If you are a person who regularly uses the internet, you have heard about actress Jennifer Aniston’s recent Huffington Post essay in which the actress fired back, as they say, about the rabid scrutiny she has endured about both her body and her personal life over the course of her career. A recent wave of speculation about whether or not she was pregnant was apparently the final straw that led the actress, who is not on social media, to take to HuffPo to say that she is “fed up.”
Aniston, who according to the tabloids has been pregnant since 1994, endures an infinitely higher level of public critique than the average woman, but she’s quick to point out that this isn’t an issue that affects only her – she’s simply a focal point. All women are subject to this culture in which their bodies and private lives are dissected for public consumption, and in which they are told they must labor under what Aniston calls a “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”?
This idea that we owe it to young girls to do better, to try harder, is not new, and because of that we might be tempted to glaze over this part of the essay because we’ve heard it before. Let’s not. The idea that Aniston touches on here is a critical one, and essentially it is this: girls are not born ashamed – we teach it to them. We set the example when we choose whether or not to read the tabloids, to shame a woman for eating lunch, to force her into a narrative of being a failure – failure to be pregnant, or failure to be thin, or failure to be married or young or perfect. We have the collective means not to just leave Aniston alone, but to demonstrate to girls that their lives and bodies are their business; we can do better.