Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Vandy photo booth scandal

Today I’m writing about something that hits kind of close to home for me. Some of you may have heard about the recent scandal involving a Vanderbilt (my alma mater) sorority girl who took explicit photos with her boyfriend in a photo booth at a sorority formal – a booth that uploaded its pictures directly to Facebook.

Within hours, the photos were viral and the girl was kicked off the cheerleading squad, out of the sorority, and the photos were forwarded to the law schools to which she was applying. It took seconds to ruin her reputation and jeopardize her entire future.

But you know what? There were two people in that booth. That dick in her mouth? It was attached to a guy – a guy who has suffered zero consequences for his role in the scandal, simply because he’s a dude, and that’s what dudes do.

A quick search of the TMB forum (which bills itself as “Excellent Whoring. Terrible Internetting, and Everything in between.” – stay classy, gentlemen) turns up such gems about the young woman involved as:

“Have to say—she has that ‘I would be comfortable getting slapped in the face by a cock’ kind of look to her.”  - PhupaPhever

“This is a blessing in disguise. Law school is a waste of time and money for women, anyways. Embrace it and enjoy your career in IT sales.” – The Guglia

“I call bullshit… aint no cheerleader gonna be a law student.” – Caga palo

“Consider these pictures this girls [sic] reparations for 9/11. It’s certainly not enough, but it’s a start.” – DeToxRox

“Yea guys, show the girl who smiled as she throated a hog in a picture booth some respect” – The Guglia

“My life would would [sic] be much worse without [sluts]. I’m far too self-absorbed for any woman that demands to be respected.” – JY

“I would def. take her [as an employee at a law firm], the photos show that she knows how to get ahead in life” – Rumpus StillStiff

I’ll placate myself with the knowledge that these assholes are all 18 year old boys with bacne and crippling self-esteem issues who really think calling a girl a slut somehow raises their own self-worth, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is very de rigueur for how our society thinks of and treats women.

Women are sex objects, plain and simple. Three of the comments focus on the fact that women are too dumb to either get into law school or succeed at law school/life. Without whoring their way to the top, of course. And the thought of respecting a woman who made a poor decision? Absolutely laughable, according to The Guglia.

The woman’s actions are fodder for public consumption and scorn, while the man involved is barely even mentioned. I saw the pictures – his face is just as clearly visible. But will this jeopardize his future? Unlikely. A man who sleeps with a woman is a stud, a conqueror, a manly man, but the woman with whom he sleeps is a slut, a grasping whore, an insipid dick-receptacle worth nothing more than a few crude jokes.

This is the legacy of the religious right. Women are subject to patriarchal double-standards that punish and castigate women for daring to claim equality or the same sexual liberation as men. Women are expected to remain lily-white pure reflections of Christ, while ‘boys will be boys.’

This is why we have a rape culture. Women who deviate from the strict moral (and ever-changing!) expectations of society are less worthy, less human than other women. It’s acceptable to call them names, to destroy their reputation on the internet, to write comments about how it’s her job to be objectified and exploited over the internet, because she’s female.

A lack of respect for a woman who makes a poor decision regarding her sexual activity is still a lack of respect for women. All women. Because not every choice does or should define who we are.

This young woman’s story impacts me personally, not just because she went to my school, but because attacking her is also an attack against me and all women in this country. Women have a right to sexuality. And we have a right to make mistakes without confirming the suspicion that all women who do X are worthless sluts. We have a right to be seen as people – fallible people, yes, but still people – and to not be degraded and exploited at every turn.

Slut-shaming this young woman for a poor decision serves to discourage and stigmatize the expression of sexuality in women, while at the same time further cementing the notion that women are sexual objects for the male gaze. She is condemned for her role in the photos, at the same time the photos are exploited for rabid male consumption.

Should she have thought twice about taking those pictures? Probably. But does she deserve to have her future jeopardized for them? Absolutely not.  


  1. I understand where you're coming from, feminism is much like the civil rights movement it's just not on the same international level. Not all women think they are equal and that may be because they are oppressed but in every other movement there were people that rose up and demanded their rights and when they didn't get them violence broke out. So my question to you is, if you want to play the part of the pacifist Dhali Lama, Dr.King, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, etc. then who's going to play the part of the black panther party, Malcom X, the famous Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc who burned in the streets of Tibet for his freedom. Who's going to be the Martyr who stands on the extreme side of the feminist movement to counter those extremists who are against feminism?

    1. Well, I'd say fortunately we're no longer (not currently?) at a point in the US where extremism on behalf of women's rights is necessary. This election is a great example - women voted, and we voted just about every single man who said something stupid/hateful about rape out of office. And LGBT rights are coming around slowly but surely because of a sea change in public opinion and initiatives in places like Maryland and Washington. I think we just keep speaking out and educating people about the injustices that remain, and we set an example for ourselves and for the rest of the world.

      In places like Egypt and Tunisia and Iran, women and their supporters are protesting in more extreme ways, because those are the only ways they have to be heard.

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  3. umm its bc his face isnt in it. end of story.

    1. His face was in the photos I saw, and I'm sure he's been identified. I'm not saying he should receive the same treatment - but that our society has vicious double standards in how it treats women who do the same things men do.

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