In July 2016, Playboy model Dani Mathers—crowned Playmate of the Year in 2015—committed a grotesque violation of privacy by secretly photographing a naked, 70-year-old woman at the gym and posting it to Snapchat. The photograph includes a blithely cruel caption, “If I can’t unsee this then you can’t either” and, for good measure, features Mathers herself, feigning horror. At the end of May 2017 she will be tried in court for this offense. Good.
According to the New York Daily News, Mathers argued that the Peeping Tom law in question is unconstitutional due to its ambiguity. The model hoped this strategy would prevent her case from going to court, but alas—no luck.
Los Angeles judge Gustavo Sztraicher ruled, “The court finds the statute is constitutional and not void for vagueness.”
Under California law, it is illegal to secretly photograph or record an “identifiable person” in a residence, changing room, or tanning booth without procuring their consent. Mathers’ defense lawyer Dana Cole claimed that the woman in the photograph is not “identifiable.”
“This was a far-away shot, and the victim, her features cannot be identified,” he said.
Cole added that it required “a lot of hours and a lot of work” before Los Angeles Police could locate the woman.
This argument was easily harpooned. Chadd Kim, the Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney, called it “illogical, circular,” and remarked that is the province of a jury to determine whether or not the woman is “identifiable”
While the date is not firm, the trial is scheduled to begin on May 26. And according to Cole, Mathers will “definitely” testify.
Last summer, Mathers posted an online video apologizing for body-shaming the anonymous gym patron.
“That was absolutely wrong and not what I meant to do,” she said. “I know that body-shaming is wrong. That is not the type of person I am.”
And yet...it would seem that you are, Dani. Hopefully that will change.
After the incident, Mathers was banned from LA Fitness, the site of the violation, and she withdrew from social media.
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced the decision to prosecute Mathers on November 4, 2016.
“Body shaming is humiliating, with often painful, long-term consequences,” he said. “It mocks and stigmatizes its victims, tearing down self-respect and perpetuating the harmful idea that our unique physical appearances should be compared to air-brushed notions of ‘perfect.’ What really matters is our character and humanity.”
Frankly, we can dispense with the adages regarding which aspects of our selves matter most. Because bodies do matter, to the extent that we have a right to feel at home in them. But as most of us know, achieving self-acceptance can be achingly difficult when we’re everyday assaulted with various absurd beauty metrics. Mathers has been told, rather explicitly, that she exemplifies Western beauty standards, so I imagine it was easy to unthinkingly pass judgment on another woman who, in her eyes, falls short. But it was also malicious and a symptom of the physical stigmatization to which so many are subjected. Mathers must be held responsible for her actions, but if we do not approach the issue as systemic, we won’t achieve much.