I was ten years old the first time I was fascinated by celebrities. I was in a grocery store aisle, immersed in a magazine determined to look like the women in these magazines no matter the cost. Looking at these images was not the sole factor in the development of my eating disorder but it certainly played a key component. I struggled with my eating disorder throughout my middle and high school years.
As teenage girls often do, I watched movies with friends that starred these celebrities, read gossip magazines with images of them, and lastly, watched the awards ceremonies every year. I watched as actress after actress was asked questions pertaining to what she was wearing (oh excuse me, the correct term is who are you wearing), what she ate (or more likely did not eat) and her pre-awards season exercise regimen. I should note, that very few questions were asked about the actual movies that these actresses were getting recognized for, you know, the actual reason they were even attending the Academy Awards.
Fast forward to February 2007. While the Academy Awards were taking place, I was in the hospital because of the Illness that could have killed me. Even as I lay in the hospital bed, watched day and night by doctors and nurses to ensure my heart rate and blood pressure was stable, EVEN THEN, I still compared myself to these women I saw on the television screen.
For a couple years, I could not watch the awards season, read magazines and or watch much television or movies. Seeing these women on my television screen was too triggering. As time went on and as I continued to succeed in my recovery, I was able to see and watch these women without being triggered to engage in eating disordered behaviors.
And what is my relationship to these women now? Now, I can watch movies and television and yes, even the awards ceremonies without it having any effect on my recovery. I look at them now and I feel sorry for them. I feel sorry that they have to live under this microscope where they are constantly scrutinized, where their bodies are picked apart and analyzed. I feel sorry that they are made to feel guilty if they eat pizza before awards season. I feel sorry that they are made to feel important and valued for what they look like rather than their talent.
Even though the celebrity world has none to little effect on me anymore, it is important to be aware of the effect they do have, on both micro and macro levels. I also think it is important to remember that celebrities are people and they are not the sum of their parts; they are not bodies to be dissected and torn apart. They are brilliant human beings, with talent, grit, and heart.
Now I should say that, certainly, it’s not wrong to notice when someone looks nice, especially on a night like the Oscars, which is the night that every actor dreams of. But let’s be real: on an evening where the reason they are being nominated is the contributions they have made in the world of film, why is there so much more focus on how they look?
I know I am not the only one who rolls my eyes or wants to yell at my television screen when yet another television journalist asks a question pertaining to a woman’s appearance.
At the 2014 Oscars, the Representation Project started the #AskHerMore campaign, encouraging people to use this hastag on social media when sending out questions that entertainment journals should ask celebrities on the red carpet. This same message was then followed up by Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls Campaign. “We kept getting messages and tweets like, ‘God, why do they ask these questions on the red carpet?’” said Meredith Walker, Smart Girls’ executive director. “Our viewers and followers are interested in these women, interested in deeper questions that help us learn anything interesting. They don’t want that time wasted hearing them saying what they’re wearing and all this stuff that really doesn’t matter.”
This isn’t just about the celebrities. This is about the girl watching the award ceremonies or reading those magazines, absorbing messages about who she is, and most importantly, who she must be in order to be deemed acceptable. What if instead of an actress being asked about her diet, she was asked what advice she would give to aspiring directors? What if these words inspired young girls to pursue acting or producing or directing? What if we stopped analyzing and dissecting the size of women’s arms and legs, boobs and butts, and actually started recognizing the gifts and talents they have to offer the world?
So here is my challenge: if/when you get together with friends and watch the Oscars, use the hashtag #AskHerMore and send challenging questions to television journalists to ask celebrities. We, the viewers, want to know more, and the actresses want to share more than what they are wearing.
The tide is turning, change is slowly happening. Will you be part of it? You are worth more than your body and the clothes in which you place on your body. Let’s continue this movement to #AskHerMore.
Annie Stewart graduated from university in May with a degree in sociology and gender studies. She is especially passionate about seeing individuals develop a healthy relationship with food, exercise and the body. Beyond that, she is also passionate about social justice, good strong coffee (usually accompanied by a book), traveling and telling her own story of recovery in the hopes that it can be a beacon of light on someone else’s road to healing, health and wholeness. She is currently interning with a human rights organization in England and hopes to eventually go on to graduate school and pursue a degree in clinical social work.
This content was originally published on Proud2Bme.org in 2014.