Less than a month after Jennifer Aniston penned a powerful essay criticizing tabloids' scrutiny of female celebrities, Renee Zellweger is adding her own voice to the conversation.
In an op-ed for The Huffington Post titled "We Can Do Better," Zellweger responds to plastic surgery rumors and expresses her disappointment that shallow celebrity gossip — frequently aimed at women and focused on physical appearance — continues to dominate the media.
In 2014, tabloids commented on Zellweger's seemingly changed appearance by suggesting that she had gone under the knife. She denies these rumors, but that hasn't stopped some outlets from treating them as fact.
Zellweger decided it was about time she had a say in her own story.
And now, as the internet story contrived for its salacious appeal to curious minds becomes the supposed truth within moments, choosing the dignity of silence rather than engaging with the commerce of cruel fiction leaves one vulnerable not only to the usual ridicule, but to having the narrative of one's life hijacked by those who profiteer from invented scandal.
For Zellweger, it's less about the rumors themselves and more about the larger problem of how tabloids treat female celebrities. She argues that such ridicule perpetuates society's larger tendency to judge women based on their appearance.
It's no secret a woman's worth has historically been measured by her appearance. Although we have evolved to acknowledge the importance of female participation in determining the success of society, and take for granted that women are standard bearers in all realms of high profile position and influence, the double standard used to diminish our contributions remains, and is perpetuated by the negative conversation which enters our consciousness every day as snark entertainment.
Zellweger wants to make it clear that "repetition of humiliating tabloid stories, mean-spirited judgments and false information is not harmless." She goes on to suggest that it can have a negative impact on how young women view themselves, and it distracts from more important issues and events.
The actress closes her essay by asking people to question "why we seem to collectively share an appetite for witnessing people diminished and humiliated with attacks on appearance and character."
It's heartening to see famous women like Zellweger and Aniston standing up for themselves, and it's important for the public to hear their side of the story instead of simply buying into speculation. This is the start of a much-needed conversation that will hopefully spark change.