Friday, April 15, 2011

On Compassion and Magazines...

Awhile back, I wrote a post about mixed messages in the media (what else?! haha)... and the confusion/backlash that can result when celebrities, for example, have had plastic surgery and then pledge their solidarity with real women all over the world by going without photoshop on the cover of a magazine. Rather than judge (which is the likely inclination), it occurred to me that the issue of beauty hypocrisy is an extremely complicated one. And rather than judge celebrities for sending mixed messages about health and beauty, perhaps we might try to understand the intense pressure that they are under and ultimately consider what leads them to make the decisions and choices that they do. By working to try to understand, it is possible that we might somehow see things differently as we have compassion, which might impact our expectations towards our views of beauty, ourselves, and trying to make consistent decisions about our health. I would encourage you to check it out here.

I say all of that as a way to preface the fact that I was completely overwhelmed with compassion when I read about something that happened this week with Scarlett Johansson. Let me first start off by saying that Scarlett Johansson is beautiful!! She has been outspoken about healthy body image and not succumbing to Hollywood pressures to fit an unrealistic ideal. (Check out the piece she wrote in the Huffington Post back in 2009 here after being criticized as rumors were going around about her losing weight for a movie role.)

So, this past week, Scarlett was out for a run and a paparazzi snapped a picture of her... and baby rumors started flying.  From the angle of the shot and the way her body was moving, it looked like she had the makings of a tiny baby bump. Well, turns out it was no baby bump and just the way that her body appeared from that particular angle, while running and in spandex. Can you imagine having your picture snapped while going for a run in spandex for the whole world to scrutinize and judge? Um, no thank you!! While some people might argue that it goes with the territory of being a celebrity, I would argue that no job or status should override the common decency extended to every human being, ... no one should be scrutinized in that manner- celebrity or otherwise. Celebrities are real people too, with feelings and insecurities-- what makes us think it is okay to judge them and their bodies when we say that it is not okay to criticize and judge our own bodies, or those of our friends, our neighbors, our loved ones?? 

The difficulty lies in the fact that we play a part in providing a demand for these kinds of photos because we buy the magazines, read the celebrity blogs, etc. Let me be the first to say that I am an offender! I like to know what is going on in the world, and that involves Hollywood. After I graduated from college, I subscribed to multiple magazines (not exactly literary ones- think US magazine, Glamour, etc). In recent years however, I have really tried to not buy magazines. Of course, there are times when I am given magazines by others- friends in town visiting who want to get rid of them after a flight, etc. But I try not to buy the ones that I used to subscribe to. I don't keep a hard and fast rule that says I will never buy or read a magazine (I'm a Real Simple fan!!), or that I think it's wrong to, I just feel that by not buying them, I am taking a little stand and not using my money or time to invest in something that may serve to impact me and others in a negative way. I also feel that the less I subject myself to images in magazines that so often aren't even real, I am exposing myself less frequently to a standard that I don't want to feel pressure to submit to. I know the power and influence that images can have, and I don't want to welcome that influence! However, I don't think the answer to the body image/beauty/media problem is to hibernate and not interact with any outlets of the media. I just think that by not buying these magazines (even if it means only buying them occasionally instead of often), we might reduce the demand for such pictures. Just a thought to consider. If you enjoy reading magazines, this isn't a judgment call for you to stop reading them. But it is one way to consider making an impact!!

*As a side note, when I was considering what images to add to this post, I was searching images and added an old cover of an US magazine, and then realized how hypocritical that might be to use. !! It requires so much thought to be consistent, and we sometimes make mistakes and aren't able to see it. But that is okay! We are all just works in progress :-) While I am always very careful about the images I use on my blog, and never want to use images that would be triggering or unhealthy, I would say that this made me think even more about what kinds of images I use! 

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