Let me first say, I am not slut shaming Amber Rose. I have been a (relative) fan of her bold approach to feminism since her emotional speech at her first SlutWalk in 2014. On stage, she had announced through tears that she forgave her exes Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa, the former for saying he had to “take 30 showers” after being with her, the latter – who is the father of her child – for referring to her as a “bald-headed stripper.” It was a beautiful message of forgiveness to find personal peace, self-acceptance, and acceptance of the things that are outside of our control.
But on June 10, when Rose posted a picture of herself in only a bikini top, entirely naked from the waist down with visible genitalia, she lost me. When Instagram took the picture down and she then wrote, “When IG deletes ur fire ass feminist post but you really don’t give a (expletive) because everyone picked it up already,” she lost me further. When she re-posted the picture to Twitter, where it is still up, she made me mad.
Again, I am not slut shaming her. But this, to me, is not feminism. Claiming feminism (and implying sexism in the process) is an ad hominem that I have increasingly seen when common sense rules and standards of a society prevent some women from doing whatever they want.
A rose by any other name is just as horrible
Let’s remember the legitimate definition of feminism. It is a movement for equality of the sexes. For Amber Rose to post a naked picture of her genitals and claim “feminism” is to advocate for the right of all sexes to post or send unsolicited naked pictures through the internet.
Sound familiar? Women have been increasingly bombarded with unsolicited digital pictures of male genitalia. In terms of feminism, women did have two options to maintain equality: tell men to stop sending pictures of their genitals, or start taking and posting just as many naked pictures and flood the internet with twice the amount of genitals.
Women, for the overwhelming most part, chose the former. There has been a mass online backlash from women against unsolicited naked pictures from men. Some have gone as far as calling it a form of virtual sexual assault. I feel comfortable in saying that it is now generally held that when a man sends you a naked picture of himself without your consent, he has done something that is upsetting, ethically wrong and often hurtful. To me, it is not surprising that people do not like when they see vivid, complete nudity when they did not ask for it.
Messages and precedents
Yet Amber Rose has chosen the latter. And as a public figure, she does much more damage in making this decision than someone without such a significant number of followers. This picture was a female version of the so-called “dick pic.” People scrolling through Instagram or Twitter did not consent to see her genitals. In fact, Instagrammers should feel particularly safe as the platform’s policy specifically states, “we don’t allow nudity on Instagram.”
For her to then post her picture on Twitter, which does allow nudity, is to ignore and circumvent the message clearly being given: it is not appropriate to post unsolicited pictures of full nudity on publically accessible social media.
I will also bring up the fact that for both Instagram and Twitter, users can sign up at the age of 13. The Pew Research Center found in 2015 that 23 per cent of girls and 17 per cent of boys ages 13 to 17 use Instagram in America. While those are the most recent statistics on teens as of now (they seem to be largely ignored in demographic studies), it is reasonable to imagine those numbers have grown even higher by 2017.
While some may argue that these kids have probably already been exposed to nudity on the internet, why perpetuate the idea that exposing one’s self to children is okay? Why perpetuate the idea to children that full naked pictures posted online are a completely respectable, nay “feminist,” thing to do? We have already had to make it a criminal offense for children under 18 to have and send naked pictures of one another, why make this law appear “sexist” or “oppressive” by promoting full, unsolicited nudity as the actions of an “entitled activist of women’s rights?”
Remembering what feminism actually is
Rose also added in her follow-up Instagram post that she did not care that her picture was deleted, “because everyone picked it up already.” As a model and actress, fame is obviously and understandably Rose’s personal goal. But as an activist for women’s rights, her goal should be to advocate equal treatment. If equal treatment is to commit the equivalent of the virtual sexual assault that women have been massively fighting against for years and brand it as “feminism” on a site ripe with impressionable teenagers, she has done exactly that.
But for me, feminism should promote equality between all sexes and genders on a standard of respect. It is not respectful to force someone, potentially a 13-year-old, to be exposed to your naked crotch when they did not ask or consent to its surprise appearance. It is disrespectful when men do this to women (or men). It is disrespectful when anyone does this to anyone. And it was disrespectful of Rose to do this.
The internet is no longer a place that anyone can feel entirely safe. It is one thing to abuse this. It is another thing to abuse this in the name of a movement that gave you the capability to vote, work and post this picture in the first place.
To Rose, I say: Women throughout history have suffered for feminism. Women have sacrificed everything they ever had for feminism. Women have died for feminism. Women did not endure this pain so you could do absolutely whatever you want and use the name of their movement as a catch-all excuse and justification. I suggest you refresh your understanding of the term.
By Alexa Battler
Please note that opinions expressed are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and values of The Blank Page.