Fighting cyber bullies to protect women’s right to privacy and consent
By Samantha Wickramasinghe, CCASA Blogger
Hacking personal accounts of female celebrities and posting their nude pictures online has become an unfortunate, common practice in this so-called age of information that gives power to a handful of people to intrude women’s privacy. Actresses and famous women such as Jennifer Lawrence, Gabrielle Union and Scarlett Johansson had been subjected to such attacks that violated their right to privacy and their right to consent. Moreover, Hacker groups like 4chan have threatened actress like Emma Watson of posting nude photos as a response to a speech that she made promoting gender equality at the United Nation headquarters.
Many of these well-known women have spoken out publicly against these abuses and threats, therefore their actions have fostered a larger conversation about privacy and consent. The celebrities are not the only ones who face these attacks and are fighting back against them. These attacks are made against women that we associate with on a daily basis. The Danish journalist Emma Holten was subjected to such an intrusive attack followed by verbal harassment. Her response to it can teach us how to fight the online bullies who think they can control women’s lives.
Holten’s email and Facebook accounts were hacked and her intimate pictures were stolen and posted online without her consent. Afterwards she received messages from viewers bullying and harassing her further. She wrote to the hystericalfeminisms.com explaining the nature of messages she received. “These messages were from men all over the world. Teen boys, university students, nuclear-family dads. The only thing they had in common was that they were all men. They knew it was against my will that I didn’t want to be on those sites. The realization that my humiliation turned them on felt like a noose around my neck. The absence of consent was erotic, they relished my suffering.”
Holten’s words explain how the language of victim blaming further humiliates women who are faced great injustices and intrusions on their basic rights. Her words reflect the culture of non-consensual sex that seems to be prevalent and promoted by these sorts of intrusions. In order to make a statement on consent, Holten decided to post her nude pictures with the help of a photographer to portray a consensual depiction of her sexuality. Holten also talked to media outlets such as The Guardian and The Huffington Post to share the action that she took reclaim her body that was intruded by non-consensual means.
Having faced injustice, Holten took control of the situation and created her own narrative to fight the injustice that was done to her. Every woman who faces online bullying and harassment may not be comfortable with her approach, but Holten had started a conversation that without a doubt we should continue to have.
As people who live in a world where privacy seems to be a luxury that can be afforded by a handful of powerful institutions and a right that can be violated by a group of bullies, we should not fall into the illusion of insular thought. Our right to privacy and to consent matters and we should rally around to protect our fellow human beings.