Words by: Gitika Garg Art by: Brooke Stevens
Enter the tabloid 一 a well-oiled rumour mill, relentless in churning aggressively yellow headlines and scathing paparazzi pics. Crowding supermarket shelves and doctors’ waiting rooms, we’ve grown up with these glossy pages always in sight.
In high school, I distinctly remember picking up an edition of Famous at the hairdressers 一 another impressive distributor of these pervasive publications 一 that read “you’re too fat for runway” across 18-year-old Kendall Jenner’s body. Yes, read that again. Heaven forbid she had a bit of cellulite on her thighs, but looked otherwise flawless. I continued to flick through the pages and mindlessly consume without even batting an eyelid or raising a brow.
Why is it that, back then, I never questioned why a young girl’s body was publicly discussed on the front page? Or why dotted lines circled out women’s ‘imperfections’? Or even why ‘best and worst’ beach body lists were considered magazine staples?
If there is one thing that has come out of lockdown number I’ve-lost-count, it’s listening to the icon that is Jameela Jamil and understanding just how problematic tabloid culture really is. Jamil has been an outspoken critic of toxic tabloid culture towards women, using her platform to call out the blatant misogyny that these publications perpetuate.
‘Diet disaster’. ‘Dumped at 200 lbs’. ‘Break-up boob jobs’. ’Biggest belly flops’.These are the ridiculous headlines slammed across tabloids that continually berate and dehumanise women in the spotlight. They objectify, scrutinise, and hyperbolise them till they are no longer treated as humans. Why? Because clickbait sells, and as we all know, revenue surpasses everything now, including morals.
Tabloid media is ruthless in commodifying sexist narratives that continue to influence and shape public perception. It is rampant misogyny under the now obvious guise of juicy celeb gossip, and the damage of this seeps deep into our society today.
We’ve seen it happen to Britney, to Paris and to Taylor Swift, just to name a few. This is a pattern that Jamil frames perfectly: “they strategically build women up, overexpose them, primed to then savagely take down, destroy and repeat. The ‘It’ Girl relentlessly kicked off the very pedestal she was placed on with no room for redemption”.
Think British tabloids hounding Meghan Markle, branding her as ‘attention-seeking’ for holding her baby bump or ‘vulgar’ for wearing a one-shoulder dress. I mean, how dare she.
The thing is, toxic tabloid culture isn’t just something that affects celebrities. When they are reduced to objects and their bodies are shamed, it affects all women. When their character is defamed, it ridicules all women, because it encourages a demonising culture of sexism, now publicly available to display, consume and replicate.
When we buy these magazines bound by threads of blatant misogyny and indulge in the gossip, we contribute to the problem. Now, it is time to take responsibility. 2020 was a pivotal year in calling out behaviour that could no longer continue unchecked and excused, and this year is exactly the same. It is time to torch the toxic culture of tabloids that breeds an absurd ugliness within society and the media.
Put quite simply, tabloids need to die in 2021, and I don’t mean this in the nicest way possible. We must take public accountability, unpicking the narratives that we are sold and rejecting their misleading messages. Stop buying, stop listening, and really, stop funding the patriarchy.
Instead let’s start supporting women, looking not at their bodies but the weight of their achievements and voice, because this is what really should make headlines.