A few years back, the Bridget Jones star stepped on a red carpet, and she was pounced upon. “What’s happened to her face?!” the world cried. Some insisted she looked remarkably different, that she must have had surgery and what she was subjected to in the weeks and months that followed was demeaning and ruthless; hounded on in article after article about her appearance.
She specifically mentions a piece that came out in October 2014, in which the author speculated that she’d had surgery to alter the shape of her eyes. “It didn’t matter” to her at the time, Zellweger said, but she became concerned once it became part of the tabloid collective consciousness. “As the Internet story contrived for its salacious appeal to curious minds becomes the supposed truth within moments, 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.”
Hence she has decided to break her silence; the stories were not just words she could ignore and she has gone beyond feeling hurt; the rumours have affected her on a deeper level and she fears the message the gossip sends out.
“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.I’m writing because to be fair to myself, I must make some claim on the truths of my life, and 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.”
I did not make a decision to alter my face and have surgery on my eyes. This fact is of no true import to anyone at all, but that the possibility alone was discussed among respected journalists and became a public conversation is a disconcerting illustration of news/entertainment confusion and society’s fixation on physicality.
Yes, she changed. She is ageing (and very gracefully at that) as we all are, so she simply won’t look as she did in Jerry Maguire over two decades ago, but more than that, so what if she wanted to change anything about herself? While it would be marvellous to embrace age with the utmost confidence – lines, wrinkles and all – it’s safe to say that we all have at least one feature we’d happily see changed so if she wanted to make a change to her own face and body as she has every right to, what is the issue?
Why aren’t we standing up, cheering, applauding her for making a mature choice so she can love herself that little bit more? She suggests that maybe everyone’s time would be better spent discussing things that actually matter, instead of what modifications a woman may or may not have made to her body in order to fit into our society’s expectations of what she should look like.
What if, as she says herself, we all tried harder? To do more, be kinder and see beneath the surface? To be more vocal about the fact that a woman’s worth could never be defined by her appearance?
“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,” she added. “[Or the fact that] the resulting message is problematic for younger generations and impressionable minds, and undoubtedly triggers myriad subsequent issues regarding conformity, prejudice, equality,self-acceptance, bullying and health.”
And as she so eloquently puts it, perhaps we could all talk more about our many true societal challenges and do better.
Read her full essay HERE