Ah, the timeless and unedifying pastime of critiquing women’s appearance on the red carpet. Woman goes out in public, woman is dissected for choice of apparel and shape of body; a tale as old as time. It’s been forever since I bought a magazine, so when I found myself in front of the TV last week watching a panel of ‘stylists’ discuss the hits and misses of the week’s celebrity events, I must admit I found it ever so slightly distasteful, mean, and out dated.
First off we had Bryce Dallas Howard, described as a ‘curvy girl.’ She’s 35, so probably a woman, but we’ll slide past that for now. We all know what curvy is a synonym for: Howard is a gargantuan in Celebville and has to buy her red carpet dresses at the shops because the designers don’t cater for a woman of her magnitude. Gosh, you must be thinking, I don’t recall her as being so freakishly large. Well, depending on the article, Howard is either a US dress size 4 or 6, which I think is an 8 or 10 in the UK. Huge. Anyway, according to our esteemed panel of stylists, Howard did not pass the ‘acceptably dressed woman’ test because she was not showing enough flesh. You see, because she is curvy, we were told, she should have shown a bit of cleavage, you know ‘flaunted those curves.’ No worry, she’ll know for next time to show a bit more skin, and dodge those bullets.
Next up was Mariah Carey: the stylists tell us Mariah ‘loves her curves!’ Great – good for her! A woman happy in her own skin; a rare occurence to be applauded and encouraged. Oh – but, no. They see you , Mariah, happy in your skin and they are here to put a dampener on that. Unlike Bryce, who had covered up her cleavage and should be showing more, Mariah is showing too much. Would you credit that? It’s almost like women can’t win no matter what they wear. Dear Stylists, do please let us know what the optimum cleavage exposure is.
Poor Sharon Stone was next and was encountering more boob related problems. Sharon was not wearing a bra. Actual ‘eww’ faces were made. Stone was also criticized for looking ‘too casual’ – she was wearing a cardigan over her dress. Shame on her for not wanting to be cold in the name of glamour. Possibly Stone, veteran of the red carpet, knew she would get criticized whatever she wore and decided she would dress to suit herself instead of trying to fit in with some ever changing set of randomly designed rules.
But, fear not, it was not all bad news. Kendall Jenner looked amazing. As did someone else, whom I didn’t know, but who looked remarkably similar to Kendall Jenner. Basically the slim and staggeringly beautiful looked amazing, because of course they did.
Look, I have watched this type of show a million times before and am no stranger to a celeb magazine. I have taken pleasure in turning the pages and browsing these articles and making my own judgements on women. And sometimes, people do wear things that are a little…outlandish, but you know, each to their own and all that. Watching this, I just all of a sudden felt incredibly uncomfortable with the whole thing.
Everyone has a job to do, but the stylists who pronounce on these matters – would they be happy if the shoe was on the other foot? Because women, this negativity is not a good look on you. We all like to look at famous women wearing nice clothes, human nature. But we don’t need to accept the attacks that go along with it. You’re allowed not to like what someone’s wearing, you’re allowed not to like them as a person – feminism doesn’t mean loving every woman who ever existed – but don’t TELL them, don’t go on national TV and tell the WORLD you think they look garbage.
Who amongst us would be happy to be subject to this level of scrutiny? Who amongst us wouldn’t admit to having their feelings slightly hurt if someone told them they looked like a sack of hammers when actually they thought they looked pretty good? Who would feel great having people making eww faces when confronted with their boobs? Who looks and feels 100% confident everytime they leave the house ? I’ll tell you who , Mariah Carey. I would think, I hope, that Mariah Carey does not have her confidence dented by the constant criticism under which she finds herself, but as we all know, that’s not really the point. In criticising her we are sending out a message to women and girls everywhere – reign yourself in, do not love your body, do not ‘love your curves.’ Because let’s be clear here, it’s not the clothes that are being criticised , it’s the women. In TV shows and magazines marketed to women this is what we are selling – negativity and criticism for all but the most perfect of us. I couldn’t help but notice when watching this section, that it was the ‘curvier’ and the older women who came under attack, the women with whom most of us would more readily identify, than with the Kendall Jenners of the world. ( PS I know Kendall Jenner can’t help being young and being beautiful, this is not an attack on the young and beautiful. If you are reading this and you look like Kendall Jenner, well, fair play to you.)
I don’t want to be a party pooper and stop the red carpet analysis altogether, but how about framing it slightly differently. How about a new segment – Doesn’t she look….. great, happy, confident, successful, clever? Insert appropriate adjective here. After all, to paraphrase, the world would be a boring place if all women on the red carpet dressed the same.