Gossip Magazines Are Like Abusive Boyfriends

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 April 5, 2017, in body image and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 40 Comments.

  1. Unfortunately it is not only the magazines who tear these women’s images apart. We as women do it to each other too, whether we are a celebrity or not. It’s almost as if when we find something wrong with someone else, we feel a little more secure about ourselves. It is a vicious circle that is created by wanting to emulate models and celebrities but never being able to measure up to their perfect airbrushed images. So we feel almost a sense of relief when we see these so-called “flaws” and feel better about ourselves. At the end of the day, we need to realize that the only reason these magazines publish such articles is because they sell magazines. I don’t think we should only be blaming the magazines. I know plenty of people who use trash talking about others as a way to bond on fit in. We all need to stop feeding into this endless comparison of living up to a non-existent ideal.

  2. “No man has ever bothered to read such a magazine. Still our fault though right?”

    Men spend plenty of money on magazines such as Playboy,Maxim Perfect Ten ….

    Tell me what the difference is?

  3. I do agree that the depiction of women in magazines mostly degrades women and tries to impose the unrealistic images of what women should want to look like and need to look like in order to be considered beautiful or attractive. Which in itself is a load of crap, not even the celebrity on the cover of the magazine looks like that, its always photo shopped and made to look even better. And the type of body image the media promotes that looks and is considered beautiful is so unrealistic and unhealthy. And women who don’t have these types or bodies are slammed and talked so negatively about when in reality hardly any women fit into that category at all.

  4. Araceli Toscano-Hernandez

    I have seen many documentaries on plastic surgery where surgeons deny their patient’s request to receive a “Kim Kardashian’s nose” or “Kylie Jenner’s lips” and even “Kim Kardashian’s hips.” These surgeons simply explain that it is impossible based on their features, that not everyone realistically can have that nose or lips or hips. Regardless of this, women will then look to the black market to find a surgeon that promises to give into the patient’s desires. In the end these men and women patients receive a botched face and body and are forever disfigured. Why? All because society has repeatedly told them they aren’t worth anything if their physical appearance isn’t up to societies standards of beauty.

    When tabloids offend celebrities based on their sweaty pits, cellulite, weight, and many other normal physical aspects in a human, they are offending the women and men reading the magazines that are not “perfect,” which is EVERYONE. Once a celebrity tries to “fix” their imperfections, they are then looked down upon by the same society that basically forced them to do just this. Celebrities go through a horrible ordeal with paparazzi because their sole purpose is to “expose” them. Now why can’t their be paparazzi and tabloids who talk about the “imperfections” in a positive way, and I’m not talking about putting a plus size model on the cover of the magazine perfectly photoshopped, without any cellulite, skin tone brightened, limbs elongated, and a slimmed down face.

    I remember when thin eyebrows were in, now thick and full brows are the new beauty standard, but do you know how many girls were left with thin brows or none at all because they waxed them to fit the late beauty trend? These same women are now spending a great deal of money to reverse these effects, with hair transplants or micro blading. It is inevitable, trends will change and as a person who seeks “beauty,” they will never be content and that is a horrible cycle to fall into. Objectifying women is a real problem with real permanent consequences and because women are always being berated with these “perfect standards,” when they fail to meet them and they will, they feel ugly and even unworthy to be loved by a man or another women. So this not only is a problem for females, but also the males who are left with insecure women that don’t feel attractive enough for their partner or have the constant need to be reassured by their significant other that they are enough. If we continue to support this abuse through magazines, we are saying yes to people abusing themselves by going under the knife or by simply hating the body they live in.

    The same way an abusive boyfriend will convince you that you are the problem and not them.

  5. It is true. Not only gossip magazines but also multimedia (movies, news, TV shows, etc.) present female figure as just a sexy image and despise their profession/effort. By picking on actresses’/starlets’ bodies to degrade them. We hardly see people criticize males’/actors’ appearances. It is easy to find the main actor with a big belly but the actress is averagely underweight in the movie, and they usually are couples. Gossiping about female public figures looks like harmless, however those readers and spreader are the culprits of sexual inequality. To be a savvy audience, we must be aware of those sugar-coated poison.

  6. FHill_Spr'17JR

    This article makes an interesting comparison between the magazines and media that attack women and the domestic abuser. This article opened my eyes because you can see the comparison more clearly. I think that media doesn’t realize the consequences of telling women what the perfect body is. Some may perform minor changes to their body. These minor changes could be make-up and clothes. However, there are some major changes that are sometimes fatal and detrimental. An example of these changes are dieting that can result in an eating disorder. Overall media is detrimental because it gets into the heads and mindsets of their audience. The altered mindset can result in fatal life changes that are unnecessary for survival. I hope that media will consider their future actions when publishing articles and portraying the perfect body image. Media should pay attention to how much power they have and how much influence they have on their audience. Hopefully media will start to promote better and healthier messages about body image.

  7. Upon reading this blog post, I found myself fondly reminiscing on experiences from my childhood. I was constantly surrounded by magazines and billboards advertising a variety of items, like beauty products, by some of my favorite female celebrities whom I fondly looked up to. At this young age, I wanted to find as many ways as possible to become more beautiful like my idols, so I flipped page after page through hundreds of magazines, until I came across a myriad of articles discussing the benefits of receiving cosmetic surgeries. With these ideas implanted inside my brain, I gained instant gratification in knowing that I could simply change any part of my body if I felt that it was imperfect.

    Earlier today, I was discussing cosmetic surgeries with my Korean friend and she told me that in her culture, once a girl was to graduate from school, common gifts to receive are a rhinoplasty, a blepharoplasty, and a jaw reduction – all of which are very invasive procedures.

    Although I do support cosmetic surgeries, I find that each comes with its own double standard in which females are told that once they have a certain procedure done they will become very beautiful, but this also leads them to be susceptible to hatred from others and can be used a tactic, often by the media, to make her feel “less than perfect.”

  8. I see two points on this.

    First, magazines promote a lot of stupid junk that doesn’t matter.
    Plastic surgery has way more downsides than upsides, and unless there’s a good medical reason, I don’t see the point.
    Telling people (female or otherwise) that they need to cut themselves and change the shape or their body to fit societal ideals because they aren’t good enough? Wrong message to send.
    Your audience is poor enough that cosmetic surgery is very big-ticket. If they can’t change themselves, all you’re doing is promoting horrible self-image dysphoria and depression.

    Second, celebrities aren’t perfect, and it’s ridiculous to assume they should be.
    I don’t care about celebrities, unless it’s for, say, an amazing scientific discovery. Or an actor/actress who decides to use their excess money to go help people, rather than spending it on shiny toys, or even just throwing the money at “charities” that spend 90% of income on catering and marketing.
    Celebrities are just popular versions of those kids you knew in middle school. There were a select few who knew what they were doing, had skills, and used them to produce a useful outcome… but mostly they bumble around making bad decisions and looking like idiots no matter what. Why does anyone care?

    Celebrities are not what we should aspire to be. Magazines are not good places to get advice. The word literally means “store”. Trying to sell you things! “Beauty” products, “trendy” clothes, the “hottest” new scent from BRAND NAME! They sell it to you by telling you that you’re not good enough, and offering an expensive alternative.

    Violence is never a good solution. Occasionally- OCCASIONALLY- it is a necessary one, but it is never a good solution.
    And changing your body to please anyone but yourself is not going to help your well-being.

  9. Although paper magazines are a dying industry, it seems like the same pattern of body shaming and vilifying women for being less than perfect is also being perpetuated through online content.
    These star magazines or online blogs are promoting impossible beauty expectations, often through criticizing physical appearances and behavior of celebrities. I have the feeling the more it is done through any types of media the more it is normalized.
    This hunting like pattern, chasing celebrities’ every moves, and bringing them down on a single mistake. Such behavior is also internalized by the public, as it seems to create the desire for more. Readers, or whoever is still buying these types of magazines are as responsible as those who publish such content.

  10. I agree with the majority of this article, as far as magazines and other forms of tabloids exuding the message that in order to be “perfect” or even close to it you have to be/look a certain way. But times have changed, in my opinion, however those types of articles still exist today there are much more body positive, anti body shame magazines and articles out in the internet today. I agree that it leaves a strong, negative message to youth (in particular, young girls) the impression that they must look perfect to be accepted. But the sad thing about those women in the magazines with the long sexy legs, and the flawless youthful skin, don’t even look like that in real life because most of the time those images are digitally remastered and retouched. Those women don’t even look like those women, so why do we stress the idea of “perfection” when it really doesn’t exist? It’s degrading and psychologically damaging to men and women. If we want a generation of kids to grow up and feel excepted and comfortable in themselves we have to stop these damaging kinds of messages from reaching them. Nobody is perfect and that’s ok.

  11. Much of what we take for granted when we discuss women in public life their is called psychological abuse in a domestic setting.

  12. Self image no doubt has profound affects on female youth. Lately I’ve been into Kpop and I notice that perfection is universal. In the Kpop industry female groups all comply with the slim figure, v-line face, and double eyelid standard. Even when an idol is at a healthy weight, the netizens shame the idol nonstop. Shaming towards the female idols expand to all aspects of visuals. Girl group members have been shamed for wearing crop tops with show their abs, for having thicker arms, and even for having ugly knees. South Korea leads in terms of plastic surgery internationally, the yearning for perfection seems to be pressured upon the citizens more than elsewhere. In Kpop groups, each member has a role; there will be lead singers, dancers, and visual members. The visual member carries the group, they get the advertisements, the center spot in the performances, and the most recognition. These visual members portray what beauty and perfection are. Now, idols who produce songs not only have to be able to sing while dancing but also have to be visually appealing; talent is not enough. When parents buy plastic surgery gift certificates for their 16 year old children it says something. The Kpop idols are obligated to portray perfection, perfection which the citizens determine and copy. The cycle damages the both sides as it is not recognized to be wrong at all, it is just a part of the flow of things and everyone does it. The citizens are cultured to believe that they need to change themselves to become more beautiful instead of embracing who they are.

  13. Unfortunately shaming others has become our social norm. We can not walk down any super market aisles without seeing a misconstrued magazine headline. Some people can walk by without a thought but for others especially our youth, this can become something very damaging to their self esteem and self image.
    A young girl waits in line at the store and sees a magazine titled ” Young starlets weight spirals out of control!” and this young girl reflects onto herself and thinks “She looks just like me, is my weight spiraling out of control?”.
    The people we may look up to or find inspiring in show business are humans just like us. They struggle emotionally and mentally just like we do. If the magazine companies can shine a light onto topics like that maybe it could be a step into the right direction for the rest of us who are looking to find someone like us and gain some positive insight on the matter.

  14. Why do women read those magazines if it makes them feel bad? For example, as a nerd I find that unrealistic images of masculinity in popular media (e.g. James Bond films) make me feel sick for similar reasons. So I avoid this content. Why are not women doing the same thing?

    • The odd thing is they read the gossip magazines to look down on the Women celebrities and make themselves feel better by putting them down, but most women’s bodies veer even further from the ideal, so all of this picking apart of women’s bodies actually ends up backfiring.

  15. Such gossip magazines not only make the life of the starlets and celebrities miserable but they also make the common women think that she’s NOT at all perfect.

  16. Those magazines need to be broken up with. It’s just not the kind of stuff we need to be feeding our inner voices.

  17. Tabloids demonstrate poor taste, an abusive boyfriend is a far more serious matter.

  18. They also lovebomb the new girl on the block… til she succumbs (against her better judgement) then start the attacks… once in a while throw in some flattery so she lets down her guard, then back in for the kill….

  19. Sadly, lots of people buy this kind of crap. Magazines like this are just a symptom not the problem. The publishers are only out to make money and don’t really care one way or another about larger issues. If you could make a ton of money selling magazines about having a healthy self image at check-out counters then they would do that. Personally I don’t think I’ve ever even looked at Star. Intend to keep it that way.

    • Media both reflects and reinforces culture so I guess it is both a symptom and a problem. Girls who read these tend to have worsse body image. They probably are drawn because it makes them feel somewhat superior on a conscious level even as it creates a sense of body insecurity on another level.

      Kind of like how slut shaming backfires on women. You feel superior to the target in the moment – That’s on a conscious level. But at an unconscious level women internalize that being sexual is bad which helps to explain why half of women have major sexual dysfunction — with possible symptoms including things like painful sex, difficulty with orgasm, low or no interest in sex

  20. No man has ever bothered to read such a magazine. Still our fault though right?

    • Patriarchy and men are not the same thing.

      I know a lot of men who are against patriarchy just like I know a lot of whites who are against racism.

      So you see the effects of patriarchy and magazines like this as they work to demean women and lower their self-esteem. Which can end up hurting men too, like when women can’t enjoy sex because they are too worried about how they look. That’s a bummer for most guys who want their partners to be enjoying themselves in bed.

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