Why we need to stop publicly shaming famous women online

“Tacky tacky tacky”, “Horrible, classless”, and “You look horrible” – these are just some of the comments underneath one of Kim Kardashian’s latest Instagram posts.

Of course, there are also a lot of fans jumping in to comment on how great they think she looks – but it’s hard to ignore the sheer amount of people dragging Kardashian for her appearance.

There’s something medieval about online trolls – social media allows them to hide behind a username and say whatever they like about people (famous or not), whether they’re discussing how they look or what they wear.

And even though it’s 2019, one glance at some of the women’s mags on the shelves of your local newsagent will show article upon article critiquing women for how they look.

As it’s International Women’s Day, what better opportunity to take a long hard look at what’s wrong with publicly shaming famous women, and why we should put a stop to it.

It’s a double standard

It’s a curious phenomenon that women are much more likely to be shamed for what they’re wearing, or how they look, than men.

Why should there be so much more pressure on women to look a certain way, when on the whole, men can get away with the same jeans and t-shirts every day? If equality is going to be achieved, we need to do away with these two sets of rules – and how we treat famous women is a good place to start.

This focus reduces women to just their looks. In fact, if less attention was paid to their appearance, we might actually learn a lot of amazing things about some of these public figures.

Would you say the same thing to their face?

Commenting nasty things about famous women online is easy to do – but what if you came face-to-face with the person in question?

Chances are, you wouldn’t dream of saying anything quite so brutal to them. Social media has stripped away some of our societal norms, but many shouldn’t be forgotten.

You might feel detached typing at a computer or tapping away on your phone, but it’s a good rule of thumb, before pressing send, to consider whether you’d say out loud what you’re thinking of writing on social media.

Celebs are people too

The phenomenon of celebrity is an odd one – someone can become famous for almost any reason, and suddenly their lives are generally accepted as ‘fair game’. This means their personal lives, how they spend their money and yes, how they look, are all widely discussed, both in the media, online and IRL by people who don’t know them.

Even though famous women get thousands of comments on each post, this doesn’t mean they don’t notice what you say. Having someone publicly critique you for how you look or how you act can have a huge impact on your self-esteem, and has the potential to affect your mental health as well.

Social media apps like Instagram mean it’s altogether too easy to put forward a shiny veneer and pretend everything’s perfect, but the majority of us have no idea what’s actually going on behind closed doors.

It’s damaging for everyone

There really are no winners in the game of throwing online daggers. The penchant for public scrutiny and criticism has the potential to send a message to younger generations that all we really value in women are their looks – a message that, if internalised, can lead to all sorts of problems, from self esteem issues to eating disorders.

Broadly speaking, boys are largely raised to think they can achieve anything. Why should girls be expected to grow up in an environment that tells them they need to fit in with society’s narrow expectations of beauty to achieve anything at all?

It might seem like you’re criticising a famous person who’s never met you and won’t care, but the damage could be more wide-reaching. It speaks to how we as a society treat women – as less than, and defined by, their looks, which really has to stop.

- Press Association

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