Small, tall, and unrealistic. This is how women are being portrayed in the news. Women have had a long history in the tabloids and in the news, and still to this day are being subjected to sexist stories and headlines without being recognized for their accomplishments. In the past few years, the important topics of body positivity, sexual assault, and gender equality have been prevalent in the conversation, but many publications still publish sexist stories that disprove the importance of the woman’s story.
Progress has been made over the years, with famous magazine covers such as Ellen DeGeneres, the first lesbian talk show host, on Time Magazine or Caitlyn Jenner, one of the first transgender women on reality television, on Vanity Fair. However, even with these triumphs, women in the spotlight have still had many pitfalls when it comes to news representation. Almost every woman has had a bad experience with the tabloids, the paparazzi, or even the news. The paparazzi’s never-ending hunt for gossip to report on has shamed women from just about everything from their bodies, to their relationships.
The retouching and inappropriate gossip writing never seems to end. Some magazines have even gone to the extent of lightening Kerry Washington’s skin tone on a cover of “InStyle” magazine. Most recently, the two female stars of “Riverdale” were retouched by editors for a cover of “Cosmopolitan Philippines” where their waists were heavily thinned.
Not only are women photoshopped for the news, but articles about women are too often focused on the women’s looks and relationships rather than the accomplishments they have made. In 2016, the “Chicago Tribune” published an article on Corey Cogdell-Unrein, a Rio Olympics bronze medal winner, but instead of referring to her by her name, they referred to her as “wife of a bears’ lineman” in the headline. The misogynistic attachment of women to the men they are in a relationship with is a prevalent issue in gossip tabloids across the world.
Another instance of this was is an article in “Hollwood Life” about Angelina Jolie and her ex-husband Brad Pitt. Rather than speaking about her powerful UN speech on sexual assault, “Hollywood Life” attached Angelina to her ex-husband Brad Pitt and addressed her weight in a headline that reads, “Brad Pitt, 54, Looks Healthy & Half His Age With Long Hair On Film Set As Angelina Jolie Gets So Skinny”. The article talks about Brad’s upcoming movie while bashing Jolie saying that, “She’s practically living on ice cubes, and she’s so anorexic her skin is sagging and her bones are almost breaking.”
This phenomenon has been a part of our culture since magazines and newspapers have existed, with many young women growing up with unrealistic ideals of themselves. They only saw their idols who were tall, skinny, and perfect, and not what a real woman would look like and what she could achieve in her lifetime.
Today, magazines and traditional news are not as popular with teens as they used to be, but unrealistic body standards are still prevalent in pop culture. In today’s generation, hugely popular celebrities such as the Kardashians are at the forefront of pop culture news and have a huge following made up mostly of teenage girls. Since the beginning of their so called “reality” television series, they have strutted unrealistic body types, many being enhanced by plastic surgery. They are a small part of a group of media stars who seem to make themselves as fake as possible to achieve extreme versions of societal body standards. The Kardashians and others like them do have the right to do to their body what they please, but their image is negatively affecting many young girls all around the world who now dream of one day looking like Kim, Khloe, or Kylie, when what they are portraying is blatantly unrealistic and even to some extent unhealthy, instead of dreaming of a fulfilling life and career.
Additionally, apps such as “Facetune” and “Retouch Me” make software to change your body even more widely accessible to the public and teens who aim to display themselves online as something they aren’t.
Although it is most prevalent, sexist treatment of women in the media is not limited to physical appearance. Sexist interview questions are constantly asked of women in the industry, while their male counterparts are asked about their roles in upcoming films and their career choices. Even at premieres for movies they are the star of, clothing lines they designed, or even films that they have directed, female stars almost always get asked “What are you wearing tonight?” “How do you juggle work and a relationship?” or “Who is your date today?”
Women have done their best to correct inappropriate interviewers, but the questions persist. One of the most famous incidences was Cate Blanchett’s response to cameras on the red carpet asking about women’s outfits rather than their achievements. She was spot on with how women want to be treated, saying, “Do you do that to the guys?”
Equal and accurate representation of women in the news is still an everyday struggle, but progress is being made in our generation. Just recently, Tess Holliday, a plus size model and a body positivity activist, was on the cover of “Cosmopolitan UK” boasting nothing but her natural body and her confident attitude. This is a groundbreaking magazine cover for girls everywhere who need to see a real, beautiful, and confident woman who is unapologetic about her life and career. While we keep pushing towards a better, equal future, women like Tess Holliday give people everywhere a strong role model to look at and see themselves reflected in.
Grace Beilman // Staff Writer