entertainment

Dear tabloids: These women are not "flaunting" their bodies.

Tabloids are shaming celebrities for their ‘wrinkly knees’ now. Body-policing has reached peak idiocy.

Hey, you! You at the computer.

That cardigan you’re wearing today really flaunts the shape of your elbows. And that hair you’ve got on your head? It flashes your trim, pert little ears.

But the skirt you’re wearing definitely reveals your saggy old calves and, well… as far as your ankles go, that pair of shoes leaves NOTHING to the imagination and also shows off every wrinkle. (Now go get some foot-lypo, you attention-seeking exhibitionist.)

Just like Elle MacPherson’s poor, poor knees.

It seems ridiculous to speak like that about women’s appearance in the real world, doesn’t it? Well — that’s the kind of treatment celebrities are subjected to every day by tabloids and gossip sites.

Looking at these shiny, shouty entertainment pages, you’d be forgiven for thinking that women never just wear a crop top, but rather “show off their toned mid-section and perky cleavage.’ Or that they don’t just go to the gym; instead, they ‘furiously battle to get their pre-baby body back’.

Related: What happens when you force tabloid headlines to tell the truth.

And make no mistake — according to these sites, women are incapable of just wearing shorts to combat the heat; instead, they ‘step out in cheeky micro mini shorts that flash their pert posteriors’ or perhaps, they opt to ‘put on a leggy parade’.

Take these, for instance (post continues after gallery):

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These sorts of body-policing headlines were subject to a study by Jezebel‘s Bobby Finger, who trawled 12 months’ worth of American celebrity gossip site Us Weekly, searching for how many times the publication used the term ‘flaunt’.

He found the website used the word an unbelievable 159 times between April 2014-April 2015.

Unsurprisingly, he found that women were described as ‘flaunting’ much, much more than men — 99 women to 7 men. He also discovered that the so-called ‘flaunted assets’ ranged from baby bumps to cleavage, make-up free faces, curves, arms, bum, flat stomach… and the list goes on.

Basically, Finger found, every aspect of a woman’s appearance can be inadvertently ‘flaunted’ — including her temporary tattoos and underwear.

The phenomenon isn’t just an American thing, either: On one popular Australian gossip website (which does features some content aggregated from overseas) we found at least nine headlines claiming women ‘flaunted’ their bodies published in the past week alone.

Using the site’s internal search function, we also stumbled across 101 headlines referring to women ‘showing off’ various instances of their appearance, and 22 instances of women ‘displaying’ aspects of their appearance.

Sigh.

This habit of turning every step by a famous woman into a moment of flaunting (or displaying, or revealing, or flashing, or showing off…) isn’t confined to just a couple of gossip sites, though — and it isn’t harmless either.

It’s representative of a much wider media trend of scrutinising every aspect of women’s appearance, and buying into the notion that women should compete to be The Sexiest or The Thinnest or The Prettiest (never The Smartest or The Kindest, though. Funny, that.)

It’s also representative of a wider societal trend to reduce women to the sum of their body parts, and to sexualise women or judge them in a gendered way — even when they’re, well, just trying to live their lives.

So next time we pull on our ankle boots for a wander to the corner store, we’ll be grateful nobody in real life is yelling about how we’re FLAUNTING our knees or showing our true age as we BRAVELY forgo makeup.

But when we get to that corner store, we’ll probably think twice about buying a gossip magazine plastered with headlines just like that.

Do you think the way women’s bodies are represented in the press affects the way we see ourselves?

Related:

100 women show us what their bodies really look like.

Taylor Swift nails a sexist question on the red carpet. 

Selma Hayek’s idea for tackling sexism in Hollywood.