The Daily Mail and the Sidebar of Judgement
Thursday, 17 March 2011
Last week Penny Smith, writing for the Daily Mail, asked 'Why do we women hate our bodies?'. Several of my fellow tabloid-watching bloggers pointed out the hypocrisy of the Mail's obsession with asking this question (look back through the archives and you'll find several similar stories published over the past couple of years). I must admit I haven't been visiting Mail Online much recently. It's probably been good for my sanity. But following Smith's piece going up, I've been interested to see how the site does absolutely nothing to help the way women might be feeling about their bodies.
The famed Mail Online sidebar has always been the Sidebar of Judgement, the place to go if you want to laugh at women in 'unflattering' dresses or disapprove of average-sized people daring to wear bikinis while pursing your lips at Suri Cruise's lost childhood and Kerry Katona's Ultimate Bad Mother status.
But as the paper publishes columns lamenting poor body image among modern women, the Sidebar of Judgement, dare I say it, appears to be getting worse. There's no longer any variety in the women's interest-flavoured stories it features. It's a relentless rotation of judgemental pieces about cellulite, stomach flab and weight loss. Top story today features 'real women' creating Kate Moss's look in order to show that they have better backsides than she does. Give me strength. But there's more:
- 'I work out seven days a week... but I still have jiggly thighs and cellulite,' admits Kim Kardashian
- So that's why Cher Lloyd looks the picture of health - she lives on greasy portions of chips
- Teen Mom 2 star Jenelle Evans makes for an arresting sight (in a bikini... not at court, that is)
- What a knockout: Sucker Punch star Abbie Cornish does scantily-clad sultry shoot for GQ magazine
- What happened to Nicole's legs? Scherzinger goes for the wrinkly look in mismatched boots and dress
Yesterday the Women's Networking Hub tweeted:
Has disordered eating for women and girls become the norm, as entrenched behaviour patterns are now granted as acceptable?
This is a good question. The phenomenon is certainly being fuelled in part by the attitudes of media aimed at women, with the way it constantly judges the body, insinuates that our bodies, as they are naturally, are unaccpetable and encourages unhealthy and drastic diets as a means of achieving confidence and acceptance. As a result we categorize all food as either 'good' or 'bad'. We justify eating a chocolate bar by saying that it's okay, we'll go to the gym later, or we'll only have a small dinner. We gravitate immediately towards the 'low fat' or 'light' sections when we go to buy a sandwich for lunch whether we're overweight or not. We discuss it and we treat all this as totally normal, totally ordinary attitudes towards eating and sustaining our bodies.
There's a familiar series of events involving celebrity women and the media. Step One: the woman, who does not adhere strictly to the accepted 'thin but curvy' body type, is picked over and ridiculed by the papers, magazines or blogs. Step Two: she loses weight and said papers and magazines run triumphant features on her new found confidence and happiness. She'll be wearing a bikini or a corset and grinning. Step Three: she'll put a bit of weight back on. Step Four: she'll appear in one of these papers and magazines solemnly discussing how that weight loss was unhealthy for her, how she exercised far too much, how she made herself sick or took diet pills or barely ate. And people will shake their heads and tut about the negative influence of the media.
All this will be chronicled in the Sidebar of Judgement.