The Internet has made many things possible. Only some of those things are good. One example of bad is from Tuesday’s Washington Post. An 18-year-old female athlete’s picture was posted on a popular website, along with a sexual comment. Her fame has now been spread far and wide, and she is being, well, it’s not quite illegal, but her sudden fame is certainly harassing. One of the things she (or rather her coach) says in the article is that she feels like her body has been taken away from her. Many hundreds of thousands of people are writing about her and searching for her name (a Google search currently turns up about 200,000 results). Many hundreds of thousands of people are commenting on her attractiveness. Very few of those people are talking about her incredible talent as a pole vaulter (she won a 2004 California state pole vaulting title, has broken five national records, and won a pole vaulting scholarship to the University of California).
It’s annoying to all young women to have men leering at them in person. How terrifying would it be for a young woman to have men all over the world leering at her? She has stopped going out, because of the stares and comments.
I am currently reading a book called Slut! Growing Up Female With a Bad Reputation by Leora Tanenbaum, which talks about how young women who are considered different or pretty or simply end up with a lot of attention are called sluts. They often have no more, and sometimes much less, sexual experience than their peers. But they are singled out for unwanted sexual attention. Being called a slut and receiving so much attention is often a defining part of these young women’s lives. It often dictates many of their choices and movements. Leora discusses and documents many of these negative results.
I worry about this young athlete – if being the slut of a school or a town can have such a huge impact, I wonder what the impact of being plastered across the Internet might do. You’ll notice I have not included this young woman’s name or her photo in this post. There are plenty of other places to learn more about her (about 200,000 I think, all with plenty of photos).