Women’s bodies – pwned public space

NicuBuculei So this post by cowardly asshat voyeur Nicu Buculei[1], a 35 year old man from Romania, was on Planet Fedora the other day, and was up for a while before being pulled down.

I’m not going to reproduce the image here, but the post includes a heading, “Upskirt”, with a cellphone image of the legs of a woman on the bus. Her thighs are crossed, and as he is in a position to look up her skirt, the image includes bare skin nearly up to her buttocks.

Nicu’s remarks:

This is an interesting reason to use the bus to go from work to home (Bucharest, the 300 bus line):


The photo is not that great, being made with my 2.5 years old phone (I didn’t had the guts to reach my backpack and take out the SLR with really big lenses), but think it was taken wile standing and with the phone at the height where you are normally using it for writing text (and imagine what could I do with just a bit of effort).

To the credit of the Planet Fedora community, many of the readers didn’t tolerate it either, though some of their arguments centre as much around how it makes the Linux community “look bad” as around the fact that it was wrong in the first place. A sampling of comments:

‘upskirt’? On the fedora planet? Bloody hell mate, that’s not cool.

This is the most distressingly bizzare thing I’ve yet seen in 2008. Christ.

Wow, no matter how interesting this post might have been, you lost me at the “upskirt” pic.

I agree with the previous posters – this is not cool. First, I don’t think a planet-syndicated blog is a place to be posting racy pictures to begin with — but I really think the “upskirt” thing is offensive on top of this. Did you ask this woman if was OK to take this? To post it to a Web site?

It’s not that it is so much a legal question as it is a moral one. Obviously you understand that she would not like it, so you used your camera phone. Should that not have been a clue that it wasn’t “right”? Can you imagine being her? How would you feel about this? Angry, I would suspect.

The objection that women are being objectified is clearly supported by the comments on this blog talking about the woman as a “pair of legs” and is rather disgusting. Knock it the heck off, m’kay?

it isn’t just the content of the picture that is the problem; the problem is that it was a covert photograph taken without the woman’s permission. Not only that, but it was a photograph taken by a man who was thinking about what was under the woman’s skirt, rather than just her legs, otherwise he would not have called it an “upskirt” photo. If he’d said “hey, look at those sexy legs”, it wouldn’t have been quite so offensive. There is a difference between taking artistic photographs of beautiful things (including beautiful people) and taking photographs with the intent of turning a woman into a sex object rather than a human being.

Taking a covert photo of a woman’s legs and posting it on the Internet to gawk over with other people is disrespectful to the woman in question. Posting said picture is disrespectful to all women as it implies that it’s acceptable behaviour to treat women in this way.

Special kudos to digimer, that last commenter, for not saying “Hey, how about if that was your daughter/wife/sister?” This is the usual way of casting sexual violations as crimes against men’s property; but instead digimer told him to put himself in the place of the actual woman herself. Digimer is, unsurprisingly, a woman, as are some of the other commenters approaching this from a “women are human” perspective rather than a “hey, you’re making us blokes look bad”.

Unfortunately, snerd (one of my hat-tips) did pull the mother/daughter/sister routine later in the thread, but you can’t win ’em all – I’m guessing that by then the assumption was that Nicu would refuse point blank to take part in a thought-experiment he would find so demeaning.

Aaaand, then the usual victim-blamers and frea speachers and no-YOU’RE-the-pervert!ers join the party.

Oh, come on guys. If she didn’t want her legs to be seen, she would have taken a long skirt.

Woop, woop. Here comes the Planet Police. Geez, everyone. It’s a pair of legs. Get over it.

You’ve discovered the fastest way to identify the leftest facists – congratulations. She has nice legs. Anybody that considers that “up skirt” is a overly sensitive twit.

First of all Nicu did nothing wrong neither from the legal point view or the moral point of view. He photographed in public a nice pair of legs and he added the photo onto he’s PERSONAL blog, keeping the girls face anonymous.

Oh, come on! That are just a pair of legs…What’s wrong with that? What kind of twisted morality thinks that a pair of legs are ugly?

It’s just a pair of legs and Nicu didn’t try to photograph anything that the girl wanted to keep hidden. So, just stop accusing Nicu of being a “pervert”. The real perversion here is trying to see “the devil” in every human action. It hurts enough living so near to the Vatican, I can’t stand all this moralism (read hypocrisy) on the net too. [..] the hypocrisy here is trying to make Nicu an horrible, immoral, dirty man and putting him on a cross just because he made an innocent picture, as if we all are absolutely perfect and pure creatures.

All I can say is, Lauredhel demands an explanation for this bullshit.

[1] Feel free to googlebomb cowardly asshat voyeur Nicu Buculei. I’m sure cowardly asshat voyeur Nicu Buculei won’t mind.

[hat-tips to redhead & snerd]

Categories: arts & entertainment, gender & feminism, violence

Tags: , , ,

27 replies

  1. Guh– reading that first set of responses, I was starting to have some hope in the world. But the second set of responses brought me right back down to reality.

  2. Bpp:
    Tht’s fnn. flt jst th sm ftr rdng ths blg pst. t mks m fl lk vmtng.
    “… yr dghtr/wf/sstr?’ Ths s th sl w f cstng sxl vltns s crms gnst mns prprt”. mf. Gt grp lds.
    [Disemvowelled by mod, in accordance with our comment policy. ~L]

  3. No offence taken; I certainly wasn’t trying to imply that anybody (any body?) is anybody else’s property in any way, I was simply trying to connect with some of the commenters in that thread on some emotional level and route around the hooting baboon pack behaviour.

  4. excellent excellent piece. This is one of my “favorite” topics of blogging lately.
    This one is a recurring theme:
    Oh, come on guys. If she didn’t want her legs to be seen, she would have taken a long skirt.
    As I’ve written on my own blog, I loathe the assumption men have that women put on, not the clothes they like, but the ones whose sex appeal is equal to the amount they don;t mind being objectified. Men can’t seem to get over that women’s lives do not revolve around their satisfaction. Barf. News flash: women don’t dress for the sole purpose of men. And not only because some of us are lesbians.
    lindabeths last blog post..My thesis is finished

  5. Well it’s illegal in the UK. There was also a Video Voyeurism Prevention Act passed in the US senate during 2004 but I don’t know what happened when it went to the House of Representatives.

  6. I’d have to strongly disagree with you re: describing the “what if it was your daughter/wife/sister?” line as “the usual way of casting sexual violations as crimes against men’s property”.
    I see that as just a specific example of the more general form where you try to explain to a (clueless) person why something is wrong (especially when it’s something that Mr/Ms Clueless just did).
    (Note again that in this case I think the main issue was that both the cowardly asshat voyeur Nicu Buculei and his fellow sociopath-wannabes seem unable to recognise there’s anything even slightly wrong with what Nicu did.)
    Appealing to their sense of empathy is one way that can sometimes work – by trying to make them visualise someone they care about being subjected to the same wrongness.
    It’s by no means exclusively for sexual wrongness either – but the key thing is to cast it in terms that the target might actually be able to both visualise and take seriously. For example, trying to explain to another kid in school why it was wrong for him to shove that smaller kid out of his way – you might have a chance with something like “How would you feel if someone like me shoved your little brother to the ground and laughed at him like you just did to that kid?” But it probably wouldn’t work if you substituted “your dad” for “your little brother”. The target wouldn’t be able to take it seriously (“ha ha, you couldn’t push my dad around!”), and there’d be no chance of him grasping the point.
    In this case the example used was “what if it was your youngish-female-relative?”, specifically because that’s both a plausible target for the wrongness under discussion and it is (at least in theory) someone the dipshit in question should care about.
    I don’t think any of the commenters using that line (and certainly not snerd) were intending to characterise this sexual violation as “a crime against men’s property”. I could imagine it potentially being intended that way, but I think it’s inappropriate to suggest it’s a reasonable default interpretation.
    Especially in snerd’s case. 🙂

  7. Wow, if it really *was* just a pair of legs in that picture, that would be kind of gross. And newsworthy. Also bloody, and not sexxxaay.
    Can those ass-hats not grasp the fact that the “just a pair of legs” belongs to a human being? I suppose they’d be aces with it if a picture oftheir “just a scrotum in the locker room” ended up on a Big Gay Planet website, right? I mean, it’s just some balls, for heavens’ sakes, who cares if there’s a dude attached to it?

  8. Pete:
    Apart from the lameness, there is absolutely nothing wrong in posting a picture of an unidentifiable person’s legs.
    Suggesting that I am a ‘fellow sociopath-wannabe’ for standing up for reasonable freedoms of expression, on the other hand, is highly questionable.
    Oh, and by the way: I demand that you all ask for my permission before responding to this post directly or indirectly. Anything else will offend me.

  9. Anders,
    You’re (deliberately?) trying to obscure and distort the issue and avoid acknowledging the real nature of the problem (what a surprise).
    The complaint is not just (or at all) about “posting a picture of an unidentifiable person’s legs.” The complaint is about:
    taking an intrusive picture of a person without their permission, and
    posting that picture on a public forum without their permission, and
    making lewd and suggestive comments about the picture of that person, once again (of course) without that person’s permission,…
    …and yes, there even seemed to be some commenters on Nicu’s post protesting only about the inappropriateness of the salacious picture and text in that environment. Though I’d like to think that at least some of those commenters would also acknowledge that the three previous points above are also valid.
    Before you suggest that it’s questionable for me to label you as a sociopath-wannabe, you might want to check out what it means to be a sociopath:
    “They never recognise the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviours as permissible” – check.
    “Grandiose sense of self – Feels entitled to certain things as ‘their right’” – check.
    “Lack of remorse, shame or guilt” – check.
    “Need for stimulation” – check.
    “Callousness/Lack of empathy – Unable to empathise with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others’ feeling of distress” – big check!
    Not mentioned explicitly on that link but I’ve heard it mentioned quite frequently (eg. here) is the “viewing people as objects” characteristic. Do you think describing a woman as just “legs” (as you just did) might qualify? How about the way you emphasised her as unidentifiable and faceless (and even trying to excuse Nicu’s behaviour purely on those grounds)?
    Describing you as a “wannabe-sociopath” is probably the least questionable or debatable part of my above comment. You can either accept it or stay in denial – and I have absolutely no doubt which option you’ll choose.

  10. The real nature of the problem is that there is no problem and that you are a hypocrite for not respecting my wish with regards to responses to my comment.
    Try running your sociopath diagnostics on yourself.

    How about the way you emphasised her as unidentifiable and faceless (and even trying to excuse Nicu’s behaviour purely on those grounds)?

    Ohh, right. So when the police reports finding an unidentifiable (look how they insinuate that women have no identity) body (look how they stress the body over the mind! pure objectification!) of a dead (look how they suggest that the passivity of women) woman (look how they stress her gender – they are practically saying that this only happens to women!), then the police is the perpetrator and not the murderer, am I right? Oh oh oh, and in a position of authority too! omgomgomg – this feminism is all so clear to me now! Yeah! Get a life.

  11. And people continue to tell me that the reason women aren’t participating in computer-oriented communities is some kind of inherent natural difference between men and women.

  12. Anders, you’ve reached your limit on this thread. If you wish to comment again, please make it at least one of: interesting, intelligent, amusing, or feminist. Thanks.

  13. lala: we’re not all Utterly Evil, I hope. I’m no white-knight (boobsknickersboobsknickers) but the whole FOSS scene as such is a much more welcoming community than it might otherwise appear from this tawdry exchange.
    Anders, you’ve descended into foaming self parody.

  14. I really have to respond to what Anders said:
    Apart from the lameness, there is absolutely nothing wrong in posting a picture of an unidentifiable person’s legs.
    The unidentifiability is not the issue here. It’s the lack of consent to be photographed and the lack of consent to have the photograph distributed online.
    Suggesting that I am a ‘fellow sociopath-wannabe’ for standing up for reasonable freedoms of expression, on the other hand, is highly questionable.
    This is my main beef with what you say. “Freedom of expression” NEVER becomes an issue here, because freedom of expression implies some sort of ownership involved: your art, your words, your text. Photographing a woman, attempting to photograph up her shirt, no less, without her consent, and publishing it online, also without her consent, does not give any legitimate ownership of her body’s representation to this guy.
    This is an issue of (the woman’s) privacy, and to be honest, her goddamm right to exist as a human being in public without being unknowingly immortalized online as a sexual thing (right? “just a pair of legs”) and NOT at all an issue of expression. It would be an issue of expression if he asked the woman to photograph her and asked her if she minded him posting it on his blog and she agreed, and if the same reaction ensued. But our reaction is not over the image’s content per se–expression–but rather over the “who do you think you are?” that he felt the right to a) take the pic in the 1st place, b) publish it online, and c) place it in an even further sexualized context through his commentary.
    You, however, exhibit in gobs male privilege and an arrogant sense of entitlement over women’s bodies if you think that by a woman daring to be in public “like that” her body is up for grabs to be “owned” (by being photographed), sexualized (despite her desire to simply exist in the world as a female human being), and then displayed online for all to see and continue to sexualize her body, fetishizing her humanity’s absence (her face).
    Her legs are her legs, her body is her body, and she decides what will be done with it, not you or anyone else. They are part of her, as a human being, and are not not not public domain. I don’t know why this is so hard for men especially to understand!
    Your idea that the photo’s “anonymity” makes it alright, shows how much women have been dehumanized in western culture to the point that our only humanity is in our faces. Everything else, according to you, is just an think to sexualize, and is up for public ownership, so long as we women “dare” to be in public at all.
    Your victim-blaming aside (she;s acking to be sexualized, because clearly in your male privilege-laced fantasy world all women dress solely for men’s visual benefit and according to the degree they want to be sexualized, c’mon… think about the “possible views” when a woman is sitting down on a bus with even a professional, just-above-the-knee skirt and her legs crossed. A professionally dressed woman would likely appear like this, so how dare you suggest that the very act of her taking the bus in any clothing that might show some leg means she’s up for grabs. bullshit.)
    Oh, and by the way: I demand that you all ask for my permission before responding to this post directly or indirectly. Anything else will offend me.
    Actually–wrong. By commenting on this blog you are consenting to discussion. That’s part of the rules of engagement in the blogging medium. She walked outside of her house. Into her community. And traveled by public transportation as a human being and community member. That is not consent to anything. You have consented to this activity; she did not consent to his activity. That is the crucial difference.
    If you need further convincing, I have written about this here, here, and here.

  15. Wow, still no apology.
    This is the entirety of Nicu’s response:

    I won’t comment about “the incident” at this time, there are lots of labels, flames and reactions about it. But I can draw some inspiration from it.

    More here at Screw You.

  16. I just thought I’d mention an interesting snippet from a link in my previous comment:

    Socipaths are often glib when questioned about their behavior. They are famous for not answering the question asked them or they answer in a way to confuse the questioner. Their answers can often seem unresponsive to the question (Hare p139)

    Hmm. 🙂
    BTW lindabeth, you may already be aware of this, but Anders was just making a fairly lame attempt at urine-extraction with the “you need my permission!” line (which is why I gave it all the attention it deserved, ie. none).
    It’s fairly common with that type of geek, they think they’re a lot smarter than they actually are.

  17. Wow…go Lindabeth, it’s your birthday. Far out, you went to town on that toolbag, and I’d like to say *right on*.
    Pete, you delivered a most awesome butt kicking to Anders there…however, I took exception to your impication that Lauredhel was *inappropriate* to raise the fact that there are some problems if men can only conceive of how *wrong* it is to harrass women if they can apply it to their relatives/lovers etc. I don’t think she said it was necessarily a default reading and I also don’t know that the person’s intent means that the issue with that approach is not still there/is inappropriate to discuss. I do use it quite often as a strategy, but yeah, I think Lauredhels point was valid and worth making, and I think you skewed her point in the way you responded.
    I also think Lindabeth fully grasped the fact that Anders was attempting some kind of oh-so-wittay pisstake there (though it was just churlish and not at all witty and perhaps he needs lessons in how to properly take of the piss) and she proceeded to rip him a new one anyway in order to point out yet another aspect of his foolishness…and a hearty cheer from me to that. Also I just kinda wanna point out (cos I like to be obnoxious) that if Anders *really* wanted us to ask his permission before responding…he *may* have wanted to include some kind of link for us to do so…anyway I get that you prob addressed Lindabeth on that in order to make fun of Anders some more, but I thought those two things could be clearer.

  18. I feel the need for some sort of backing song for concern trolls, perhaps one with the sound of galloping horses. I’m imagining the tune of “Bad Horse”, or something that sounds rather like it.
    Anyhow, this particular concern troll, Steven from Alaska, is commenting on the post on this subject at lindabeth’s Feministing community blog. Check him out:

    How do you address censorship issues? That is why the paparazzi, an almost universally reviled profession exist.
    I am kinda thinking of what a ACLU arguement would be… You have to protect some speech that you may mot like in order to protect all speech. Slippery slope arguement and all that.
    ”Beyond that there are privacy laws in many places. It’s not as easy as waving the first amendment around and saying “look, now I can take photos of people’s knickers”.”
    Come on now, lets keep it fair. Our OP even mentioned the celebrity angle, and so I just want to know how a society that values free speech put a blanket pictures of unidentifiable people.
    I would hope that if the person was identified they would be fully empowered to get the photo’s taken down, an apology, and appropriate compensation.
    I just want to know if what the proposed solutions are, and (I wince as I write this) if the solutions cause bigger problems than the original problem.

  19. Just wanted to say that I was getting very discouraged by the continuing posts over at Nicu’s blog (I got sucked into arguing as well, and probably will continue at some point…sigh), but the sentiments here are somewhat rejuvenating.

  20. Keep on arguing, JeFF Stumpo – someone has to.

  21. Matthew Garrett has some thoughtful commentary at http://mjg59.livejournal.com/94420.html – worth a read.

  22. Ugggh, I’ve been going back and forth with Steven for days now, over email and blog comments, and he continues to opine that distributing these images is “speech” and that any attempt to limit them would necessarily infringe on “free speech.” He cannot seem to see that actually a woman’s representation is her speech, not his, and that it is only protected free speech when it’s given with her consent.
    Oh, and Pete, this is a wee bit tardy, but I was indeed unaware of the tactic Anders was using. But I did follow your link and I learned new British slang!

  23. I’ve used this entry as part of the incident documentation at Geek Feminism Wiki, which is the closest we have to Hollaback Free Software.

  24. Interesting wiki Mary – thanks for the linkback.


  1. A great post on a violation of a woman’s bodily privacy, and some thoughts « don’t ya wish your girlfriend was smart like me?
  2. Women’s bodies are not public domain: how many times does this need to be said? « don’t ya wish your girlfriend was smart like me?
  3. Matthew Garrett on ally work and the Linux community at Hoyden About Town
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