Required Reading. I really mean that. Jennifer Aniston’s essay on Huffington Post blew up on the internet last week for good reason. She confronts the rampant body shaming of females in the press, the problems with “bump watch” tabloids, the utter ridiculousness of focusing on celebrity gossip given all of the other things that have been going on in the world lately, and what the hell it means to be a woman, famous or not, in a world that passively accepts what are often toxic views of womanhood. I want to scream this part from the rooftops: “Here’s where I come out on this topic: we are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies. That decision is ours and ours alone. Let’s make that decision for ourselves and for the young women in this world who look to us as examples. Let’s make that decision consciously, outside of the tabloid noise. We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own “happily ever after” for ourselves.”
If you haven’t read it, read it. Now. If you have read it, reread it. “For The Record”
Let me start by saying that addressing gossip is something I have never done. I don’t like to give energy to the business of lies, but I wanted to participate in a larger conversation that has already begun and needs to continue. Since I’m not on social media, I decided to put my thoughts here in writing.
For the record, I am not pregnant. What I am is fed up. I’m fed up with the sport-like scrutiny and body shaming that occurs daily under the guise of “journalism,” the “First Amendment” and “celebrity news.”
Every day my husband and I are harassed by dozens of aggressive photographers staked outside our home who will go to shocking lengths to obtain any kind of photo, even if it means endangering us or the unlucky pedestrians who happen to be nearby. But setting aside the public safety aspect, I want to focus on the bigger picture of what this insane tabloid ritual represents to all of us.
If I am some kind of symbol to some people out there, then clearly I am an example of the lens through which we, as a society, view our mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, female friends and colleagues. The objectification and scrutiny we put women through is absurd and disturbing. The way I am portrayed by the media is simply a reflection of how we see and portray women in general, measured against some warped standard of beauty. Sometimes cultural standards just need a different perspective so we can see them for what they really are — a collective acceptance… a subconscious agreement. We are in charge of our agreement. Little girls everywhere are absorbing our agreement, passive or otherwise. And it begins early. The message that girls are not pretty unless they’re incredibly thin, that they’re not worthy of our attention unless they look like a supermodel or an actress on the cover of a magazine is something we’re all willingly buying into. This conditioning is something girls then carry into womanhood. We use celebrity “news” to perpetuate this dehumanizing view of females, focused solely on one’s physical appearance, which tabloids turn into a sporting event of speculation. Is she pregnant? Is she eating too much? Has she let herself go? Is her marriage on the rocks because the camera detects some physical “imperfection”?
I used to tell myself that tabloids were like comic books, not to be taken seriously, just a soap opera for people to follow when they need a distraction. But I really can’t tell myself that anymore because the reality is the stalking and objectification I’ve experienced first-hand, going on decades now, reflects the warped way we calculate a woman’s worth.