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Saturday 10 June 2023 Dublin: 12°C
AP/Press Association Images
Jennifer Aniston came out recently to condemn body shaming “under the guise of journalism”.

“FOR THE RECORD, I am not pregnant. What I am is fed up.”

Over the past two decades, media outlets have covered Jennifer Aniston’s myriad of pregnancies. Some of these were twins, some were miracles, some were surprises. All were fake.

Jen stayed silent about all of them but now, a few weeks after her most recent pregnancy “shocker”, the un-pregnant actress has finally had enough.

In a scathing online op-ed published in Huffington Post earlier this week, Jennifer Aniston spoke out against tabloid speculation about her personal life, arguing powerfully that the way famous women are treated by the media reflects a wider culture of sexism.

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.

Constant scrutiny

Few other celebrities have had their appearance and child-free status scrutinised like Aniston has. In June, the actress endured what she refers to as “the bajillionth” round of pregnancy rumours, after being photographed in a bikini on the beach in the Bahamas.

Her publicist dismissed the speculation at the time, saying that Aniston had simply eaten “a delicious big lunch.” Naturally, the social media body-shamers did not recognise this.

A day later the internet was buzzing with rumours of Aniston’s future child. There was even speculation about what childbirth would be like for a 47-year-old woman.

This sort of tabloid gossip, Aniston says, perpetuates a “dehumanising view of females, focused solely on one’s physical appearance… Is she pregnant? Is she eating too much? Has she let herself go?”

She’s concerned, she wrote, about the impact it would have on young girls to see famous women’s bodies picked apart in this way – as well as the implicit suggestion that as a woman, being pregnant is the ultimate goal.

We’ve long made it our business to know everything we can about celebrities. First, it was their homes and their weddings. Then it was their love lives and addictions.

Now we have taken it one step further. Call it fertility fetishism, uterus watching or whatever you want.

“We get to decide for ourselves”

Aniston concluded:

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… We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own ‘happily ever after’ for ourselves.

You can’t say better than that. Jennifer: we salute you.

Who knows – maybe one day we’ll finally live in a world where people can look at a photo of a 47-year-old woman in a bikini and instead of wondering whether she’s pregnant, just think how happy she looks – and how the lunch she just ate was probably better than our own frugal chicken salad.

Body shaming

Aniston hasn’t “forgotten” to have a baby. She isn’t somebody who “can’t get a man”. She’s one of the highest paid women in Hollywood and I can’t think of a section of the female population with more choices than beautiful actresses who earn at least $10 million a year.

The only problem here is our own insidious, malignant cultural tendency to police, judge and condemn women.

Body image might seem like a small issue for women when you look at physical violence against women, the gender pay gap, genital mutilation and rape culture etc., but these things are on a spectrum. We have to keep calling them out if we’re going to ensure the next generation of young women grows up silencing that nagging voice inside their head, criticising their body shape, fifty times a day.

It matters because it hurts – not just you, but every woman who feels assaulted by the pressure to look a certain way. The recreational body-shaming of female celebs matters to a great many people who are reminded, with a familiar chill, that whatever women and girls achieve, we are nothing if we do not conform to society’s demented definitions of beauty.

Lorraine Courtney is a journalist and writer. Follow her on Twitter here.

Read: Jennifer Aniston slams tabloid media over pregnancy scrutiny

Read: ‘I’m still falling, still hating myself, still regretting that I let it come to all this’

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