05/31/2012 01:20 EDT

Tabloid Magazines: The Crucifixion Of Women At The Checkout Line


By Jessica Kalbfleisch, Vancouver Observer

Misogynists rule the tabloids. It doesn't matter where you are: London Drugs, 7-11, Safeway or on the B.C. Ferries. They all display tabloid magazines at the checkout plastered with tales that aim to both entertain and shame women.

It doesn’t help that the misogynist tabloids are placed so you can't miss them. While you are stuck waiting in pesky long line-ups, what else is there to do but read about Jada 'stealing' J.Lo's husband or other lowest common denominator fare?

Tabloids aren’t choosy in meting out misogynist story-telling. Each female idol has her time being smeared by the headlines on the covers of Us Weekly or OK! Magazine or The Star. The vicious attacks can occur right as a celebrity is about to release a box office hit: Suddenly she finds her photo plastered across the front of a tabloid with the claim that she's starving herself to death. Even stars that have been out of the limelight for years get attacked -- just recently, we saw Demi Moore supposedy fall apart in the public eye and, according to the tabloids, make a pass at the much younger Zac Efron in her "desperate" state.

Tabloid stories don't always tell horrible lies about celebrities. Sometimes, they just show horrible photos of them. With the slogan, 'They’re real people too', the tabloids may feature someone like Jessica Biel as she does errands. Wow, even stars have to buy their own groceries.

What is known about celebrity tabloids is that no star is safe from the long arm of the misogyny mill.

Pregnancy, Adoption, Innuendos And Twins

According to numerous tabloid magazines from US Weekly to Star, Jennifer Aniston has ‘officially’ been reported as pregnant about 15 times over the years.

She’s been slandered for apparently being pregnant at 40, then adopting, having twins with John Mayer, and we can’t forget that she was pregnant with Brad Pitt’s child when he left her for Angelina Jolie -- that’s a whole lot of pregnancy scares. Someone needs to get this woman on better birth control or get this magazine a new editor and a better editorial mandate.

The number one nail used to hang stars on the cross is their weight. Jessica Simpson’s body triggered a pregnancy weight gain firestorm in the tabloids. Claiming that she gained 40 pounds during her pregnancy with daughter Maxwell Drew, the 5-foot-3 star admitted to weighing 175 pounds (her baby did weigh 9 pounds, 13 oz. when born) at the time she posed for Elle Magazine pregnant and nude.

While US and OK! Magazine were slandering her for apparently indulging into pregnancy cravings like buckets of fried chicken and buttered Pop Tarts, she had no issue openly discussing her weight gain and even poked fun at herself on television. Having a bad rap as Hollywood’s famous ditz (remember when she had trouble deciding if tuna was chicken or fish because the food label said it was ‘chicken of the sea’?), Jessica Simpson taught the world something through her pregnancy weight gain: It doesn’t matter what other people say about you, as long as you are happy.

And besides, gaining the weight worked to her advantage. She now has a four-million dollar deal with Weight Watchers and a goal of losing 50 pounds. You go girl.

Women Can't Get It Right: Too Sexy, Too Skinny, And Partiers

Perhaps those in the limelight who face the ultimate public shaming in the tabloids are the stars growing up in the spot light. Miley Cyrus is no better or worse than your average teen, but the tabloids have a habit of showing her in a negative light as she goes through her rebellious teen explorations and mistakes.

Cyrus has constantly been criticized in the tabloids for being too thin, dating older guys, showing too much skin in photos, and of course, who can forget the pot controversy. As soon as she left the safety of Disney’s arms, the now-19 year old faced it all. These are pretty tough hits from the public, especially at such an impressionable age, but if anything, Cyrus has shown young girls exactly how to handle the criticism: with resiliency.

Cyrus has risen from the tabloid ashes and has handled negative comments and confrontations with elegance, and better than most adult stars (ahem, Russell Brand, a.k.a. the paparazzi slayer). Recently in reaction to criticisms that she has been dressing too sexily, she talked to the press about why having sex isn't taboo, saying that it is the only way the world continues to grow and that self-worth has nothing to do with sex, but instead, self-worth has everything to do with how you feel about yourself -- you said it, Miley.

Even though celebrity gossip forums are increasingly popular, and they basically thrive on the sport of shaming and blaming successful, beautiful women, false slogans continue to be printed across magazine covers and, unlike online gossip sites, once it's in print, it ain't going away.

These magazines are artifacts of horrible journalism (if they can even be called journalism) because the most important rule of journalism -- to relay information in a truthful manner -- is clearly just a joke to whoever owns these rags. Not only do these magazines tell nothing but lies and get away with it, but they make millions of dollars on the backs of women. As a weekly circulation, in 2007 Us Weekly banked 1.85 million dollars on largely falsified stories (primarily about women). Crucifying women at the checkout counter puts money in the pockets of the corporate media owners, who, by the way are 97 per cent male.

Magazines should spend their big bucks on showcasing celebrity women and girls for what they are: complex, sexy, vulnerable, real, flawed, savvy and sometimes even brilliant superstars. Women who could be making the rest of us feel like superstars, too.