By Meghana Nallajerla

Note: Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their authors and not necessarily those of Penn Dems as an organization.

On October 9th, a judge in Virginia tossed a case regarding a man who took “upskirt” pictures of unsuspecting women. The individual in question, Christopher Cleveland, took pictures of women wearing dresses and skirts when they walked up or sat on the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial.

Though the judge, Juliet McKenna, stated that Cleveland’s acts were “repellant and disturbing,” she ruled that no one who was “clothed and positioned in such a manner…could have a reasonable expectation of privacy.” The rhetoric surrounding Judge McKenna’s ruling is extremely problematic, as the judge places the blame on the women dressed in “such a manner,” implying that they were asking to be photographed, or at least should not be surprised that they were.

Similar cases of individuals taking upskirt pictures presented themselves in Texas and Massachusetts earlier this year, and in both scenarios the ruling was made in favor of the defendant, although Massachusetts lawmakers immediately reacted to the ruling by criminalizing the act of taking upskirt pictures. However, Texan lawmakers’ went further away from progress with their statement that upskirt pictures are in fact “art.”

In response to such statements, some women on the news have half-jokingly suggested that women should now wear only pants.

In an age when conversations regarding victim blaming and sexual harassment are supposed to be progressing, it is disturbing that this situation is even possible. The act of taking pictures of women’s crotches and buttocks is clearly very invasive, and people in our society are justifying it as “expected” and a form of “art.”

Penn’s campus is no exception to such violators. Just last week, a man on Spruce quickly pulled out his phone, held it high at a slight angle, and took two photographs of my breasts as I walked past him to class. I was very obviously disturbed, but was too shocked to consider confronting him or chasing him down the street as he quickly sped past me. I retold the event to a couple friends on the same day, and responses ranged from “are you okay?” to “that’s really horrible, I’m sorry.” I do seriously believe that most people view these kinds of actions as unacceptable, and yet, the first question I received when recounting the incident the next day was “What were you wearing?”

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