Famed feminist Gloria Steinem condemns tabloid critiques of celebrity bodies because they “devalue their brains and ours,” Us Weekly reports with a totally straight face.
“If our bodies are treated as ornaments instead of instruments, that’s because we are rebelling because it’s an effort to distract us,” she told the magazine at a party. “So don’t be distracted. Why bother getting caught up in that?”
Steinem was speaking for women broadly, but Us was asking on behalf of Kim Kardashian, whose pregnancy has caused an avalanche of tabloid coverage and, improbably, sparked a national debate about the treatment of women’s bodies in media.
The writers and celebrities standing up for Kim — yes, with cries of “bullying” — are less worried about objectification on principle than its slow creep into the lives of pregnant women. There, they draw the line. Gwyneth Paltrow said “women should support each other, especially through pregnancy, it’s a difficult time.” Channing Tatum’s wife Jenna Dewan-Tatum, also expecting, tweeted that we should all “be kind to every woman out there who is expecting,” because “it’s a beautiful amazing moment in time and not about vanity.” Model Helena Christensen slammed the media for its “public bullying and attacking of a pregnant woman.” “There should be some moral compass,” she wrote, “No one should be judged for their body, but to attack an expecting mother is sacrilegious and just plain wrong.” This double-standard seems like an admission that, for celebrities, a certain amount of objectification is an acceptable cost of doing business. (If only it were an equal cost to men!)
By my count, there are only, like, three disreputable weeklies guilty of “fat-shaming,” which here seems to mean inventing body-anguish stories (“I can’t stop eating!”, “Dumped at 200 Pounds”) to pair with the paparazzi photo-narrative of Kardashian’s changing body. These irrelevant, probably fictional stories would disappear if not for the sympathetic news outlets giving them a megaphone as they rise to Kardashian’s defense. As if they didn’t publish the same, unflattering photos as the fat-shamers alongside neutral (but still objectifying) non-stories like “Kim Kardashian Embraces Pregnancy Curves in Flowing Beige Maxi-Dress, Flat Sandals: Picture.” The headline doesn’t need to be “OMG look how huge Kim’s boobs are getting” to know what you’re getting there.
In short, it’s cool that Us talked to Steinem and all, but pregnant and non-pregnant women alike should probably still brace themselves for “bikini body” season.