Dear Celebrity Magazines,
Oops! You did it again.
With summer in full swing, the opportunities to engage in your favorite sport are rampant. And you’ve wasted no time partaking in the game.
Famous girl on the beach in her bathing suit? Let’s play: Pick Her Apart. This time, you’ve deemed her a few sizes too small. She’s a role model, how dare she?! Next week, likely, the game will turn to someone who is deemed too big. She’s a role model, how could she?! This time, the victim is LeAnn Rimes. It’s been Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Angelina Jolie, Tyra Banks, Khloe Kardashian, Kirstie Alley and many others. Who knows who it will be next week. But we all know there will be another victim. And we think that the victims of this game are just the famous, those who choose these careers and, thus, if they get the good life, they deserve this part, too. It’s only fair, right? But they are not the only victims.
Every single one of us is a victim of this game, too. We are victims when we play along: when we look at that picture of a star labeled TOO BIG FOR THE BEACH and tsk! tsk! or another picture labeled STARVING HERSELF FOR FAME and shake our heads. Somewhere, some magazine editor thinks these judgements, these stories, these photographs will make us feel better. And that they are viable news. But that’s not true. They can’t make us feel better. And nobody’s body should be news. Even if on the surface we think, “oh, I look better than that in a swim suit,” what we subconsciously learn is:
1. that it is not just okay to judge another woman’s body, it is sport.
2. that there is a universal standard that can be applied to any of us.
3. that our bodies are fair game in assessing who we are.
Trust me, no one walks away from these judgment panels improved. We all walk away collectively wounded. And what happens with a festering wound? The infection spreads to those even beyond the magazine’s pages.
It spreads to our children, who see us pouring over these pages, studying them as if they are crucibles, and come to understand that our bodies are our bearings (and, thus, that their bodies are, too), that what you think you see- from your point of view- of my body is all that needs to be known about me, and that receiving judgment from others, somehow, is our human responsibility, that bestowing judgment on others, somehow, is our human right.
It spreads to our friends, even those who do not leaf through the pages that we just did, because we cannot help but move through the world differently, with different thoughts and different things to say, with a different understanding of how we all interact, after reading that judgment and perhaps even engaging in it in some way by retweeting, posting to Facebook, or commenting- to ourselves, others, or even on the computer screen. And when we share that judgment, by buying the magazine, by forwarding the stories, by commenting, by ingesting it, we approve of that judgment. And, so, it further infects us. Not making us singularly self-conscious about wearing a bathing suit but making us universally self-conscious about everything, paralyzing us, in essence, from doing the work that we are meant to do in this world. And let me tell you what. No one’s calling is singularly to wear a swimsuit. Paralyze someone from doing what she is meant to be doing in this world and all of us suffer. Because we all need each of us at our highest function doing what we are most meant to be doing. We depend on each other’s wellness and willingness, we depend on each other’s magic and motivation. We depend on each other and, yet sometimes, we don’t remember that.
So, really, celeb magazines, do you think that you are helping any of us with your judgment? And do you think that you are helping LeAnn or Jennifer or Angelina or Khloe Or Jessica, or Brittney with your bullying? Do you think that you are provoking them into some healthier lifestyle of your imagining? Because here’s the thing. Shaming, taunting, ridiculing someone (regardless of their fame, regardless of their size, regardless of how you feel about decisions they’ve made in their marriage or how their career has turned out or the condition of their mental health) because of her body NEVER goes the way you want it to go or think it should go.
Here’s what I am fairly certain of: telling LeAnn Rimes that you think she’s too skinny, that she needs to get it together for goodness’ sake because little girls are watching her, is not going to alleviate any of the stress in her life and make her better able to do whatever she needs to do for herself. And here are two more things. 1. Only a very small group of people know what’s best for LeAnn and I am thinking they consist of LeAnn and her physician. 2. Every time we tell someone her body is up for grabs, all we do is make it more and more difficult for her to claim herself and keep herself safe. And the only way anyone of us can be wholly healthy- can be balanced and true and authentic- is to be wonderfully confident that we can keep ourselves safe. Make the world an unsafe place, and it is hard to find one’s safe haven. So, do you really want to be a part of making the world less and less safe for women- regardless of their fame?
So, here is my dare to you. Stop it. Perhaps for just one week you make a vow to stop the body critique. Just like we’ve implored young people everywhere in the past few years, make a commitment to stop the bullying. Do us all the favor of redirecting your energy and emphasis so we, too, can redirect ours. Be better than you’ve been. Be more magnanimous than you’ve been. Be kinder than you’ve been. Quit teaching us that judgment is the price we play for living. Teach us, instead, the joy we can experience in living. If you must give us stories about celebrities- and I understand that your business model says that you must- give us more stories about the causes they embrace, the favorite dishes they serve, their parenting secrets, the projects they are developing, what they learned from their parents, what books they are reading. I’d even enjoy learning about their style secrets and favorite products. But don’t cross the line to the place of judgment where bodies are banished and shamed and our humanity shrinks rather than expands. Do this- deliberately- for one week, and I bet your whole mindset changes.
Don’t make us complicit in your destructiveness. Champion all women. Understand that as long as one woman is crippled by feelings of inadequacy, then the world that we’ve created is inadequate. Supporting and freeing women- your readers and the stars of your pages- from the limiting messages that we internalize, you will find, can be revolutionary. Make the choice to build up rather than tear down.
It seems like such a small thing: to change the focus and tone, but in doing that, we do a big thing. We change the conversation. When we begin to see women in all their dimensions, we begin to eradicate confining stereotypes and worldviews. We start to see all women as complex individuals and not just as part of a larger stereotypical whole. Look wider. Acknowledge more. Think bigger. We can choose to live in a world that celebrates wholeness and complexities in our women. We can choose to create a society that allows women to be more whole, a society that unites us in our commonalities while acknowledging the depth of the individual. The more we challenge the limits we place on each other, the more open the world will be to all of us. And you, glossy mag, can be a part of that revolutionary act.
End the promotion of a narrowly defined beauty mystique that invites so few of us to the table and then ceremoniously kicks us each out when we age or eat or cry or love or live in some way that seems too much. Welcome us all, in the full trajectory of how life will present us to you, to your table. You might think Kim Kardashian’s engagement ring is a stunner. But I promise you that if you see women as they really are and allow us to be who we really are on your pages, you’ll never have seen something so brilliant.