I think we’ve all grasped the fact that various magazines, websites and newspapers are verging on heinous when it comes to their coverage of women.
In 2014, the media’s obsession with the female body is a familiar one; be it an in-depth description of Tara Reid’s “worryingly skinny” frame (The Mirror Online, 2/11/14), or Lady Gaga’s supposed concealment of recent weight gain (Mail Online, 14/3/2014).
Regardless of their weight, celebrities are lambasted both for ‘covering up’ and dressing in ‘scantily clad’ outfits. There is no way to win – or so it seems. Let’s remember, this is big business. A large cohort of publications, both online and print, use bodies (male and female) to sell papers or increase traffic. It’s undeniable that this kind of selective, sexist coverage is disheartening. However, there is power in choice.
I can recognise that Holly Hagan of Geordie Shore fame willingly told the Daily Mail that she "still had great sex when she was fat’. I can respect that she exploits the tabloids in that manner in order to make money (which is, arguably, empowering), but that doesn’t mean that I have to read all about it, or even discuss it with anyone.
There is another element of cruel media that serves to remind us that scrutiny is a two-way street: the comments. I understand and endorse the concept of free speech, but I am quite sure that any online publication that allows any person to be branded "rough as a badger’s rear" (Mail Online comment section) by an anonymous troll isn’t my read of choice. Comment moderation on certain news sites is still at a horrifyingly unsophisticated level, and for that reason, I just choose not to read them.
What’s even more depressing is the angle that some publishers choose to take on certain events. When covering Emma Watson’s #HeForShe speech at the UN a couple of months back, the Telegraph ran the story alongside a picture of her in a short dress, rather than the sharp suit she donned on the day. More recently, Lena Dunham slammed the Daily Mail for writing about her "slimmer face" and "unique look" upon the occasion of her UK book launch, rather than giving her book anything more than a passing mention. Personally, I’d rather read about the book or the speech itself, and thankfully, there are plenty of sites out there to give me that information.
Isn’t it up to the individual to choose what media she or he consumes? Why are we so accepting and eager to be spoon-fed stories that encourage us to pit ourselves against each other based on appearance and weight, rather than wit and intellect? Exercising discretion in what media we read, discuss and share, both on and offline, is something we should perhaps all consider. Think of it as a means of, ahem, ‘conscious uncoupling’ from the worst culprits.
It’s always good to think for oneself, and sometimes, I do worry that most of us have forgotten how.
Deirdre Foley is a history grad, sceptic, wearer of red lipstick and self-confessed 'beauty maniac'. She is also the co-founder of fabulous Irish beauty blog, Viva Adonis.