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How the media is poisoning your opinions of women

We have all seen it: a clickbait article with a dramatic headline and a picture of a female celebrity attached to it. It sparks our curiosity, but rarely do we realize the damage these media outlets cause with their sensational posts. Recently, one of these articles included the headline “18 Celebs Who Got Backlash For Their COVID-19 Posts” with a picture of Jameela Jamil looking crazy attached to it. Here’s the thing though: Jamil wasn’t actually on this list. Rather, the article discussed a talk show host who made an inappropriate joke about Jamil getting the coronavirus and received criticism for it. You might ask yourself why the article was framed to make Jamil look bad if she didn’t do anything wrong. The answer is gaslighting, and sadly, it is a common occurrence on social media that probably influences your opinions of female celebrities more than you realize. 

The concept of gaslighting is one we have all seen without being aware of it. How many clickbait articles like the one with Jamil’s picture have we seen on Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook? Even though we don’t always click on them, these headlines still influence our thinking. It wasn’t until I watched Jameela Jamil’s Instagram story called “gaslighting”, however, that I realized to what extent.  

As she explains in her story, there is a recurring pattern in the media’s treatment of female celebrities. When they first rise to fame, it seems as if they can do nothing wrong. They are endlessly complimented and featured in a positive way, until their face is everywhere. That’s when the tide turns. Clickbait articles like the one I mentioned before are used to overexpose women until you can’t stand to see their faces. They are often associated with negative stories or dramatic titles in order to poison your opinions of them for no apparent reason. Even if they have done nothing wrong, they will be made to look crazy until they are not taken seriously anymore. Many of us are guilty of saying “I don’t know why I don’t like her, I just find her annoying” at some point in our lives. Think Jennifer Lawrence, Megan Markle, and Taylor Swift. I know I have said this on multiple occasions, but it wasn’t until I read about gaslighting that I realized I actually have no real reason to dislike these women. Unfortunately, it makes for good media ratings to destroy a woman’s reputation after building her up to great heights, and so it is something we see every day. The unfortunate truth is that women of colour are victims of this media tactic even more often than white women.  

The next time someone asks why I don’t like Taylor Swift or Ariana Grande, I will think twice before answering. While being aware of gaslighting will not make the media stop using this tactic altogether, it does make a difference. These dramatic headlines are created in order to capture our attention, and so the solution is simple: don’t click on them. If these media outlets lose their target audience for these types of articles, they will stop creating them. And so I encourage you to suppress your curiosity the next time you see a headline like this. Chances are, the actual story in the article isn’t as gripping as the title makes it out to be. The world is hard enough on women as it is without us breaking each other down. We should all be aware of gaslighting and do what we can to stop it. 

Maaike is an international student from Curacao in her sophomore year at the University of Guelph. Originally from the Netherlands, she loves cats, grilled cheese and reading (and watching the movie adaptations!).If she could live anywhere, it would be on Broadway.
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