KEEP OUT: Female bodies aren’t public property

On Feb. 4th, Kylie Jenner announced the birth of her first child and Twitter lost its collective mind. After months of suspense, speculation and blurry paparazzi shots, the youngest member of the Kardashian clan finally confirmed her pregnancy by releasing an eleven-minute video featuring clips of her life through the past nine months.

The video trended rapidly on social media, gaining over 36 million views during its first 48 hours on YouTube, rivaling Super Bowl mentions on Twitter the night of the game itself. Yes, the Super Bowl.

Granted, the Kardashians are social media royalty, so a pregnancy is sure to drive massive traffic. But our absurd obsession with the Kardashians, and most notably with their bodies, is a result of a patriarchal obsession with policing female bodies. Every time a female celebrity’s weight fluctuates, dozens of articles emerge, giving their unnecessary commentary on bodies that aren’t their own. But that shouldn’t matter to us because we all know that female celebrities aren’t human. Oh wait.

From Beyoncé to Kate Middleton, and Michelle Obama to Lady Gaga, no woman in the public sphere is safe from the scrutiny and objectification that comes with being a woman. The fact that a tabloid can reduce talks between British Prime Minister Theresa May and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, to who at the meeting had the best legs is the perfect example of our obsession with female bodies.

As such, it is somewhat baffling that some people find the rise of body image issues surprising. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, up to 70 million people worldwide suffer from eating disorders, almost twice the population of Canada. No matter who you are or what you accomplish, the focus is always on the way you look. That being said, it’s not surprising that people everywhere result to drastic measures in order to fulfill society’s expectations.

According to the Dove Global Beauty and Confidence 2016 report, 69 per cent of women and 65 per cent of girls believe the media and advertising set unrealistic standards for most women. Only four per cent of the respondents from around the world considered themselves to be beautiful.

In January, Seventeen magazine published an online article gathering conspiracy “fan” theories suggesting that the real reason Jenner was hiding was not the pregnancy itself, but because she hadn’t been able to get lip injections during that time. In the past, Jenner had admitted to using lip fillers, explaining that she had felt insecure with the size of her lips since the age of 15, when a boy said they were small.

“I didn’t feel desirable or pretty,” she said. “It sticks with you — it just got in there.”

The fact that Jenner is ridiculed for doing something to fit into our standards of beauty is hypocritical. Worst yet is the fact that the article was published in one of the leading magazine for teenage girls. Not only does it invite these young women to participate, it reinforces the paradoxical idea that one should fit an artificial mold, without having to change for it.  

If a woman idolized by millions of people is ridiculed for wanting to feel desirable, the continued degrading of her appearance is sure to impact her self-perception and the people who look up to her.

A 2013 study shows that bodies of female celebrities are much more scrutinized during and after pregnancy. Given that women should on average gain between 25 and 35 lbs during pregnancy, it’s normal that their bodies change. What is not normal is the scrutiny that reduces them to objects.  It sends the message to women that fitting into “the mold” is necessary to feel beautiful.

The fact that 20-year-old Jenner, soon after birth, admitted that she chose to hide to keep her pregnancy “positive, stress free and healthy in the best way [she] knew how,” is alarming. It’s time for us to take a hard look at ourselves and the pressures we place on women’s bodies.