Jennifer Aniston’s open letter in the Huffington post makes for much more than an interesting read; it’s not a brief feminist treatise but a series of well-aimed, cutting, honest remarks that call out the kinks in media mentality.
The eloquent letter voices not only frustration with sensationalism and paparazzi-hounding, but also the abominable trends of fat-shaming and baby/boyfriend pressures. These two issues are of particular importance because they are something that I as a young woman have had to experience for myself.
Let me start by saying that nobody knows about fat-shaming more than I do. When your body puts on, it hardly takes more than a couple of months for it to become bloated. From wearing skintight jeans and tube tops, you suddenly go to wearing baggy sweats and XXL size T-shirts. You’re shunted from one clothing store to another, hunting for apparel that might lessen your resemblance to a water buffalo. You stress over putting on, and you eat more; you stress about eating more and you put on. People’s gazes slide past you as if you’re invisible. Your self-esteem plummets to the floor, your friends disappear except for the ones that pity you and you withdraw into yourself. The inelegant chunks of cellulite cling to the softer parts of your body like inexpertly moulded clay. Your sense of humor becomes self-deprecating in an effort to make people like you. Sex becomes a nightmare, because taking off your clothes in front of someone is such a mortifying experience that you sink into gloom, alone and full of self-recrimination.
I’ve dealt with the comments: “You could be a few pounds lighter. Make-up isn’t going to help much. Don’t try for any guys out of your league, which is every guy. Loser. Fatso. Elephant. Sad. Pathetic. Cow. Whale.” On and on and on. If society wasn’t so intent on weeding out fat people and humiliating them, then it’d probably do a better job at spotting the thieves, abusers and the psychopaths.
Which reiterates Aniston’s point: Our standards of beauty are exacting, impractical and cruel. If someone isn’t modelesque, then she isn’t beautiful. If her skin isn’t hanging off of her bones, she’s chubby. If there isn’t a thigh gap, then close those legs. If her breasts are too plump, then, well, ironically men don’t seem to mind that.
By the time you swear you’re his,
Shivering and sighing.
And he vows his passion is,
Lady make note of this —
One of you is lying.
Which brings me to the second point raised in the letter: Men seem to be overly concerned about when we’re going to get married, when we’re going to have kids, how many kids, when’s the wedding, the birth, whether we have boyfriends or not, why we’re still single….. it’s an exhausting gunfire of stinging remarks that basically camouflages the real question: When will you stop working and cease to be competition?
Unfortunately, men are still extremely threatened by smart, independent and ambitious women. Men’s perspective on us is still superficial, skin-deep and objective. If I want a guy to help me, being clever isn’t going to work but flashing a boob just might. They don’t care whether I’m intelligent, funny or caring so long as I can fit into a skimpy dress and simper at them. Most young men I’ve met have readily presumed that I will get married immediately because I’m decent-looking which rankles for more than one reason: I object to the supposition that I’m going to get married at all. I condemn the assumption that I can’t be more successful than my male peers. And I loathe the expectation that all I want to do is make babies.
We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child
In a world of sexism, rape and inequality, Aniston’s letter is a timely and welcome alarm bell. Echoing the words of fellow feminists like Emma Watson, Lena Dunham, Shonda Rhimes, Amy Schumer and Jennifer Lawrence, that letter brings us one step closer to subverting the sexist trends in the public and frequent sexualization by the media.
Thanks Jen, I know you’ll be there for me.