Kendall Jenner, the Daily Mail and beauty standards.

The media can be a tricky business.  Xenophobic and”pussy grabbing” animals in charge of countries, humanitarian conflicts and refugee crises, Brexit aftermath, natural disasters and terrorist attacks are but a few reasons as to why keeping yourself informed through the media can be exhausting and thankless. If you’re anything like me however, despite the inner turmoil I feel every time I read another article about Donald Trump, or watch another news piece on Facebook about the breakdowns within the British government, I still make it my responsibility to be up to date with the goings on in the world, as I believe we all should. However, there is media that is a necessary evil, that is simply conveying messages to the world, and then there is the mind numbing, detrimental, trashy forms of media which REALLY make my blood boil.

For any Snapchat users out there, you may feel the same distaste that I do every day when I check my Snapchat app and see the Daily Mail’s Snapchat story. Ah…the Daily Mail; a hot bed of gossip, misinformation, judgemental journalism and a perpetuation of gender stereotypes. I am not a fan of the Daily Mail, in fact I make a point of avoiding it at all costs. However, last week I couldn’t stop myself from reading an article from their Snapchat story which filled me with a mixture of feelings, mainly outrage at its existence and its presence on the main page of a popular social media platform:

Now I don’t know a lot about the Kardashian/ Jenner family, and I lack an interest or desire to involve myself in their world through their TV shows or social media presence. However, with that being said I am not someone who thinks that they are undeserving of privacy or respect, and I happily acknowledge that they are strong and successful business women and public characters. Even with my little knowledge of them, I find the constant scrutiny that (particularly the woman in) their family endure, critiquing things as trivial as a small cluster of blemishes to be simply outrageous.

My first gripe with this article is that it is completely and utterly unnecessary and intrusive. We live in a world where people are too invested and informed about the lives of their favourite celebrities. At what point did it become a necessity for fans to be able to find out exactly where a person was, what they wearing, and exactly how many spots are present on their face?  Furthermore, why is this of interest to anyone? While I acknowledge that celebrities are inevitably going to face intrusion to their personal life and this is a side effect of their fame, it does not mean it is useful or worthwhile. I recognise that we as a society idolise celebrities, which is something that has happened throughout history, but there is absolutely no need for such constant, relentless and meaningless information. This sort of mind numbing and thoughtless news concerns me in that it distracts from real issues. It upsets me that more people may be aware of things as small as a breakout on a celebrity’s face than are aware of an avalanche that killed several people in Italy in the same month.

This sort of news also unconsciously adds to gender biases and stereotypes in the media in several ways. If we consider Kendall Jenner as an example, a successful super model who has established somewhat of a prosperous career for herself out with of her famous family, who in comparison with her reality TV star siblings shies away from being at the centre of things, this article becomes even more irritating. Regardless of what or how people feel about Jenner’s beginnings or about her suitability as a role model, an article like this which attacks the trivial  and very normal reality of having a few spots on your face acts as a way of diminishing and belittling her successes, reducing who she is and what she achieves to less important than how she happens to look when caught off guard. Articles like these circulate the idea that women need to look perfect at all times, and also circulates the idea that it is appearance which is most important over other things. While I hate to state the obvious, it is rare that a prosperous and successful man would be judged on their appearance first, actions second. However for women this is an unfortunate catch.

Celebrities such as Kendall Jenner are oftentimes considered as role models. This is to be expected whenever a celebrity has a mass following or attention. I think that role models can be extremely worthwhile and a positive thing for people (especially young women) to have. However, I also feel that role models can become problematic when they are idolised to the extreme, and I worry that those who idolise certain celebrities, such as Kendall Jenner may read articles like this regarding her appearance and that this may fuel their insecurities about themselves. I saw several tweets the day this article was on Snapchat’s main page, of people comparing themselves to Kendall and comparing her small breakout to the acne they have been bullied for and that they resent and it seemed extremely damaging to me. This is one of the countless ways the media subtly infiltrates people’s perceptions of others and themselves, lowering their self esteem and effecting their happiness.

In addition, while this article and others that are published by the Daily Mail and trashy media outlets similar use their influence to critique (mainly female) celebrities on their appearance, this does little except perpetuate beauty standards. Viewers, readers and consumers are constantly faced with some of the most conventionally attractive women, already in awe of a body type or hair look or fashion choice which is unattainable to them. Then in addition, the media takes these very same women and starts picking them apart and showcasing their flaws; a few spots on their makeupless face, dark circles, frizzy hair etc. Instead of making celebrities, and in turn consumers feel ashamed of the natural aspects of their appearance and the individual things which make them a well rounded, normal and beautiful person, the media would be better used as a mechanism to normalise the things that people feel insecure about. Instead of titling an article “Kendall’s acne nightmare’, is it that difficult to simply acknowledge she is a normal 21 year old who does not look perfect all the time, and that that is totally okay?

This post has been extremely ranty, however this article really angered me and made me feel frustrated. With all that is going on in the world right now, this kind of news is irrelevant and uncalled for. We need to preserve our strengths to deal with the times to come, we do not need to be being fuelled with reasons to feel insecure, or with attacks on our self esteem. In short, the Daily Mail can get in the bin, and can leave Kendall alone.

Fuck you, 2016.

It’s approaching the end of the year, and while personally this year has been a pretty good one in terms of personal growth and friendships and experiences, it has been a shit show in every other aspect.

2016 has been an awful year for countless reasons, whether on a macro or micro scale. Trump, Brexit, terrorism, Aleppo, Nice, shootings, plane crashes, and the loss of countless icons integral to popular culture; Alan Rickman, Prince, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, David Bowie, Gene Wilder, Muhammad Ali and others. It is hard to stay positive when every day the news reports another terrorist attack, another death, another political faux pas. It is hard to find the desire to stay aware and engaged in the world and to have faith in our ability to bounce back when knocked down. This is something I understand all too well.

I spent a night of anxiety awake during the counting of the Brexit referendum votes in June of this year, as the world watched the United Kingdom divide into two contrasting camps. I remember watching the results be confirmed with horror and I felt devastated. I admittedly went into a bit of a slump, terrified for the future and terrified of the toxic, xenophobic, regressive and often archaic attitudes I could see circulating and infiltrating the media I was consuming. I found it hard to separate myself from a feeling of constant dread and a “what’s the point” attitude.

Each sad, frustrating or angering event of this year which has reached my ears has knocked me back and made me scared for the future and feel insecure in the here and now, and I know that I’m not the only person who feels like this. People are hurting and grieving, and this year has left people feeling flat, demotivated, disengaged and more. I particularly see this on social media, with countless younger people like myself expressing their feelings to a platform they expect to be understood on.

Instead however, I have seen something rather troubling. I have seen numerous tweets telling people they ought not to complain about the events of the year. I have seen several which say that as long as you are still alive you shouldn’t complain. I have seen others which say that there have been worse years and at least x, y and z haven’t happened. I have even seen ones which are telling people to stop complaining and that we should be grateful it isn’t 2001 and we haven’t had to suffer an attack like 9/11, or that at least it isn’t 1942 and we aren’t engaged in a world war. I’ve seen tweets telling people to man up, and that if we are not happy with the events of the year we should try and change them in 2017. This is potentially the most toxic and belittling and patronising message that any person could circulate. To me anyway.

My issues with these notions are vast. Telling somebody that they shouldn’t feel sad is not going to make them be happy. Telling somebody that the thing they are distressed about isn’t as bad as something else does nothing other than suggest their feelings are not valid. Yes, I agree that instead of moping and constantly complaining we should try and unite and be strong and progress, however people are allowed to feel and to grieve for what is lost or to feel fear for the future, and they should be able to do so without being attacked or told to man up.

Furthermore, the acknowledgement of this year as having been a bad one is not only true, but it does not mean that the past has been forgotten. If anything, it makes the state of the world even harder to bear, as the human race’s self destructive nature has carried through the years and the world has not changed, but merely continues to get even more messed up by the minute, showing we have not learned from past mistakes. But by saying that 2016 was a bit shit, I doubt anyone is actively trying to say it was worse than any other period of history. When I complain about the events of the year I am by no means saying I think my struggles, or the world’s struggles are the only things that matter. I am not forgetting that there have been dark times throughout history. I am not forgetting that people have hurt before, politicians have fucked up before, terrorist attacks have happened before, celebrities have died before. No. I am simply trying to let my frustration out so I can move on.

Being angry and upset by the events of 2016 is completely acceptable. I do not think any person should be made to feel whiney or ungrateful for their life for simply stating how they feel about a certain circumstance. In my eyes expressing emotion and being informed and invested in the events of the world is so important and so valuable, as it shows you care. People who act indifferent or think it is not their duty to be knowledgeable or seem to have a lack of empathy are the ones in the wrong.

I remember logging onto my Facebook account after the Brexit referendum, and seeing screeds of writing from different Facebook friends, different celebrities, different figures expressing their views and their upset and their ideas. While this was a hard thing to face, it also made me incredibly hopeful. So many people felt so passionately and so deeply about the result, and so many were voicing these views and restoring my faith in humanity, and in my generation and what we can do in the future.

While hope is sometimes hard to access and hard to push yourself to feel, it is extremely important. But while I believe that to be true, I also believe everyone has the right to express their emotions if it helps them to move on. Instead of belittling each other’s struggles, we should be trying to elevate each other and comfort each other when we need it most. And above all, we should stay educated and informed and passionate.

And lastly, we should be telling 2016 to fuck off.