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The Boobs at The Huffington Post
What’s up with The Huffington Post? Every other headline seems to focus on women’s breasts. Or if not their breasts, their bodies—how they’re shaped, how they’re aging, how they’re dressed, how they’re exposed. It’s as though I’m reading a Hollywood gossip rag. Or fashion magazine. Or advertisement for Playboy.
You don’t see that sort of coverage for men, at least not nearly as often. Stories about men focus more on what they’ve accomplished—good or bad—not on how they look. But women’s bodies, in all their exposed glory, provide endless fodder for The Huff Post editors.
In fact, their coverage has seemed so over-the-top lately that I decided to monitor their site for a few days, just to make sure I wasn’t imagining all those body parts. During that time, I collected a number of savory headlines from their homepage:
- What Real Women’s Thighs Look Like
- Supermodel Wows in Teeny Tiny Bikini on Miami Beach
- ‘Buxom Bandit’ Makes Crucial Errors in Robbery
- Beyond Hooters: 9 More ‘Breastaurants’ To Know
- Former Teen Prostitute Stages Racy Lingerie Show
- Victoria’s Secret Carves Out Model’s Thighs
- Can Someone Please Explain This Outfit To Us?
- Mother Urges 14-Year-Old Daughter To Get Breast Implants
- Pink’s Duct Tape Bra Looks Painful
- The Bride Wore What?
- Research Suggests Breast Size Affects Cancer Risk
- How Young Is Too Young For A Bikini Wax?
- Kim Kardashian’s Sheer Dress
- Britney Spears Wows In Bikini
As I said, this was just the homepage. I would have continued my search onto other pages—or extended it beyond three days—but I found so many body-centric headlines so quickly, there was little reason to go on. Several days later, however, I collected more samples of tantalizing tidbits, also from their homepage, and threw them together in the image below.
Of course, The Huffington Post has no monopoly on such skewed coverage. Think back to the last presidential inauguration. Media far and wide could find almost nothing to say about Michelle Obama other than to comment on her wardrobe. You’d never know that she attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School or that she worked for Mayor Richard M. Daley and the University of Chicago Medical Center or that she served as Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago. Who cares about a career in the face of such a stunning and elegant gown?
In fact, the media are still talking about her clothes, along with the clothes of other first ladies, a term that in itself might deserve a bit of scrutiny. The Huffington Post, for instance, ran a Fourth of July story titled “What Michelle, Hillary & Others Wore.” The article featured photographs of female fashions at the White House over the last seven decades of Independence Day celebrations. (Don’t I recall Hillary having done something other than being a first lady?)
It’s not that the media are incapable of portraying women in a less objectifying light. But when you examine how the various outlets regularly portray women—and include in that mix the daily bombardments from Madison Avenue—you’ll find that women are routinely described in terms of their bodies, with their accomplishments secondary to their forms.
Not surprisingly, such coverage impacts not only how men view women, but also how women view themselves. Numerous studies suggest that when men see body shots of women, rather than face shots, they view the women to be less intelligent and competent—capable of emotion, but not rational thought. And women too succumb to the prevailing pressures, objectifying themselves in ways that lead to feelings of self-consciousness and humiliation and a sense that their bodies serve only as instruments of pleasure for others.
I can see why so many men, particularly straight men, would buy into such a system. For the most part, they still control the lenses through which women are viewed. It’s an arrangement that has served them well in the past and continues to serve them today. The men who can break away from such indoctrination and prejudice remain a small and somewhat silent minority.
The more complex issue, I think, is the complicity of the women who buy into this system and even embrace it—women who willingly engage in both objectifying other women and allowing themselves to be objectified, offering themselves as sacrifices to the consumptive forces of books, magazines, television shows, Hollywood blockbusters, and the Madison Avenue mayhem that permeates our culture. Celebrity superstars might claim to perform under the guise of progressivism and independence, but in the end, their participation in this institutionalized objectification often perpetuates stereotypes and leads to the negative self-images and lack of dignity evidenced in fad diets and eating disorders and plastic surgery and other manifestations of self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy.
Recently, I’ve had discussions with several women about what they’ve observed as a growing trend, particularly among younger females, to dress and act in a manner whose sole purpose is to sexualize and objectify themselves. Clothes are tighter, heels are higher, make-up layered on thicker than ever—the type of outfits many women regaled against in the ’60s and ’70s because they propagated misogynistic attitudes that bound them in clothing designed to make them incapable of all but the most subservient of movements—an easy metaphorical leap into a history steeped in the subjugation and mistreatment of women around the world.
Hollywood might try to portray the superwoman as a brainy kung fu master in a tight skirt and high heels, but such mythological and sexualized imagery often does more to feed male fantasies and undermine the self-respect of women who don’t fit into that mold—the old, the disabled, the overweight, the less-than-perfect—than it does to empower women or instill any sense of independence and self-confidence. If the media and superstar entertainers really were celebrating the female form, rather than merely capitalizing on it, they would scarcely omit the majority of women.
Why The Huffington Post, that so-called liberal bastion of progressive thinking, has jumped on the objectifying bandwagon with such vehemence is hard to say. The homepages of the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Fox News, CNN, BBC News, The Guardian, and even the National Enquirer pale by comparison. But the Post is a trendsetter, particularly when it comes to delivering online news and entertainment. Perhaps the other outlets simply have yet to catch up.
Years ago, before my grandmother died, she would complain about how high heels had ruined her feet. “Men are lucky,” she would say. “They don’t have to kill themselves trying to please everyone else.”
I’m not sure that’s true, but the point is, women of my grandmother’s era saw themselves as having little choice but to pander to social conventions defined by a male-dominated culture. She might have escaped the corset, but other forces kept her fashionably inline.
Today, women have more options, but like so many segments of the population—men, sexual minorities, people of color, immigrants, the disabled, the overweight, the undernourished, the poor, the sick—many of them believe the hype that advertisers and publishers and politicians and entertainers and movie moguls and ministers are pushing down their throats.
It’s hard to imagine that the Huffington Post and other media mythmakers will let up any time soon on their insistence to objectify women or in other ways pigeonhole their readers and viewers. Dollar signs usually win out over compassion and common sense. Perhaps the only way to effect real change is to hit them where it hurts the most—right in their big ol’ swollen money belts.
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