• Lexie Nelson

Bella Thorne vs Whoopi Goldberg: The Showdown Over Female Empowerment

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

If you haven’t heard, the recent controversy between Bella Thorne and Whoopi Goldberg has sparked many conversations about privacy, the female body, female empowerment, and body politics.

What happened, exactly? Here’s the lowdown:

Bella Thorne posted last week admitting that a hacker gained access to her nude pictures and threatened to post them. Thorne stated that she felt “someone [had] taken something from me that [she] only wanted one special person to see”. In the same tweet, Thorne took agency over her own body and posted the nude photos he claimed to have, because “it’s MY DECISION NOW U DONT GET TO TAKE YET ANOTHER THING FROM ME.”

So where does Whoopi come in? On The View, Whoopi gave some strong opinions about Bella’s actions and reasonings for doing so. Whoopi reported that technological privacy and security should always be treated as an immense threat - one that can immediately eat up nude photos. Whoopi then indicates that, in 2019, people should not be taking nude photos like Bella’s, because anyone at any moment could hack your device and steal your information.

Whoopi’s advice could apply to a lot of things in which people store in their phones - credit card numbers, passwords, banking information, emails, location, online orders, addresses of employment/school, and even your frequent routes.

Yet, why does Whoopi put Bella at fault for taking pictures in the first place rather than the hacker or phone company? Why would someone hack into Bella’s photos and not any of the other information listed above?

Social media users, particularly on Twitter, were quick to point out that Whoopi’s argument was incoherent and comparable to “Wearing a short skirt? May get raped” as one user pointed out, or even “blaming victims of identity theft for using credit cards”, as stated by the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative.

So why does this matter? Because Bella Thorne created an UPROAR on the internet about victim blaming outside of rape culture that is not usually discussed, if at all.

Thorne’s agency over her own body, sexual or not, is not something that Whoopi, or anyone, should argue against. What other conversations does this interaction provoke?

1. Privacy

The idea Whoopi bases her argument on is that privacy on technological devices is currently not the best. While this may not have been Whoopi’s main critique, it still brings into question how easy it is for a determined individual to access anything on our cell phones.

2. The Female Body

Bella was previously critiqued for her GQ Mexico photo shoot in which she also poses in sheer nudity. The problem here is not Bella’s openness, but the lack of discussion about male counterparts who pose nearly nude for magazine covers. These actors are praised and drooled over for their shoots, but Bella ends up being a “terrible role model” or “inappropriate”. Likewise, plenty of actors get nude photos leaked, but I have yet to hear someone tell Brad Pitt or Justin Bieber “I don’t care how famous you are, you don’t take nude photos of yourself”.

3. Female Empowerment

“Just because I’m a public figure, just because I’m an actress, does not mean that I asked for this. It does not mean that it comes with the territory. It’s my body, and it should be my choice, and the fact that it is not my choice is absolutely disgusting.”

Jennifer Lawrence, who became a victim of revenge porn in 2014, said it best. While nude photos can be taken for any reasoning, Bella adds that her photos had an intended audience. Regardless, consensually sending nude photos is not a crime, but revenge porn is. Unfortunately, then, Whoopi ends up justifying a legitimate crime where the hacker (who, at the time of publication, still had not been caught) will have legal penalties for his actions. To tell women their nudes will be leaked gives agency to whoever obtains the nude photos rather than the person in the actual photos. Yet, that also means that women do not own their own body - it becomes property to anyone who hacks into one’s cell phone and/or distributes them. This then goes full circle into…

4. Body Politics

Luckily, revenge porn is an actual legal crime and no longer just a scandal where someone is judged poorly for taking such photos. Yet, THE Whoopi Goldberg blaming Bella for her photos showcases that the female body is still limited and restricted in who the audience can be for, who is even allowed to take such photos, and how women should treat their body and/or sexuality. It shouldn’t even be a question as to how Bella is allowed to feel about herself, how open she can be about her sexual experiences, and who she chooses to share her body with.

At the end of the day, Bella’s response to Whoopi says it all - that older women like Whoopi are still stuck behind the belief that women cannot display their sexuality/desires and not expect someone to distort or redistribute such images or videos.

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