Why a woman’s public persona matters more than her actual professional success.
This article was originally published here when I wrote for The Odyssey Online.
Recently, a DailyDot.com article titled “Ariana Grande, Kim Kardashian, and ‘the war on unlikable women'” by Nico Lang caught my eye. I opened it expecting pure entertainment fluff — and what I found instead was an honest commentary of an issue I had subconsciously been aware of for a long time, but had never seen put into words.
The most hated female celebrities in the world aren’t rapists, abusers, or criminals of any nature. The only thing the most hated women in Hollywood are guilty of is being, as Lang put it, “kind of a brat.”
Let’s name some easy targets: Kim Kardashian and Ariana Grande. If you think about it, all the infamous Kim K ever did was leak a sex tape and star in a successful reality show, while Ariana Grande has been dragged through the mud for allegedly being a diva (plus licking donuts, which was bizarre, but ultimately trivial). No arrests, no serious allegations. Yet it’s women like them who instantly come to mind when we think of hatable celebrities.
However, there’s an endless list of things that make a woman “unlikable” in the public eye. While Kim Kardashian is called “talentless trash,” female celebs such as Anne Hathaway are crucified for being more or less the opposite. “The Princess Diaries” star has come under overwhelming fire for... taking herself and her career seriously. She has appeared in barely anything since “Les Miserables” in 2012, and Lang notes “Hathaway’s disappearance wasn’t an accident: this hatred not only punishes those who don’t fit whatever impossible standard we’ve set for women today, it encourages women to stay silent — or just go away.”
My favorite example is Kristen Stewart. Yes, she signed onto a joke of a franchise (looking right at you, “Twilight”) early in her career, and made headlines in 2012 for having an affair with “Snow White and the Huntsman” director Rupert Sanders, but what made her a tabloid punchline was her reserved, “awkward” persona and refusal to smile for cameras.
(Bonus: despite being married, Sanders himself suffered virtually no professional repercussions for the affair while the brunt of the blame was thrown on Stewart.)
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Jennifer Lawrence, who received endless praise throughout 2012-2014 for doing self-deprecating things such as tripping at the Oscars, boasting about getting food on her film costumes, and refusing to diet — as if to shout, “Look how normal I am! I’m just like you!” Was it genuine — or a savvy survival tactic?
The list goes on and on, but the message is clear: a female public figure must dumb herself down in order to be successful and liked. Not “dumb” in that Paris Hilton-esque way that ruled the early 2000s, but in the sense that she must vehemently insist that she’s nothing special. She must go out of her way to show how “real” she is by belittling herself and her accomplishments while chomping down on a cheeseburger and laughing about how she “doesn’t subscribe to the Hollywood ways.”
If she doesn’t? Then she’s stuck-up, she’s a bitch, she’s a diva — and she risks losing her entire career. Meanwhile, male public figures such as Donald Trump can scream blatantly horrible things into the microphones of at least five major TV networks and STILL be nominated for President. If you ask me, this idea of a “real woman” is just a more elaborate form of sexism.