Labia Miserables

I’m angry today. For a few reasons, but this is one of them.

You may have heard that Anne Hathaway was recently a victim of a kind of sexual violation called “upskirt photography.” I’m not going to lend any internet search juice to the story by Googling it – but basically, she was in a gown, not wearing underwear, and someone managed to take a photo at an angle at which her labia is visible. 

(Bonus vagina points to me for also saying labia today. The labia is the visible, external part of a woman’s genitalia. The vagina is inside. I invite you to join me in using the word “labia” correctly at every opportunity.)

Anyway, during a subsequent interview with her on The Today Show, Matt fucking Lauer started by snarkily saying, “seen a lot of YOU lately”, and jumping right into a question about it. This stirred up a lot of internet chatter about whether he was out of line for saying it on the one hand, and whether she should have known better than to wear a dress without underwear on the other.

Here’s the thing. ‘Upskirt photography’ happens all the time to women who ARE wearing underwear, and who are NOT famous. (Google Adam Levinson, Khalid Asu Sabur, Daniel Knoble, and Boyd Shropshire for starters.) It’s an illegal violation of privacy, and is no more the fault of the victim – whomever she is – than any other crime. Suggesting the victim could have protected herself by wearing something different is the same as claiming a rape victim was asking for it because of what she was wearing. It’s rape-culture-originated victim-blaming, period.

So where does the responsibility lie?  With the perpetrators, of course. But that’s not all. To quote a bit of Ms. Hathaway’s excellent response to Lauer, “I’m sorry that we live in a culture that commodifies the sexuality of unwilling participants.” Well said. And we’re all responsible for doing our part to change it.

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