You might have missed it -- somewhere in between reports about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's numerous un-presidential outbursts and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's 1,527 email scandals, there was a story about Playboy Playmate Dani Mathers body shaming another woman and facing a tidal wave of backlash in return.
A refresher, for those who didn't see the story the first time around or haven't brushed up on the various "shaming" scandals of the past few months: Mathers, the 2015 Playmate of the Year, shared a photo with her thousands of followers on Snapchat in mid-July. The photo showed a sneering Mathers, gloved hand over her mouth, standing in the locker room of a Los Angeles gym while another woman stood fully nude behind her.
"If I can't unsee this," Mathers wrote in the caption, "then you can't either."
Two months later, the victim in that photo has come forward to Los Angeles police. On Sept. 5, TMZ reported that Mathers could face six months in jail for her social media stunt. The victim, who is in her 70s, "is more than willing to testify and cooperate in any way she can to bring Mathers to justice," and "wants Mathers to feel the full force of the law," according to TMZ.
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Prosecutors in Los Angeles are reviewing the case, the report said, and are expected to make a decision "soon."
Mathers, who styles herself as some sort of exercise guru, realized almost immediately that she was in trouble and released a video with a mea culpa on social media just hours after she'd shared the shaming photo.
“That was absolutely wrong and not what I meant to do," Mathers told her followers. "I have chosen to do what I do for a living because I love the female body and I know that body shaming is wrong and that’s not what I’m about, that’s not the type of person I am."
She went on to claim that she accidentally sent the photo to her legions of followers when it was actually meant for "a girlfriend" in a private direct message, perhaps thinking that would spare her some of the negative reaction that followed.
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In the fallout, Mathers was banned for life from the LA Fitness where she took the photo, as well as its 800 other locations; she was fired from her part-time gig at rock station KLOS; and she deleted her Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram accounts to cut herself off from the vitriol directed her way.
Now the question is whether Mathers should face jail time.
There are two separate issues, here.
The body-shaming issue is a cultural and societal problem that, at least in regard to Mathers, has been adequately policed online and off. Mathers didn't just lose a job and get banned from a gym -- she was pilloried in the media, with her story generating thousands of headlines about the vicious blonde Playmate snickering at a poor unaware woman just trying to better herself at a gym.
Mathers will never forget the consequences of her actions. If she thought a bit of body-shaming was going to increase her social media footprint or endear her to the fitness set, her gamble backfired big time. Her "brand," such as it is, has been forever tarnished. It's unlikely that anyone will try the same stunt.
The second issue is legal, and that's where things get a bit trickier. When we put aside all the indignation and backlash, the truth is that one person surreptitiously took a photograph of another person inside a gym locker room, where people have an expectation of privacy. No one showers or changes at the gym thinking their naked body will be shared and then shared again tens of thousands of times by dinner time.
In practice, this scenario normally plays out as some peeping Tom trying to perv on unsuspecting and attractive women -- not a Playboy Playmate poking fun at someone else's body.
TMZ says authorities -- and the victim -- want to make an example out of Mathers, and it's hard to argue that she didn't break the law, here.
The question is, does Mathers deserve more punishment for what she's done? And an honest answer, I think, is that she doesn't. If she doesn't understand the consequences of her actions, after all that she's already been through, a six-month stint in a county jail is unlikely to change a thing.
She's also suffered enormously. That's her own doing, of course, but one problem with the snowballing righteous indignation of the internet is that by the time it's all over, the punishment is often disproportionate to the crime. That's why our society settles legal matters in criminal and civil court, not in the court of public opinion.
Mathers has learned her lesson. Punishing her further might make some people feel good, but it's not going to accomplish anything that hasn't already been accomplished. It's time to move on.