After being subjected to the paparazzi's frenzied death grip for decades, Jennifer Aniston finally had enough. In a brave, searing op-ed in The Huffington Post, Aniston castigated the tabloid media for objectifying women and feeding into the tired trope that a woman's value is measured by her "marital and maternal status."
A longtime tabloid favorite, Aniston has been rumored to be pregnant more times than one could care to count. And she's over it. "For the record," she wrote in her essay, "I am not pregnant. What I am is fed up. I'm fed up with the sport-like scrutiny and body shaming that occurs daily under the guise of 'journalism,' the 'First Amendment' and 'celebrity news.'"
At once articulate and impassioned, Aniston's disgust with the paparazzi was crystal clear. And as someone about whom the tabloids have speculated for years — who she's dating, what she's wearing, what her face looks like on vacation — Aniston railed against the kind of message it was sending to women everywhere:
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... 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.
Aniston also expressed her incredulity that amidst all the larger news stories worth covering — "mass shootings, wildfires, major decisions by the Supreme Court, an upcoming election" — tabloids insist on weighing in on the state of her uterus.
"This past month in particular has illuminated for me how much we define a woman's value based on her marital and maternal status," she wrote. "The sheer amount of resources being spent right now by press trying to simply uncover whether or not I am pregnant (for the bajillionth time... but who's counting) points to the perpetuation of this notion that women are somehow incomplete, unsuccessful, or unhappy if they're not married with children."
"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. Let's make that decision for ourselves and for the young women in this world who look to us as examples. Let's make that decision consciously, outside of the tabloid noise. We don't need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own 'happily ever after' for ourselves."
From years of experience, I've learned tabloid practices, however dangerous, will not change, at least not any time soon. What can change is our awareness and reaction to the toxic messages buried within these seemingly harmless stories served up as truth and shaping our ideas of who we are. We get to decide how much we buy into what's being served up, and maybe some day the tabloids will be forced to see the world through a different, more humanized lens because consumers have just stopped buying the bullshit.
Cover image via Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com.