towers over the little girl as she autographs a baseball for him.

And why not? In 2014 a girl can be a ballplayer. Or a publisher. Or an astrophysicist. Or a cop. Or a stay-at-home mom. Or, yes, a sex symbol posed without clothes. The point is, she has the ability to choose who she will be. Or at least, she should.

After all, more than pictures were stolen here.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via email at [email protected]

AFP Photo/Kevin Winter

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  • sigrid28

    This invasion of privacy gives new, indeed circular, meaning to “You’ve come a long way, baby.” In film’s golden era, producers refused to put the names of actors in the credits to keep their salaries as low as possible. It might be a good time to recall that film actors themselves took steps to expand their popularity by insisting that their identities become public. It was not long before the public itself and the media demanded to know the names and stories behind characters they loved on screen. When Florence Lawrence switched to the Independent Moving Pictures Company in 1910, in order to appear in movies under her own name,
    the star system was born via an act of feminism–a woman’s desire to receive credit for her body of work. This system created personalities on the silver screen who sometimes took on a life of their own, leaving the true character of the actor behind, as well as celebrities whose lives outside of cinema became their signature accomplishments. For example, I would mention Ronald Reagan, xxx president of the United States, and Robert Redford, the originator of the Sundance Film Festival. It is also the star system that has given carte blanche to these despicable hackers who are not so different from the papparozzi who make the lives of celebrities miserable, despite the wealth and fame stars accumulate in exchange for giving up their privacy. Even though their films can run on a screen you can hold in one hand, stars lead the larger than life existence conferred on them by the silver screen. They chose it after it chose them, and silver has always had something to do with it.

    In the early days of silent movies the names of the actors and actresses appearing in movies were not publicized or credited because producers feared this would result in demands for higher salaries.[2] However, audience curiosity soon undermined this policy. By 1909, actresses such as Florence Lawrence and Mary Pickford were already widely recognized, although the public remained unaware of their names. Lawrence was referred to as the “Biograph Girl” because she worked for D. W. Griffith’s Biograph Studios, while Pickford was “Little Mary.” In 1910, Lawrence switched to the Independent Moving Pictures Company, began appearing under her own name, and was hailed as “America’s foremost moving picture star” in IMP literature.[2] Pickford began appearing under her own name in 1911.

    IMP promoted their “picture personalities”, including Florence Lawrence and King Baggot, by giving them billing/credits and a marquee.Promotion in advertising led to the release of stories about these personalities to newspapers and fan magazines as part of a strategy to build “brand loyalty” for their company’s actors and films. By the 1920s, Hollywood film company promoters had developed a “massive industrial enterprise” that “…peddled a new intangible—fame.”[3] Early Hollywood studios tightly controlled who was a movie star, as only they had the ability to place stars’ names above the title; according to film historian Jeanine Basinger, this was done “only for economic reasons”.[4]