I was not aware that Us Weekly’s online photos had a “zoom in” function until The Cut’s Isabel Wilkinson tweeted about it this morning and linked to a photo of Kim Kardashian’s “Stunning Post-Baby Curves!” Us Weekly has long been obsessed with women’s gestating and postpartum bodies, but the magazine uses peppy, complimentary language—“the reality star, 33, is back in tip-top, super-sexy bikini shape six months after the birth of daughter North West” —to mask the fact that it’s just putting up these photos for us to judge and shame. You rock, Kim! Now let me check out your thighs.
The zoom feature makes the whole enterprise more explicit, and grosser. “Zoom in”—which has been around for about a year, and yet somehow eluded my notice—is only the default setting on some photos. No, you can’t zoom in on a photo of Kim pregnant (yuck) or of Brad and Angelina (old); yes, you can zoom in on a slideshow of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show and Jessica Simpson showing off her “slim, sexy legs.” And, yes, when I move my mouse over the photo of Kim’s post-baby bikini bod, her posterior pops out for my perusal. The commenters are, predictably, vicious. They accuse Kardashian, variously, of photoshopping the photos to remove cellulite, of having a butt that’s too big for flaunting, and of overdoing it on the plastic surgery. (We reached out to Us Weekly, but the magazine declined to comment.)
Obviously Kardashian has profited off the tabloids’—and our culture’s—demented relationship with women’s bodies. But it’s one thing to publish endless photographs of postpartum women in bikinis. It’s another to put an icon of a magnifying glass next to the photograph and invite us to zoom in on every pore. The website could at least be honest about what it’s doing, in the manner of Star, which publishes its best and worst beach bodies with crude circles around any stray patch of cellulite on otherwise slender forms. It’s somehow more offensive for Us to have that “you go girl” patina while encouraging readers to put every body part under a microscope.