Jennifer Aniston says she is tired of media attention that objectifies her as a celebrity and as a woman. She is tired of the pregnancy rumors, the ever-present paparazzi photographers, and most of all the critical scrutiny of her body. Jennifer also feels like everyone is critiquing her life and inferring that she is somehow incomplete because she is childless.
Body shaming is a terrible thing, but Jennifer is feeling body shamed about a recent photo of her in a bikini that was used to infer she was pregnant. Ouch — no one would feel good about something like that. Ms. Aniston though is trying to reveal the bigger picture.
Jennifer Aniston became so frustrated by the way society objectifies women, she decided to write an article for the Huffington Post about what it feels like to be scrutinized. Here is a quote from the core of her fascinating manifesto of 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’?”
Body shaming is not limited to beautiful celebrities like Ms. Aniston. For decades women like Jennifer have been the measuring stick ordinary women are often judged by and more importantly the standard they try to hold themselves to.
Jennifer Aniston’s picture is probably taped to millions of refrigerators as inspiration to turn down that extra midnight snack. For over 20 years, Aniston has inspired diets, workout plans, skin care regimens, and wardrobe upgrades for millions of women. She probably never intended to, but her very existence as a public figure and cover girl just made her an inspiration for self-improvement, and perhaps quite a bit of self-judgment as well, as so many women tried to remake themselves in her image. If Aniston is the victim of body shaming, what happens to those other women who make it their goal to look like her?
Jennifer Aniston is now saying something shocking to most of her fans, at least as it relates to her.
“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.”
But Jennifer Aniston is the standard of beauty for a lot of women, and no one thinks there is anything warped about her looks. If people are critical of the ideal woman, then what chance do ordinary women have?
Jennifer Aniston makes a compelling point about her own life, though. Celebrities attract a lot of very public gossip, and not all of it is positive. People feel a need to know about the stars they like. They want health updates when celebrities are sick, and they want to know about their lives, homes, spouses and so many details. Sometimes they are attracted to negative articles as much as positive ones. Why? Ms. Aniston seems to be offering an answer.
“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.”
But is Jennifer Aniston right about this? Reporters write about subjects that attract readers. Being ambushed by photographers on the way out the front door would not be pleasant, but it is a sign she is loved by millions of people who really want to know all about her.
Jennifer Aniston feels people view others as critically and they view her, as a celebrity, critically. Perhaps more importantly, though, people like Jennifer are the lens through which people see themselves, as well. The very nature of the acting profession makes viewers identify with their favorite TV stars.
The show Friends, for example, seemed to encourage viewers to choose a friend to identify with, almost like picking an avatar for a video game. There were a lot of subtle reasons many women chose Jennifer’s character, Rachel, almost by default. Perhaps they liked Phoebe better, or admired Monica more, but deep down a lot of women just knew they were more of a Rachel.
Jennifer Aniston, largely due to her unique talent to make viewers feel her either real or pretended insecurities, may have encouraged women to identify with her. Jenifer showed viewers an inner self, viewed from the inside out, not the outside in. Maybe that was because of the writers, or maybe it was because of Jennifer’s acting style, but Aniston’s role in friends seems easy to identify with.
Courteney Cox’s character, Monica, was the responsible one who nearly always had control of the situation. No one really feels they have control like Monica, even if they appear that way on the outside. Lisa Kudrow represents a carefree, freedom loving friend with true inner peace. Everyone wishes they could be like Phoebe, but deep down, almost no one is. Only Aniston’s Rachel let the audience know the full experience of being Rachel, and that experience was something they could relate to.
Jennifer Aniston, because of her role on Friends, is the perfect person to address the issue of body shaming. On the inside, most women heavily identify with her. On the outside, she has been a consistent ideal that somehow seems more obtainable because women already identify with her as similar on the inside. Now, though, Jennifer is telling us we do not have to be perfect on the outside in order to be worthy of love. Trying for physical perfection is just something women have bought into and now need to let go of.
“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.”
Body shaming hurts everyone, and virtually no one is immune in our society. Whether heavy, curvy or boney, women are perpetually being judged, on their shape, their hair, their clothing and their skin. Celebrity gossip might afford a window into what is said in private about virtually everyone at the grocery store, or at least that is what society leads us to believe. But all of that really just serves to make people feel so self-conscious, they can’t show their inner beauty.
As Jennifer Aniston explains in the Huffington Post, people’s bodies change. They age. People eat and they can gain weight either temporarily or permanently, but that is OK. It is our right as human beings to not look perfect all the time. Coming from Aniston’s character, Rachel, maybe women will be able to accept that truth a bit better.
“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.’”
Jennifer Aniston also reminds her readers that women don’t have to fit into some traditional lifestyle to be viable human beings. She rejects the concept that all women have to get married and have children to be complete. Women have a right to choose what they want in life.
“We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own ‘happily ever after’ for ourselves.”
Jennifer Aniston is giving women much needed permission to stop listening to body shaming messages, and societal commands, and to embrace self-acceptance.
[Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images]