Random Ephemera

5 Things to Take Away From Dani Mathers Body Shaming Another Woman

A few days ago, a woman named Dani Mathers posted on the Internet a secretly taken nude photo of a woman at her gym taking a shower. Mathers isn't some mean teenager with a kid's diminished ability to understand consequences, but a 29-year-old professional model and radio personality who was Playboy's 2015 Playmate of the Year. The photo was paired with a reaction shot of Mathers laughing and looking disgusted along with the caption "If I can't unsee this then you can't either." The public's reaction was immediate and almost universally critical of Mathers, as shock and anger that a privileged woman would body shame another spread across the Internet like wildfire. Let's look at a few of the reasons what Mathers did is so awful.

5. She Robbed Her Victim of Consent.

Mathers is a famous Playboy model, and has undoubtedly had to sign contracts giving consent for photos of herself to be published. She didn't allow that to happen for free either, but was paid for her modeling. Mathers's victim, on the other hand, was just taking a shower after working out at her gym, with a completely reasonable expectation of privacy. That is, until an asshole Playboy Playmate thought it would be funny to secretly take a photo of her for purposes of ridicule, and made that image public on the Internet. Mathers's victim wasn't given the opportunity to consent, nor did she get compensated in any way. Mathers stripped her victim of her privacy and dignity in a way that she herself would probably object to if their roles were reversed. What she did is worse than bullying; it's a form of assault.

4. Mathers's Own Nude Photos Are the Product of Advantages Her Victim Didn't Have.

Until I heard about this story, I didn't know who Dani Mathers was, but finding photos of her was simple enough — they're all over the Internet. Judging from her Playboy photos, Mathers's image benefits from lots of pre- and post-production work. Hours of preparation using the best professional equipment available went into the extremely posed and perfected photos of Mathers. It appears that she's had breast augmentation, had her own team of makeup and hair stylists, and that lots of post-production "Photoshopping" went into the creation of those photos. The end result is the type of artificially perfected images that one would expect from a Playboy shoot. It's an aesthetic I don't personally find attractive, and it's boring, but those photos present Mathers in an idealized way.

That's a far cry from any technical advantages Mathers afforded her victim, of whom she cruelly snapped a picture with her phone. But Mathers wasn't interested in giving her victim the same advantages she had; she only wanted to ridicule her.

3. Mathers's Apologies Sound Self-Serving and Insincere.

Okay, I can't know what's going through Dani Mathers's head or how genuinely sorry she actually is, but the Playmate quickly filmed an apology saying that she'd only meant the photo to be sent to one girlfriend of hers. She also claims to love the female form, and that she wants to promote that appreciation through her own modeling. Nothing she said sounded particularly sincere, especially the "I only meant to send it to one person" excuse, since she still apparently thought it was okay to secretly take a stranger's nude photo if she was only going to humiliate that person secretly among her friends. That's the kind of bullying shit that mean teenagers do, and it's still not acceptable when kids do it. Pretty much nothing else Mathers says reconciles that one serious issue with her story. If she's not interested in shaming other women, and is instead interested in celebrating the female form, then she's going about it the wrong way. It sounds more likely that Mathers has always benefited from privileges granted by her beauty, and perhaps the only female forms she wants to celebrate are ones she thinks are attractive. It would be refreshing if instead of her nonsensical excuses, Mathers just came out and admitted that she thinks people less attractive than Playboy models are inferior to folks such as herself and deserve ridicule, because that's what her actions seem to indicate.

2. What Mathers Did Is Similar to Revenge Porn.

The Internet has created a lot of great things, and a lot of awful ones, with "revenge porn" fitting decidedly into the latter category. Taking another person's nude image and releasing it onto the Internet can have serious and awful consequences for that person almost indefinitely. Once an image is online, it's "out there" forever, and can haunt people in many ways, since they never can know when it will surface again. Fortunately, it's likely Mathers's career as a representative of Playboy is effectively over, since she's a liability to any mainstream brand that doesn't want to be associated with body shaming women.

1. Mathers's Actions Bring Up Issues of Beauty and Character.

As a Playmate of the Year, Mathers benefits from privileges that the average American woman does not. In a society where women are often judged for not meeting certain beauty standards, and where pressure to conform to those standards is intense, Mathers has advantages due to the perception that she's "beautiful." For her to humiliate and expose another woman in such a way shows deep problems with Mather's personal character, and the way she chose to taunt her victim is probably illegal. About half the states have laws specifically against this type of thing, including California, where Mathers resides, so it will be interesting to see what criminal and civil charges she may face. It's not even a matter of whether or not she's guilty, since she admitted what she did; it's a matter of what legal penalties will stem from her actions.

Dani Mathers is young and probably feels beautiful now, but she won't always be in her prime, and beauty tends to fade with time. Supporting the kind of oppressive attitudes that punish women for their appearance is shortsighted and stupid. It's a cliché, but true — inner beauty and character last a whole lot longer than being physically attractive, and Mathers should consider developing those things instead of bashing other women for not meeting her personal standards of physical perfection.
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Chris Lane is a contributing writer who enjoys covering art, music, pop culture, and social issues.