A few weeks ago, I was faced with a conundrum unique to editors working in today’s culture of fast news and social media–driven traffic. In Touch Weekly had just come out with a cover screaming: “Jen’s Finally Pregnant!” complete with “11 amazing photos” showing the “world exclusive of the first bump pics.” Although I made the call not to participate in the speculation, it would be a lie not to admit that I didn’t at least briefly entertain the idea.
Generally speaking, there’s not a lot of upside to speculating about someone’s body—be it a person you know privately or a celebrity in the public eye. But the fact of the matter is, our culture is obsessed with it, constantly scrutinizing and debating every physical detail, pressuring media outlets to further fuel the conversation in exchange for traffic or sales. Some may make the argument that celebrities expect or deserve it—part of the job of being famous—but the irony is, this type of behavior says a lot more about us as the speculators than it does about the person being criticized.
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After decades of silently being on the receiving end of intense and unwelcome media scrutiny, 47-year-old Jennifer Aniston is finally speaking up and calling out this huge problem—yes, about the media, but also to the general public that just can’t get enough.
In an essay titled “For The Record,” Aniston writes in the Huffington Post, “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.”
— Jeney Maria (@Jeneymaria) June 25, 2016
She continues: “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…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 resent being made to feel ‘less than’ because my body is changing and/or I had a burger for lunch and was photographed from a weird angle and therefore deemed one of two things: ‘pregnant’ or ‘fat,’ Ansiton writes. “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.”
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