Explaining the Underwhelming Reaction When Black Women’s Nude Pics Are Stolen

Too fat? Too sexy? There’s always a weak explanation when black women like Rihanna and Jill Scott are treated as unworthy of protection. Throughout this country’s history, there always has been.  

Jill Scott performing in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 11, 2011
Jill Scott performing in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 11, 2011 ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

The following is a sampling of headlines about the recent theft and illegal release of alleged nude photos of celebrities:

Jennifer Lawrence, Others Aren’t Just Hacking Victims

Kate Upton, Jennifer Lawrence’s Hacked Photos to Be in Art Show

Selena Gomez, Jennifer Lawrence Allegedly Targets of Massive Celebrity Hacking, FBI Has Launched Investigation

Celebrities’ Leaked Nude Photos: Master List Printed, Selena Gomez, Kim Kardashian, Kate Upton, Jennifer Lawrence, Kaley Cuoco, Rihanna, More Names on It

Nude Photos of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Ariana Grande, Kirsten Dunst Leaked Online

In them, and the hundreds of headlines like them, a theme emerges: white female victimhood. It’s in the choice of subjects, the words themselves and photos that accompany the various online reports. Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton are presented as the faces and bodies of these types of violations.

The flip side of these headlines and the less obvious theme is this: that black women are undeserving of protection; that when their privacy is criminally violated, it isn’t such a scandal. After all, Lawrence and Upton aren’t the only ones who have been violated in this way. Jill Scott and Rihanna have, too.

If you didn’t know, that’s because the “leaks” and “hacks” related to black female victims were scarcely covered in comparison with those of their white counterparts.  A Google News search for celebrities’ names combined with “leaked,” while an informal measure, further confirms the spotlight on white female victims. Lawrence and Upton have, by far, the most results (22,700,000 and 126,000, respectively); Rihanna and Scott trail behind with 39,100 and 8,760, respectively.

There’s a disparity not just in the amount of news but in the amount of analysis and outrage when the victims are black. As the Washington Post’s Justin Moyer put it in his analysis of the leaks of recent weeks (Lawrence, Upton and Scott), “White feminists ignore Jill Scott.”