Renee Zellweger Breaks Her Silence On The Shaming Of Women: “We Can Do Better”

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By now you have probably read or at least heard about the article written by Vanity Fair’s chief film critic Owen Gleiberman who asked the question “if she no longer looks like herself, has she become a different actress?”. It was an entire piece picking apart her physical appearance in a way that reinforced the stereotypical and damaging amount of pressure put on women in Hollywood as they age.

After it was published, actress and director Rose McGowan, ever the fierce feminist who isn’t afraid to call out Hollywood’s failure toward women in a number of capacities, clapped back in epic form in an op-ed for The Hollywood Reporter, calling Owen’s piece “vile, damaging, stupid, and cruel”.

While Owen may have had somewhat decent intentions, as a critic of film, that should not include the discussion over a woman’s appearance as there is no doubt he would be very familiar with the scrutiny reserved for women in the industry, as has been tradition for many decades.

“You are an active endorser of what is tantamount to harassment and abuse of actresses and women…Any studio that Renee Zellweger has made money for, any co-star she’s supported or anyone who takes a percentage of her income should be doing what’s right: They should be calling this harassment out…My interest as a card-carrying member of society is to STOP the brainwashing Hollywood and the media have for too long gotten away with. The brainwashing that you have long been a friend to and a supporter of,” Rose McGowan wrote in her response, also calling Owen a “bully” for using his platform to encourage discussions around the questioning and shaming of Renee’s appearance.

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While women like Renee should not have to feel like the owe anyone an explanation for what they choose to do or not do with their bodies, the ‘Bridget Jones Baby’ actress has decided enough is enough, and wrote her own op-ed to silence not just the aforementioned Vanity Fair article, but the continual tabloid media discussion over whether she has had plastic surgery or not.

In a piece for the Huffington Post titled ‘We Can Do Better‘, she reaches back as far as October 2014 pointing to an article about this very topic, Renee said it was “just one more story in the massive smut pile generated every day by the tabloid press and fueled by exploitative headlines and folks who practice cowardly cruelty from their anonymous internet pulpits.”

She also made it clear that although tabloid journalism is well-known for the way it profits from scandal, the public humiliation of people, and the reduction of truth to one side of a fictional argument, this time she felt the need to make a public statement.

“In our current culture of unsolicited transparency, televised dirty laundry, and folks bartering their most intimate details in exchange for attention and notoriety, it seems that the choice to value privacy renders one a suspicious character. Disingenuous. A liar with nefarious behavior to conceal. ‘She denies,’ implies an attempt to cover up the supposed tabloid ‘exposed truth’,” she wrote.

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Another reason she felt breaking her silence was important, was because she was sick of the media having the upper hand and final say in this kind of gossip.

“Choosing the dignity of silence rather than engaging with the commerce of cruel fiction, leaves one vulnerable not only to the usual ridicule, but to having the narrative of one’s life hijacked by those who profiteer from invented scandal,” she said.

In the Vanity Fair article, the critic was attempting to make a point about how much he loved the ‘Bridget Jones’ franchise and how he felt somewhat duped because Renee’s appearance may have changed too much for his liking over the course of 16 years. God forbid that a human being is allowed to age…

“I am not writing today because I have been publicly bullied or because the value of my work has been questioned by a critic whose ideal physical representation of a fictional character originated 16 years ago, over which he feels ownership, I no longer meet. I am not writing in protest to the repellent suggestion that the value of a person and her professional contributions are somehow diminished if she presumably caves to societal pressures about appearance, and must qualify her personal choices in a public court of opinion. I’m not writing because I believe it’s an individual’s right to make decisions about his or her body for whatever reason without judgment,” said Renee.

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“I’m writing because…witnessing the transmutation of tabloid fodder from speculation to truth is deeply troubling. The ‘eye surgery’ tabloid story itself did not matter, but it became the catalyst for my inclusion in subsequent legitimate news stories about self-acceptance and women succumbing to social pressure to look and age a certain way. In my opinion, that tabloid speculations become the subject of mainstream news reporting does matter,” she continued.

Although she should not have to stoop to the low level of criticisms about her appearance, she does make a point of saying she has not had any surgery, “not that it’s anyone’s business”.

In a separate interview with The Hollywood Reporter about the scrutiny of her appearance, where she talked about her 6 year break, her burgeoning passion for writing, and her support for Hillary Clinton, Renee emphasizes a point that more powerful people in Hollywood need to adopt, which could also have a major impact on issues like the one she discussed in her Huffpost essay.

“I’ve never seen the maturation of a woman as a negative thing. I’ve never seen a woman stepping into her more powerful self as a negative. But this conversation perpetuates the problem. Why are we talking about how women look? Why do we value beauty over contribution? We don’t seem to value beauty over contribution for men. It’s simply not a conversation,” she said.

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Her ‘Bridget Jones Baby’ co-star Patrick Dempsey also weighed in on the issue, acknowledging how ageing men in the film industry do not have to fear the same treatment as women.

“She should not have to face such scrutiny. Hollywood can be unsparingly brutal — and it’s always worse for women,” he said. THR’s Laurie Sandell beautifully points out that Patrick’s  “own more senior and weathered appearance in the trailer thus far has inspired not a single film critic to speculate about whether or not he’s the same actor who once played “McDreamy” on Grey’s Anatomy”.

It’s a beautiful thing to see women like Renee and Rose stand up to years of scrutiny that has been the norm, putting the tabloid media on notice that this is not longer going to be tolerated in the same way.

“It’s no secret a woman’s worth has historically been measured by her appearance. Although we have evolved to acknowledge the importance of female participation in determining the success of society, and take for granted that women are standard bearers in all realms of high profile position and influence, the double standard used to diminish our contributions remains, and is perpetuated by the negative conversation which enters our consciousness every day as snark entertainment,” writes Renee.

And we have certainly seen this recently with the blatantly sexist media coverage of the accomplishments of female athletes at the Rio Olympics, compared to the male athletic coverage. This is nothing new, as seen in the #CoverTheAthlete campaign highlighting just how blatant and extensive the sexist sports reporting has been.

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Sports may be a different industry to Hollywood, but unfortunately women in both arenas have been subjected to the same inane treatment – where pundits, readers, fans, commentators and critics alike have a field day dissecting a woman’s appearance, while simultaneously not subjected men to the same level of scrutiny.

In her op-ed, Renee Zellweger says this epidemic takes the focus away from real issues that we should be paying attention to in the world today. and ponders how society would change if salacious gossip wasn’t given headline news space at all.

“What if immaterial tabloid stories, judgments and misconceptions remained confined to the candy jar of low-brow entertainment and were replaced in mainstream media by far more important, necessary conversations?” she asked.

We as consumers have the power to be part of the change that is needed by actively making sure our money does not continue to fuel the gossip cycles. Reality television, our appetite for “train-wreck”-style tabloid fodder, and the endless clickbait media that has saturated the web does nothing to abate the problem, but if we are at all interested in how it effects the younger generation, especially the young girls who we do not want to see grow up in a state of dis-empowerment because of what they are told they need to look like, we should want to do better.

“Maybe we could talk more about why we seem to collectively share an appetite for witnessing people diminished and humiliated with attacks on appearance and character and how it impacts younger generations and struggles for equality, and about how legitimate news media have become vulnerable to news/entertainment ambiguity, which dangerously paves the way for worse fictions to flood the public consciousness to much greater consequence,” concludes Renee.

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One Comment

  1. Pingback: Style Guru Stacy London Writes Epic Op-Ed About Why She DGAF About The Fashion "Rules" Anymore - GirlTalkHQ

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