Go on twitter and type in Jennifer Lawrence. What do you find under photos? Memes about her nudes, jokes about her nudes, even heavily censored copies of her nudes, but what you won’t find, are her nudes. Now type in Jill Scott on twitter. What do you find under photos? Jill Scott’s nudes.
The “Fappening” has been this outbreak of leaked celebrity nudes over the last week or so that is inclusive of Kate Upton, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jill Scott. The outrage behind the leaking of these nude photographs has been tremendous as feminists, and just people in general, have expressed the clear issues of privacy violation that exists by the spreading of the pictures. In particular people have taken to the internet to voice how the issue is a violation of women’s rights, to pass a nude photo of a woman not meant for public consumption around like a trading card. Twitter was quick to snatch off any of the nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence that appeared and suspend the accounts of those sharing it, but I can personally attest to the fact that over 20 hours later, the photos of Jill Scott are still in circulation. There’s no great call to action for those who continue to circulate her photos. Even though Ms. Scott took to twitter herself to point out that one of the photos was not actually her, both of the photos are still in circulation and are being treated as if they are photos of her.
There are two issues personified by the lack of call to action for the protection of Jill Scott’s body. First of all it is a prime example of the racial divide within feminism. While more often than not we stand together as women to protect our rights and freedoms there was a time in the dawn of feminism when it was believed to belong only to white women; because to involve the rights of Black women would jeopardize those of the white. Although we as Black women have integrated into feminism, there does exist this fine invisible line made up of white privilege and the double-edged sword that still makes Black women somewhat of the secondary party in feminism. Situations like this nude photo outbreak highlight where Black women’s protections stand in the realm of feminism.
The second and slightly more scary issue personified here, is that this whole situation has a very Sarah Baartman- esque tone to it. The Black woman’s body has never had any protection in society. It has always been a spectacle, to be gawked at and used as everyone, but Black women, sees fit. The Black woman’s body has been exploited from the moment it arrived on American soil; it is always on display and under scrutiny. So to continue to pass around photographs of Jill Scott’s body with the casual nature of sharing a stick of gum is a disturbing reminder that in 2014 the Black woman’s body still has no protection.
What is possibly the most upsetting reminder of all is that while Black women are held accountable as the keepers of their body, Black men are equally responsible for helping to uphold the sanctity of the Black body in general. While I don’t believe that you need a man’s protection, there is something unspoken in the solidarity of the Black community that the Black man should protect the Black woman’s body, as if it was his mother’s; because it is. It’s soul crushing to realize as you scroll through social media, that most of the sharing of the photos, the hurtful comments about Jill’s body, and the primary exploitation and display is the result of actions by Black men. It’s Black men tweeting about whether they would “smash” or not. It’s Black men who are discussing and comparing her size and body type to that of other woman. Black men on social media dissecting this Black woman’s body for the whole of society to see.
When you choose to share Jill Scott’s nude photo, you are not just clicking send on a tweet or status, you are not just posting a new photo to Instagram. You are violating the sanctity and protection of the Black woman’s body. It is not just Jill’s photo that you’re sharing, when you click share you are contributing to the statement that says “we do not concern ourselves with the protection of Black women’s bodies.”