Gwyneth Paltrow: A Public Shaming
Try to learn to let what is unfair teach you. – David Foster Wallace
Several weeks ago I wondered what my first blog post should be about; it’s a difficult decision, should I share my secret crush on Ronan Farrow with the world? Or should I review Coldplay’s new album? For the past few years I have watched the media bully women in submission or worse silencing them with a public shaming. It’s gone on since I was a little girl but now it is much more apparent with social media. Cloaked in anonymity Twitter and Instagram became the perfect weapon to shame celebrities, but those tools would be nothing without a few well placed articles to incite the public.
Gwyneth Paltrow has managed to become a pariah, but I’m not sure why. She’s been called the World’s Most Hated Celebrity, articles titles question why we hate her and yet the answer is simple, the media’s influence on public opinion weighs heavily on our perception of Paltrow. Women have unknowingly and perhaps knowingly become crucial in Paltrow’s public shaming, if men were referring to her as “brainless” or a “joke” there would be accusations of sexism, but these comments were made by women so their inherent sexist tone is dismissed. What does it say about our gender when women try to destroy other women, when we root for their marriages to fail, or resort to public shaming as a means of appeasing jealousy? I would love to consider society’s role in this behavior, but pop culture exhausts me; it truly does, I majored in English Literature so I tend to steer clear of sociology even when there’s a feminist bent. Occasionally I dabble in psychoanalysis but only because Simone de Beauvior’s The Second Sex fascinates me.
There aren’t really any easy answers. For the most part people feel celebrities do deserve more judgment than the average person because they are in the public’s purview, but life is more complex than a simple belief. Does a a job or career erase an individual’s personhood? Choosing a public career doesn’t negate a person’s characteristics nor does it make them objects to critique.
Public shaming has become systematic in our culture. American society seems almost giddy at the prospect of shaming someone in a perceived position of power. From Charlize Theron to Gwyneth Paltrow, women have been the most visible victims of this latest weapon. Faulty analogies aside, Paltrow’s quotes have been used to belittle her for years. Famous men seem to avoid criticism, but when the media or the public takes issue with a male celebrity, rarely are the words “brainless” or “joke” used to describe them. When women are criticized, our intelligence is often attacked.
One could argue that Paltrow’s analogy was an insult to servicemen if they themselves had never made an analogy that was extreme. Patriarchy has constructed the public shaming of women, in particular, Gwyneth Paltrow. In many ways, women are a product of it; but what will silencing Paltrow accomplish?