The completely insane way celebrities and public figures have their weight and body shape monitored in the media brings to mind a school matron with a tape measure and sadistic glint in her eye.
Too fat: shamed.
Too thin: shamed.
A few pounds overweight: willpower must be questioned.
A few pounds underweight: mock-concern for subject’s physical and mental wellbeing.
A photo that shows bigger thighs than those of a very thin person: “feels comfortable about showing off her natural curves.”
It’s a privacy invasion free-for-all, where even if the person being photographed isn’t being directly insulted, his or her body is being held up to public observation, and invitation to comment and ridicule.
The British actress Kate Winslet has endured the slings and arrows of the worst of the paparazzi, and tabloid judgment, with grace, intelligence, and refreshing sensibleness ever since Titanic made her an international star.
In her latest interview, with Harper’s Bazaar, the 39-year-old Winslet is emphatic about not bowing to the body-shaming media in any way. Indeed, she rightly turns the body-shaming right back on the media.
“There’s a big part of me—now, more than ever before—that feels a sense of responsibility for how other women view themselves,” Winslet said.
Referring to having her third child, Bear, in 2013, Winslet added, “Take having the baby, for instance. Have I actively been on a diet to lose my baby weight? No, I haven’t. I genuinely bloody haven’t. I so didn’t want to be one of those, ‘Oh, wow, she’s back in shape after 12 weeks’ women. When I read things like that I just think, ‘Oh, for f**k’s sake, that’s actually impossible.’”
“I want to keep my health and my sanity and be well fed and happy,” she also said. “My body will never go back to what it was and I wouldn’t expect it to after three babies.”
Let’s allow ourselves a “hallelujah” here.
Ironically, her wise words come as reports are already questioning why Winslet looks so thin in the Harper’s Bazaar shoot, and so “curvy” in a set of pictures of her standing in the sea a few weeks ago.
Of course, the reports don’t make clear the time difference between the two sets of photographs being taken, or if the Harper’s shoot was Photoshopped.
Winslet has spoken out about her pictures being doctored before—most famously in GQ in 2003—yet a Vogue cover of Winslet was Photoshopped in 2013.
It’s unclear if Winslet or her representatives sought or greenlit these Photoshopped changes to her magazine pictures (including this week’s Harper’s Bazaar cover). But if she is OK about being made to look different on the cover of magazines, then is she helping to promulgate the ridiculous ideals of body perfection magazines foist on their audience?
She may not want to be “one of those, ‘Oh, wow, she’s back in shape after 12 weeks’ women,” as she puts it, but for her own starring moments she has a team of stylists—and perhaps digital aid—to look her best on the page, unlike most women after they give birth.
“I have wrinkles which are very evident,” Winslet has said. “I will particularly say when I look at movie posters, “You guys have airbrushed my forehead. Please can you change it back?”'
Again, this is admirable, yet still the suspiciously wrinkle-free forehead remains on the most recent Harper’s Bazaar cover.
If Winslet was truly proud of how she looked, and so damning of being to made to feel she should look any different, then why allow herself to be made to look so different in the magazines she appears within, or the movie posters she appears on?
The harsh truth is she doesn’t own her image. The ultimate control does not lie with her—but rather the magazines and movie studios themselves. Of course, you can be against body-shaming and still agree to be Photoshopped—but if you’re going to speak out on the iniquities of the former, it makes sense to clarify the latter.
Whatever the truth about Kate Winslet’s body—how it is in reality versus how it appears in magazines and on big screens, what she says about it and what is written about it—the strangest thing is the powerlessness of the performer to control how that body is ultimately presented to the public.
Still weirder: the magazines that are doing the retouching are doing it presumably because they judge their readership wants retouched, glamorous bodies rather than ‘real’ ones, and they make this judgment on presumably commercial ground—bluntly, because readers have signaled they want it that way. We’re all complicit in the hall of mirrors that presents itself on red carpets and on our magazine racks.
The solution is to set up a new magazine, Real Vogue, where Winslet and other out-and-proud body-truthers like her can be photographed as they are, with wrinkled foreheads and natural baby weight.
One hopes such a magazine would sell well, although one suspects we’ll carry on buying into the more familiar, airbrushed fantasies.