Leaked photo scandal: Why everyday sexism is alive and well

From looks, to work, to feeling intimidated walking past a group of men on the street, there is no doubt that most women are subjected to some form of sexism daily.

Nowhere is that clearer than in the 4chan nude photo scandal that exploded this week, incriminating celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence,  Kate Upton and Ariana Grande, to name but a few. 

The reaction to the scandal has been mixed, with many rightly saying that the leaked photos are a huge violation of privacy – the pictures were never meant to be seen. Lena Dunham posted a series of tweets yesterday defending those affected and referring to the hacker as a “sex offender”:

While many have spoken out asking people not to click on the nude pictures, others have taken a more controversial view, like Ricky Gervais in this tweet:

He then defended himself (fairly weakly):

Statements like Ricky’s above might have been meant as a joke, but they only strengthen the cultural belief that some women are just “asking for it,” – that we could be respected if we wanted, but we don’t try hard enough, or we put ourselves out there too much. Sure, he addresses "celebrities" rather than just "ladies," but among the list of more than 100 stars published by the hacker, just two male names appear – and they are both allegedly pictured with women.

Artist Yang Liu distilled the complex idea of gender differences into a series of minimalist pictures which she published recently. One of the most striking images touches on the idea that while men feel the need to boast about their sexual experience and possibly over-exaggerate, most women do the opposite, playing down their “number” for fear of being looked at in a bad light.

Why do we feel that as women we are to blame for how others see us? It’s something that even the most confident of females experience from time to time – the nagging feeling that we should be ashamed of being too successful, or too driven, or even too sexy.

Another of Yiu’s pieces addresses the idea of competition between males and females. No matter how far we go, or how fast we run, a man will always have the benefit of a head start simply because of his gender.

The images might be simplistic and leave a lot to be discussed, but they certainly highlight the fact that there are still major differences between men and women in modern society.

If a group of strong, successful women like those incriminated in the 4chan scandal are being told that they only have themselves to blame, what kind of message is that sending to other females the world over?

Taking nude photos of yourself is not a criminal action. Feeling good about yourself and your body is not a criminal action. Yet, in many ways it seems that for women, the rules are somehow different.