What Gossip Magazines & Abusers Have In Common

By Linda Bakke

Star Magazine promotes violence against women.

Ok, that sounds like a tabloid headline, but the more I look over Star Magazine, the more I’ve been struck by a sense of violence directed at women.

The starlets are constantly attacked for any extra weight, cellulite, bunions, ugly fingers or thick arms. It feels like open season. “Kill the Celebrity” is the name of the game.

One section called “Knifestyles” advocates mutilating women through plastic surgery. With the accompanying message, “You’re not good enough.”

In fact, Star uses the same devices that characterize domestic abusers: watching the victim’s every move, humiliation, stressing the negative rather than the positive aspects of the victim (who is supposedly adored), using “it’s her fault” to launch an attack, and transferring the abuser’s dissatisfaction with life and himself onto the victim.

After a while, she starts to blame herself.

Paparazzi hunt celebrities down and we all become cannibals of the spoils, savoring the flaws of “perfect” idols as we bring them down a peg.

But it’s not just about starlets. It’s not just their bodies that are under attack. Yours and mine are, too. If they don’t look good, we don’t either.

The depiction of women in gossip magazines represents the degradation, abuse and mutilation of women. We must recognize how damaging these portrayals are for all of us, women, girls, men and boys.

For we are all encouraged to scrutinize and vilify women for being less than perfect.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on March 14, 2012, in body image, feminism, gender, objectification, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. The more I think about the concept of magazines and abusers having the same qualities, the more I see it too! It’s the constant gaslighting of women that really gets me. I remember when Miley Cyrus started to experiment with her style and fashion choices after she left Disney and how ALL of the magazines were calling her crazy and saying how she was having a Britney moment and going through a whole mental breakdown when in reality, she was just trying to figure out who she was and how she wanted to express herself through fashion. This is the exact controlling behavior of an abuser.

  2. Society has constantly criticized and commented on the appearance of many people, mostly women. More specifically it has formed an almost impossible look that is ‘expected’ of women and teens. Magazines and social media have had an especially large part in this. For the majority of the larger publications that focus on celebrities, gossip, and fashion, the models seen on the cover and throughout the pages have most likely been photoshopped in some form. But, these publications have made this seem normal. That’s why many people feel the need to edit their photos or appearance prior to sharing it through social media. There was a specific paragraph that stood out to me when I first read the blog post, “One section called ‘knifestyles’ advocates mutilating women through plastic surgery. With the accompanying message, ‘you’re not good enough.’” The people saying things like this are those who will most likely gain some money from making such a statement, but they don’t realize how much those 4 words can affect a person. In 2019, there were 223,930 cosmetic procedures performed on those between the ages of 13 and 19. This is such a young demographic yet they already feel like they have to change because of what the media and magazines say the ‘perfect body’ is. The way the media like gossip magazines take down celebrities and others based on how they look or act even when they are just being human. They expect them to be perfect and when they aren’t, they criticize them and tell them they need to change.

  3. This is such a commanding article because it really helps us put the power wielded by tabloids into perspective. We take the power that social media, marketing, and other tools have on young women and body issues for granted. The tabloids’ use of breaking celebrities down makes it acceptable for other women to break each other down as well as criticize and ridicule each other. I believe that the body shaming that is seen in tabloids and tossed at celebrities stems from the idea that the celebrities are unreachable and will never actually see these comments, which couldn’t be more false. I also believe that the shaming of other women, especially celebrities, stems from a root of one’s own personal insecurities. Attempts to bring celebrities and other woman in power down through criticism is a direct attempt to “humanize” them and validate our own insecurities. I hope that articles such as this will enlighten future generations to the power of tabloids and social media and the ways in which they affect ALL women.

  4. Because I do not read magazines and others of the like, which scrutinize as discussed in this blog, I think it would have been nice to throw in a few quotes to help amplify the discrimination of a women’s body, to simply provide proof and validity. I do recognize that this is a large issue that has been discussed amongst the mass, so I do not disbelieve this argument. I have noticed through the arts and paintings since the renaissance to today, has drastically by several sizes. What was once considered beauty for women in the renaissance is nothing as it is seen in the 20th Century. The current encouragement for body image has grown from what we now consider a plus size model during the renaissance, to a size 0-2. Although since the rise of this discussion has grown in my generation, I have noticed a large encouragement for the view of beauty to develop from skinny and boney, to muscle and strength. Which I believe will have a larger impact a women’s general health, and her emotional well-being. I believe that exercise, as it is currently promoted will not only help a girl become physically stronger, but will boost her endorphins, metabolism, creating a chemically healthier balance. In the long run, this new change of health motivation growing in our society for both women and men, will boost all our self-confidence and promote a healthier heart.

  5. I actually started thinking about magazines are becoming too much. There’s even a section in one gossip magazine that focuses on how “ugly” people look when they’re eating. Once someone becomes a celebrity, it’s like they signed up for personal stalkers to let the whole world how they’re not as perfect when they’re off camera. What annoys me the most though is that the public actually likes watching celebrities every move. For example, I work for Walgreen’s and when Whitney Houston’s death was put on the tabloids, customers were rushing to read about her life. I can’t help but think how ridiculous it is. I just want to ask someone, “Do you even like that celebrity? Or are you just trying to catch up on gossip cause he or she suddenly was on the news again.” (I know I would never have the guts to ask though.)

  6. Magazines like Star are only still on the market because aperently we like to buy them. i think people look at these magizines and see the celeberties being put on the spot and take it as like wow they are normal too. This celeberty has gained wieght and this one has a scar….. people take it as a way where they see thier idols as normal like themselves. yet the magazines who do all the searching and stalking are just out to put women down. i have noticed that these magazines are always out to see what female celeberties have. its rare to see magazines having men on the cover talking about them gaining weight and such, it is always about women. I think these magazines are bad because they are just putting women down, not just the celeberties they talk about but us all because as you stated in the article it is making us all women not good enough. They set impossible standards and remind us that we are no where near perfect because not even the celeberties are. We should all stop spending our time buying or reading such magizines because if we continue to do so we are suporting such madness.

  7. Celebrities are constantly being criticized for their looks. If one gains a little weight it is on the cover of a magazine. Some magazines even compare the bodies of celebrities by making lists of the, “Best and Worst Beach Bodies”. Then when a celebrity, usually a female, develops an eating disorder, she is ridiculed. It seems as though every female celebrity struggles through anorexia or bulimia at one point in their lives. It seems as though tabloids are never satisfied with the image of women in the spot light. The girls and women who idolize these celebrities then begin to feel insecure about their own looks. Magazines are very good at pointing out flaws and the women who read the magazines find the flaws in themselves just as easily.

  8. What a great comparison, I haven’t thought of magazines taking the role of a abuser. I know the harm paparazzi are capable of, but magazine are just as accountable for their financial contributions. They are essentially paying others to stalk and humiliate. I’m surprised that there isn’t a law or more enforcement for these situations. Law makers should prosecute magazines for buying these abusive pictures, since they are the root of the cause. It’s unfortunate that magazines can make a profit by doing this, especially to a female market. I can’t understand why someone who was a fan of a star would pay for information on that individual knowing they weren’t treated fairly in the process. I guess buying the magazine is less expensive than paying the paparazzi.

  9. Marcus Coleman

    Theses magazines are probably going to drive these girls crazy Star magazine and all those other ones do nothing but talk about celebrity flaws. Celebrities are idolized by people and when seeing them get bashed for gaining ten pounds can really give off a negative effect.

  10. The media uses people’s darkness to create money and doesn’t care how superficial the society would become with these junk messages. It seems that people envy beauties and tease the ugly. But do they really know what beauty is? They try to classify a majority of people and give them the name “beauty”. In my culture, people think beauty is round eyes, small face, straight noise, skinny body and big boobs. So girls try to have round eyes and make their faces smaller. Plastic surgery is popular. Some people even cut some part of their cheek bones in order to have small faces and sharp chins. Some of these girls are teased when they are not beauties, and they start to tease others after they become “beautiful”. The real smart people do not envy and do not tease. I have a friend with round eyes and very small face naturally. Almost everyone says she is beautiful. I also agree that she is, just because others say so. This girl’s beauty is different from the kind of beauty I like. I judge beauty by my own eyes.

  11. Nowadays, media has become a very powerful tool along with the development of technology. However, women don’t get many benefits from that. Magazines are one of the main media and it’s very powerful too. Many of the magazines focus on women’s body and appearance. The thing is, why do women have to be perfect? Gossip magazines like to talk about any celebrity whose body part is not beautiful. This doesn’t show any respect to women, and even degrades them. It abuses women, but it is just not in a direct way. Women should not just be the gossip magazines’ objects, and the magazines should show respect to women and improve women’s social status instead of attacking them.

  12. Usually when I am in line at the store I glance at the front pages of magazines and from doing so, I have mostly noticed that a lot of trash talk comes from the media, and it mostly feels like its often targeted at women only. Yes, I understand that women are expected to be beautiful and perfect as could be but the media is always trying to find negative aspects to throw out to the public about these women celebrities. Very little do they know that its also affects the celebrities that are thrown with this extra baggage for not being so “perfect”. It can cause stress upon their family and how people see them as. One little comment can have a lasting impression and a not so good one either!!!

  13. “But it’s not just about starlets. It’s not just their bodies that are under attack. Yours and mine are, too. If they don’t look good, we don’t either.”

    I can see where people would find this confusing and believe this exact statement but in reality we as women are really not scrutinized as much as we think we are. The women in the tabloids and on TV are constantly being picked apart because we believe them to be so perfect when they aren’t everyone feels inclined to point it out. Normal people aren’t under as much pressure unless we create it upon ourselves. This is why models and people on TV are always trying to look not only their best but the best so that no commentators have anything bad to say about them. Women judge themselves compared to these models that get picked on for looking, well human because they are supposed to always look flawless. As normal women we can still be beautiful for looking like ourselves, the only people that have these high expectations of how we should look are our own minds.

    • If people believe it is real, it is real in effect.

      I agree that many people will not place the same stringent standards on themelves (some will).

      But it does seem to help teach everyone to look for women’s flaws. Why no focus on men’s “flaws”? And men aren’t nearly so concerned with them.

      And consider that if celebrities were allowed to have cellulite, it would likely be okay if all women did. And it should be okay. That is a natural way for fat to look on women (it’s caused by estrogen). In some cultures it’s just seen as womanly. Or “Rubenesque” (Ruben, who comes from a culture that was okay with women’s natural cellulite appearance).

  14. I always wondered about tabloids and how they operate. What makes it all right for them to say, even worse, make up so many awful things about a human being. Why are they allowed to make money from false slander? At every grocery store, these negative images and headlines flood the magazine covers of the magazines that line the checkout walls. Walking up to the cash register is like walking the gauntlet. I always felt badly for the celebrities on the cover, never really having a personal life. I realized that they are women 98% of the time. When there is a long line, I usually pick up a magazine to read, but it never puts me in a good mood. It is strange that these celebrities are supposed to be loved and admired, yet they’re just getting dirt thrown their way and humiliated for the sake of others’ entertainment and thirst for “scandal”. I want the news even when it’s bad, but I don’t need it when it’s all just made up. It makes a lot of sense to me that the magazines and stars can be compared to dysfunctional abusive relationships…and the tabloids are the abusers. I do not buy them because I refuse to support that bullying propaganda and I’ve even stopped looking at them in the stores.

  15. Jessica Garriga

    I tend to never read these magazines because it just seems like people telling you to fix yourself, but then once you fix yourself the way they like, it’s still not good enough and you have to fix yourself more. It’s an endless cycle of criticism. I think stars are also idolized too much and are treated as if they are not humans. So when they show human flaws or traits, they are held with harsh criticism. Best thing to do is not buy any of these magazines. It’s partially the public fault for this because they’re the ones reading and feeding these magazines. If it sells well, the magazines won’t stop publishing.

  16. I think that these gossip magazines always need to find something to comment or make fun of, after all it is their job. What they don’t realize, or what they choose to ignore, is the fact that they are magnifying every little imperfection on celebrities who are already upholding such a high standard of beauty. It is because of magazines like Star that this “standard” continues to grow increasingly more unrealistic, and we know this to be true when even “the most beautiful women in the world” are put under the spotlight for “not looking good”. It is comments like these that provoke women to suffer emotional trauma so deep that they turn to self-mutilation to make themselves feel better. Maybe they are not cutting themselves in the way most people associate with depression, but many do choose to undergo plastic surgery thinking that it is the only feasible option to better their outer appearance. And when it is revealed to the public that they are not “a natural beauty” they are once again put under the negative spotlight. Unfortunately, I think that gossip magazines are worst than domestic abusers, because at least domestic abusers have a breaking point in which they stop and allow the victim to breathe even for a moment. With gossip magazines, it is their job to keep producing one insult after the other in a never-ending string of verbal abuse.

  17. Looking like a celebrity is not a good thing. They are always in the limelight so they are expected to look a certain way. They are usually monitoring what goes into their body. If you are constantly doing that how are you able to live your life? Being beautiful means “loving the skin you’re in”. You just need to be confident with yourself because you are beautiful. It doesn’t mean a thing when you don’t look a certain way. Sometimes I just feel like wearing sweats, sneakers, and no makeup on. I feel empowered because I do not have to take the time to get dressed up. You can look just as beautiful in that as you can in a dress/skirt/pants. The media makes people feel bad when they say you have to look this way and/or dress like this. If I always thought about what I looked like I could never get through the day and just live my life.

  18. Marcus Coleman

    What really bothers me about this is that I never realized that these magazines are portraying these messages to women. It must suck to always see these super skinny (unhealthy) celebrities and constantly try to be like them. I couldn’t imagine how life would be if I was constantly dieting because I feel that I’m too fat or ugly, I wonder how people live with that. I am really thankful that i’m not a woman because the media makes it really difficult for you guys to feel beautiful, it takes a strong person to still feel beautiful after the media constantly uses these celebrities to show you what “beauty” is. Not every girl can look like a celebrity!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. I think a fine example of this “you’re not good enough” is Heidi Montag. She was a beautiful girl before all her surgeries, but for some reason, she found the need to fix “imperfections” she saw in herself. Now she looks like Barbie, I don’t necessarily think that is a good thing. These magazines come out with articles on how to be a perfect woman, when in reality it is just a skewed view on perfection. We went from Marilyn Monroe’s physical appearance as the epitome of beauty, to models that are showing all of her ribs. It’s a shame that these magazines really aren’t any better than domestic abusers.

  20. I find this to be true, how news reporters or paparazzi don’t care much about how the star feels, if they could dig up anything that can make a story from. We the audience, who support or even look up to these stars, would gain that same sense of idea that if even a star life style or body and beauty is not seen as perfection, then that must also mean our very own body and beauty isn’t all that good in anyway. The idea of perfect is unreal, but we like to believe that the people we look up too our perfect in every way, even though it might not work the way we want it to be in the end. Gossip and the craving for a good story, can really ruin many people’s personal lives and confidence in themselves.

  21. I agree with the fact that the constant mutilation of celebrities via media advocates and characterizes domestic abusers because the “symptoms” as one may call it, are the same. When celebrities are taunted and ridiculed through media it is an immediate form of abuse because it influences their self esteem and how they feel about themselves. It becomes difficult to love yourself when it is apparent that no one loves you for who you are. It does not affect them physically, but it becomes emotionally scarring to have to deal with someone putting an emphasis on your imprecations. I feel that imperfections is what makes a person perfect, therefore we should embrace our imperfections while allowing celebrities to do so as well because at the end of the day, we are all human.

  22. Women are expected to be beautiful, scrutinized when they are and forbidden to acknowledge their assets.

    ..and I’m supposed to be sane?

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