Jennifer Lawrence in a Nude of Her Choosing
I had to call attention to this article by Megan Garber, writing for The Atlantic about Jennifer Lawrence’s nude photo shoot for Vanity Fair. The photo itself is brilliant as is Garber’s analysis of it. Lawrence’s calling the hacking of her private photos a “sex crime” is entirely reasonable. And I am reminded why I care about copyright, why it still matters in the digital age, and why those who say, “Forget it, you’re fighting against the future,” are at least lazily cynical and at most hopelessly corrupt. Permission is the foundation of copyright, just as it is the foundation for respecting another person enough not to “share” photos of her that she did not choose to distribute. Permission is fundamental to civilization, yet somehow, the principle has been given a bad rap, treated as some sort of elitist barrier we must cross if we are to be free to play with these gadgets. And I have no qualms asserting that this idea of permissionlessness, which has been championed as a digital-age value does emanate from a sexist psyche. Permission deserves more attention than it gets. Permission is the difference between a regrettable one-night stand and a rape.
Lawrence is talking about ethics. She’s talking about law. She’s talking about, essentially, decency in the age of digital reproduction. And she’s also, of course, talking about the tensions that inevitably exist in a world mediated by images. The line between objectification and empowerment is a notoriously thin one, particularly for women. Is that short skirt—or that low-cut shirt, or that nude Snapchat—liberating, or something else? In an environment saturated by images and therefore expectations, where does control end, and victimhood begin? “She” versus “her,” subject versus object … images, whether sent or stolen, capture all of those things.
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