The Shouty Woman

July 24, 2006

The Media and Body Image

Filed under: Feminism — by Lucy @ 5:37 pm

There’s a fantastic article in the Guardian today about the media’s obsession with women’s bodies. The author, Kira Cochrane, discusses the example of Kate Hudson, who has just sucessfully sued the National Enquirer for claiming she was anorexic.

This whole episode has illustrated how disgust at the female form, whatever its shape, has become the main selling-point of gossip magazines and most tabloids. As Cochrane points out, Hudson only became of interest to these vultures when she appeared in public looking what they deemed to be too thin. Her acheivements in life, whatever they might be, were unimportant compared to the attractiveness, or otherwise, of her body. Now I happen to think that in the photos in question Hudson was too thin. But this is not the point. The National Inquirer did not publish these pictures out of concern for Hudson’s health and wellbeing, they published them because hatred of the female body sells.

Female celebrities cannot get it right. If they are ‘too thin’, they are vapid anorexic bitches who are obsessed with their own image. If they are ‘too fat’, they are disgusting irresponsible cows who have let themselves go. Even if they are deemed to be the ‘right’ weight – whatever that may mean – every other aspect of their appearance from their breasts to their fake tan are scrutinised, criticised and ridiculed. Many high-profile women may well have a weight problem, but if this is the case they need help and support, not more obsessive scrutiny from the same media that caused their self-hatred in the first place.

So what message can ordinary women take away from this? As someone who, through no fault of my own, is very skinny, I learn from the media that no man will ever want me because I don’t have curves like Kelly Brook (or whoever is considered to possess the acceptable version of the female body at this precise moment). However I also learn that if I dare to put on too much weight, I will become disgusting, untouchable; again, of course, no man will want me. The message for women who are already ‘overweight’ is even worse.

So if the celebs can’t win, neither can we. Our bodies will always be wrong, because the market puts a high price on our self-hatred. As long as we keep absorbing the message that we are disgusting, ugly and unlovable, this is the message that will continue to be promoted. Let’s not buy this shit anymore.



  1. I totally agree on this. I’m naturally very thin but I’m not underweight on the average BMI but far from being this shining model of confidence people believe skinny people must be I constantly get harrassed by people calling me too thin or commenting on what I eat. If I eat junk food its `how can you eat that and not put on any weight’. If I’m sat eating a salad (because sometimes I want a salad) people say `why are you eating that? you dont need to eat healthy.’

    I was very shy growing up and very small and I was often bullied by people much bigger than me but in the media skinny women are portrayed as bitches or unhealthy or not curvy enough, not busty enough, anorexic. Its true that models are under pressure to be thin and I believe this is wrong. People should accept different body types without so much judgement. I want to be happy with myself. But yet as you mention also if I started putting on weight and put on too much I would stop being treated like a 12 year old and start being made to feel disgusting and healthy for being too big. Why are celebrities (particularly celebrity chef’s) shouting at children in fat camps when they probably sit home drinking wine all night? Does anyone else feel that this is patronising and hyprocritical this false media portrayal of right and wrong bodies. Well I’m sorry but there’s no such thing as a right or wrong body, everyone is different. And just for everyone out there… I am not anorexic, yes I do eat properly and no I am not worry free and perfectly happy with my body because I’m slim and no you don’t have the right to keep pointing out everything I eat!!!! I’m so tired of magazines where the headline is `Britney has a spot’ Oh my God, a celebrity has a spot. Big deal. Lots of people get them. This isn’t `death becomes her’.

    Comment by TM — September 19, 2006 @ 9:56 pm |Reply

  2. * meant to say disgusting and unhealthy for being too big.

    Comment by TM — September 19, 2006 @ 9:58 pm |Reply

  3. I agree. As a young(25) male I can say, however that this image is only truly the ideal when looking at the fake celebrity world. Real men are still attracted to real beauty which can be found in many forms. As intelligent women you cannot buy into the lie told by secular media. The most attractive trait by far for me is confidence, and those that constantly obsess about trying to fit the mold constructed by the media are NOT confident. Should you not be more concerned about your health anyway. Weight is not an accurate measure of health, although, on the flipside, eating junk food 3 meals a day is definately NOT loving yourself.

    Comment by John — September 26, 2006 @ 2:58 pm |Reply

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