The XX Factor

Why Did Jennifer Aniston Decide to Publish Her Essay on Body Shaming in the Huffington Post?

Jennifer Aniston, shown here in London in November 2014, is neither pregnant nor media savvy.

Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images

“For the record, I am not pregnant. What I am is fed up.” So writes Jennifer Aniston in a piece published in the Huffington Post on Tuesday to respond to all those rumors from earlier this summer that she and husband Justin Theroux were expecting. In the post, Aniston dutifully provides a very specific census of her womb’s occupants (population: 0) before going on to take tabloid media culture to task: “The objectification and scrutiny we put women through is absurd and disturbing,” she writes. Aniston’s essay is a powerful and articulate rejection of tabloids’ tendency to treat women’s bodies as public property. But why did Aniston choose to publish in the Huffington Post, of all places?

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Sure, it may have been the outlet du jour a few years ago (surely this was the case when Aniston earned her only other HuffPo byline, in a Thanksgiving blog post co-written with actress Marlo Thomas), but that was then. Today, a celebrity who wants to have her say on her terms and in her words, rather than mediated through a reporter’s viewpoint, has so many other options. Social media is one obvious place to do this without having to answer to an editor or align yourself with a publication to get your message out there. (Though it might reveal to your followers over time that you are a bad speller or racist or just kinda boring.)

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But some celebs who were famous before this decade persist in distrusting social media, probably because of its reputation for low-level drama. Hence the world is deprived of a @jenaniston Instagram account full of shots of Aniston getting goofy with Courteney Cox and captions congratulating David Schwimmer on his performance in The People v. O.J. Simpson.

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Perhaps it’s because Aniston isn’t on social media that she’s unaware of the many alternatives to the Huffington Post. It’s hard to believe that HuffPo is the biggest, best, or most prestigious publication available to Aniston, even when she’s writing about paparazzi and pregnancy rumors. At a time when celebrities have more avenues to express their views than ever, the outlet she chooses sends a message of its own, and the message Aniston has sent is that neither she nor her publicists are particularly media-savvy.

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Of course, the other platforms for celebrity statements aren’t perfect. Let’s run down the pros and cons for all the options today’s celebrity has for speaking out.

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Vanity Fair cover: Still the most prestigious option, and one Jennifer Aniston has used to great effect herself in the past. The Caitlyn Jenner rollout remains the pinnacle of the form. Of course, it involves entrusting your message to a reporter, which can have disastrous results.

People cover: A nice get—remember Sandra Bullock’s “meet my baby” cover?—though sometimes veers dangerously into the reality-TV-o-verse.

New York Times op-ed: Prestigious and intellectual-seeming, a one-two punch. Angie landed one, not that we would ever compare Jen to her.

New Yorker humor piece: Unless it’s really, really good, will make anyone who’s ever wanted to write for the New Yorker resent you. No one else will see it.

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Single cryptic tweet: Lets you retain plausible deniability when everyone knows exactly who you’re talking about, still kinda shady.

Tweet that is a screenshot of a “statement”: Even worse than the above. If you must, proofread.

Tweetstorm: Never really goes well, will be immediately aggregated by a bunch of news outlets.

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Instagram post that makes a statement, not through words, but usually through a selfie of you with the person you were supposedly feuding with: Can be very effective when done correctly.

Lenny personal essay: Communicates that you are friends with Lena Dunham, which some people, but not everyone, will think is cool.

Piece for the Toast: Will earn you endless brownie points among a few librarians and grad students but won’t do much for your popularity with the general public.

Refinery29 essay: Will probably get you made fun of.

Slate personal essay: Will reveal to the world that in addition to being handsome, you are a good father and a good writer.

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