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. 22 Comments.

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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….

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

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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

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