Jennifer Aniston has finally spoken. And it’s not to clear any doubts about her being pregnant. “For the record, I am not pregnant. What I am is fed up”, she said. How she feels is understandable. Sure, we believe that some things go with the territory of being a celebrity. But there’s a line and that line seems to be crossed a bit too easily when the celebrity in question is a woman – whether it’s Kareena Kapoor or Jennifer Aniston, we believe it’s really quite alright to pry into every aspect of their lives, scrutinize every part of their bodies and announce our judgements, which we then proceed to defend with explanations like – “it’s part of being a celebrity”. We don’t, however, look at men with quite the same lens. If George Clooney was to put on a few inches here of there, we’d call it charming, but if Jennifer Aniston added a millionth of an inch to her waist, the media would go into a tizzy. It’s a mind-set.
So Jennifer’s outburst is justifiable – “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”.
And we do have a warped standard of beauty, which, again, is mostly applied to women. Fair and thin, equals beautiful. It’s vile.
The other point she brings up, which is related to so-called beauty, is motherhood. And this is not in India alone (though I do feel it’s more here). If a woman is married, she’s (almost) complete and if she has a child, that completes her entirely – wife and mother – that’s the definition. She writes – “This past month in particular has illuminated for me how much we define a woman’s value based on her marital and maternal status. 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.”
And this is the truth – from obscure relatives to seemingly well-educated journalists – there exist an unhealthy obsession with a woman’s womb. Having kids is seen as a natural extension of marriage, but it does not have to be. There are many couples who don’t have children, but who are always viewed with suspicion and it’s understood that the roots of such shocking reality of their lives must lie in biological limitations of the two.
The limitations, however, lie in the cognitive abilities of the parochial populace in general. That is the sad truth. You only need to look at reactions that people have to women’s bodies to know what we have come to perceive as normal. Aishwarya Rai was analysed, from head to toe, when she made an appearance after she gave birth to her daughter – the pressure, to look good (and thin) was immense.
But forget celebrities, normal women face this as well. The now common term – “yummy mummy”, is a telling one and it conveys only one thing – have that kid and get back into shape.
This needs to stop, but for that women need to be comfortable with their bodies and more women need to be forthcoming about it – like Adele, who has never fallen into the eight trap says, quite frankly – “I don’t have time to worry about something as petty as what I look like”. And that’s exactly what it is – superficial and petty.
So, what’s the answer? As Jennifer Aniston puts it – “ 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 someday the tabloids will be forced to see the world through a different, more humanized lens because consumers have just stopped buying the bullshit.”