by Dianna Vento
Imagine you’re back in high school. You could be changing in the locker room after a workout in the gym when it happens. Some random freshman, maybe on a dare, could sneak into the room and snap a picture of you changing. Maybe he texts it to his friends and maybe they text it to theirs and perhaps soon enough the entire school has seen you naked without your consent. You’d probably feel humiliated. And even though some teachers would be sympathetic, and the principle would look into suspending the culprit, some of your classmates might not be as understanding of your plight.
Some of them might scoff at you – call you a slut. Maybe say you were dumb to let it happen – you should’ve known better; you could have prevented it. It would suck, wouldn’t it? Getting ridiculed for something that you couldn’t control, or blamed for a wrong done onto you? And just think, what you’d be experiencing would only be in front of the eyes of your school-wide community. Just try to imagine what it would be like to go through something like that in front of the entire world. Unfortunately, Kate Middleton doesn’t have to.
French magazine, Closer, rocked the Royal Family with its second scandal in only a month when it took and published photographs of Duchess Kate Middleton topless. The pictures that comprise a four-page spread and cover story in the mag’s September 13th issue, show the Duke and Duchess innocently sunbathing, completely unaware of the shutter bug click-click-clicking away at their privacy. And to make this matter of privacy invasion even more ick-tastic, the photographer had to use an extreme zoom lens to snap the shot from her position on a mostly hidden road almost an entire kilometer away.
Amidst rumors that Palace officials were going to seek legal action for this complete invasion of privacy (which they since have), Closer editor Laurence Pieau attempted to defend her publication by stating that “these photos are not in the least shocking.” And yeah, Laurence, I’d argue you on that, but judging by the caption you ran alongside those pics (Oh My God! Les photos qui vont faire le tour de monde! Translation: “The photos that will go around the world!”), I’m pretty sure you’re already aware of the bullshit you’re spewing. And just to prove what a class-act she is, Laurence went on to say “there are more intimate pictures that exist that we haven’t and will not publish.” Oh Laurence, you saint!
As you could probably assume, as everything does these days, those “not in the least shocking” pictures have found their way onto the internet, giving everybody with a computer the ability to view and form opinions on them. And they most certainly have been. Extraordinarily strong opinions. But not the kind you might think they would. Just scrolling through the comment sections on any popular news site running articles about the incident offers up a mixed bag of incredibly offensive and quite often, ignorant, opinions.
We start off with a bit of general misogyny from commenter CC who believes that: “Women should learn to keep their private parts covered when they leave their houses.” Move our way on up to some blatant victim-blaming courtesy of Liz Moore and her thoughts that: “If one bares oneself in public view then they cannot complain if they are photographed….Having been too dumb to avoid the situation in the first place the next dumbest move is to turn it into a media [storm].” Throw in a little slut-shaming fun from commenter “written” who thinks: “Kate topless in someone else’s house doesn’t say much about her own standards…There were other people around, including staff….Not the sharpest knife in the drawer obviously, to whip the old top off when you’re away from Buck House.” And we’ll wrap this suck-fest up nicely with a few words from Pluto’s own James…
Are you throwing up yet? I am.
Even ignoring the comment insinuating that being royalty means needing to give up basic human rights; this is still a troubling crop of comments. Seeing so many people type such nonsense is rather repugnant. And I know what you’re thinking: there are always going to be trolls on the internet. Given the opportunity to anonymously spout whatever’s on their mind, people are going to take this consequence free soapbox as an opportunity to say some pretty nasty things. It’s an unfortunate truth that anyone who’s spent more than ten minutes on the internet will realize. However it’s not just random skeezy people sitting behind their computer screens who are professing such negative opinions.
British magazine the Daily Mail took to their website to comment on the situation. The article written by Ingrid Seward features a myriad of alarming comments, but for time-saving purposes, I’ve picked out a few gems for you. First off, we have: “This ghastly situation should never have happened. And only two people could have stopped it. The Duke and Duchess themselves.” Huh. That’s funny. I wasn’t aware that they made cameras that could take extremely zoomed in shots of royalty and publish them in magazines all on their own. What a nifty idea. Will and Kate should have foreseen that. She then goes on to say that she expects the future Queen to exhibit a bit more “common sense” by not “[putting] herself in a position where she loses her dignity.” So not only do we have a heavy case of blaming the victim here, but she also managed to throw in some good ole body-shaming. Well done, Ingrid!
And never one to pass up the opportunity to get a little attention, business mogul Donald Trump released his own statement on the situation. He wrote, in a series of tweets no less, “Kate Middleton is great – but she shouldn’t be sunbathing in the nude – only herself to blame. Who wouldn’t take Kate’s picture and make lots of money if she does the nude sunbathing thing. Come on Kate!” Charming.
The reaction to Kate’s topless photos become even more shocking, though, when you consider the public reception of her brother-in-law Prince Harry’s naked photo scandal just the month previous. In case you’re unaware of what went down, here’s a quick summary. Harry and some of his friends went on vacation in Las Vegas around the end of August. They had a small party in their lavish hotel room, Harry lost a game of strip billiards, someone had a camera phone, and the rest is in the internet history of the lonely and the pervy worldwide. Because as was the case with Kate, once British rag mag The Sun got a hold of the pictures, they were on the internet in less than a click. However, much unlike like the Duchess, in face of the backlash the Prince underwent since the release of these risqué photos, numerous people on the internet have actually been coming out in droves in his defense.
Read through the comment sections on some of the numerous articles written about Harry’s escapades and it won’t take long to see patterns forming. Thousands of people with different backgrounds and dramatically different levels of grammatical correctness have somehow managed to articulate the same few sentiments in different ways over and over again. Judy Hilton Coburn expressed a popular opinion with her remark, “He’s a young guy having fun. He’s not married. Who cares if he’s royal? He’s human.” Kysha Baker followed that up with her own statement saying, “He does not need to apologize for having a good time. If anyone should apologize it’s those whores that linked the pics to the media. They should be ashamed.” And then there was the comment by one Darcy Ferguson-Blouch that pretty much summed up the feelings of the whole lot regarding the photos’ backlash. “Let the guy live his life…[he] had too much to drink and had a good time. Get. Over. It.”
Click here to view a side-by-side comparison of the public’s reaction to Harry and Kate’s photo scandals. Look below to view a stock image that very accurately sums up my reaction to the public’s reaction.
Now I’m not saying that the public needs to be more critical of Harry at all. The photographs of him were taken when he was clearly not in the mindset to properly consent to them and his privacy was violated much like Kate’s was. However, I think it’s important to note the gigantic differences between the vast majority of the comments on these two articles and the messages they are sending out to the world.
Harry: young guy, just having fun, deserves a break, taken advantage of by money hungry party girls, what happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas.
Kate: dumb, kinda slutty, should’ve known better, only one to blame, disgraced herself.
Just – wow.
It’s awful, but not the least bit surprising. It’s this same principle that allows men to go shirtless in public but never women. It’s this lopsided way of thinking that allows male characters to show skin in G-rated films when any hint of the female body will automatically shoot that rating up to at least PG-13. People are reacting more negatively to Kate because of misogynistic societal norms that have been ingrained on us since we were little. The male body is deemed acceptable. The female body, unless overtly sexualized for the male enjoyment, is a no-go.
Possibly the saddest thing of all though is that I understand why the magazines did it. What quicker way is there to rack up magazine sales than to collage your cover with some highly intimate pics of two of the most famous people in the world? They’re not dumb. The publications knew the pictures and the scandals they were likely to cause would sell magazines like hotcakes. We live in a society that will tut-tut and go “Aw, what a shame!” at the story only to go home and spend hours fillings their computers with viruses trying to sneak a peek at the naked royals. Save for a possible (and probable) subsequent law suits, it’s an almost fool proof business strategy. That doesn’t make it right though. Harry and Kate may live in the public eye but that doesn’t mean the public’s eyes should be allowed viewing into each and every moment of their lives.We can’t expect them to just live like fish in a bowl whose glass is constantly getting tapped. It’s dehumanizing and immoral. What those photographers and magazines did was wrong and unfair. And, if I’m being honest, the public’s reaction isn’t much better.
Both Harry and Kate had their privacy violated and exploited for a profit. However, where Harry’s exploitation garnered him the public’s sympathy, Kate’s has provided the world with an opportunity to unleash back upon her a shit-ton of misogynistic thoughts that they may or may not have even known they had. People are blaming the victim and expecting her to not only be okay with someone snatching away her basic human right to privacy, but to have expected it to happen. It’s such a mindbogglingly messed up way of looking at the situation that it’s hard for me to believe that even one person has that opinion, let alone thousands. But they do, evidently. And they aren’t afraid of sharing it. Just another check mark on the list of royal injustices these days, it seems.