Kensington Palace has responded to Instagram’s sexist ageing commentary with a rare public statement.
We, all of us, are fully aware of the fact that the world has an unhealthy obsession with our physical appearances. How? Because, every single day, we are subjected to tabloid commentary on the cup size, dress size, weight and thigh circumference of famous women. We are hit with a barrage of speculative headlines about their ‘natural’ hair colour (woe betide any woman who dares bare her greys), about their reproductive status (which is usually, as Eva Longoria previously noted, a flimsy excuse to shame them for after-meal bloating), about their make-up application (we’re slammed for applying it on the train, for applying too much, and for not applying it at all).
It is relentless. So much so that, even when we’ve somehow managed to meet all of the impossible beauty and sartorial standards of the modern world – and, let’s face it, Kate Middleton has done a pretty good job of that, judging by all the Pinterest boards dedicated to her ‘look’ – then misogynists will still swoop in and find something to comment on.
Something like, maybe, her apparent lack of wrinkles.
Earlier this week, a plastic surgeon shared two side-by-side photos of the Duchess of Cambridge on his Instagram page in a ‘before and after’ comparison.
In the post, Munir Somji claimed the smoother skin on the ‘after’ shot was “evidence” (it’s as if the royal is on trial for crimes against beauty, isn’t it?) that Kate has been using “baby Botox”.
“Our Kate loves a bit of baby Botox,” he captioned the shots. “Note the reduction of fine lines on the forehead. But also note the depression of the medial (middle part) brow but elevation of the lateral tail of the brow.”
The post – which has since been deleted – sparked a huge reaction on social media.
“Total BS!” wrote one. “And even if it was true so what? She can do if she pleases.”
Another added: “Botox claims about Kate are clearly nonsense. Nobody believes this rubbish.”
Others, though, took glee in Kate’s “secret” being exposed, with many insisting that her penchant for Botox had been “obvious” for some time (naturally, we believe these people to be thoroughly awful).
The debate became so intense that a spokesperson for Kensington Palace issued a rare statement of denial to the New York Post.
“[These Botox claims are] categorically not true,” they said. “In addition, the Royal Family never endorse commercial activity.”
That’s where it should have ended, of course. A plastic surgeon claimed that a woman had undergone a cosmetic procedure, she denied the claim, he retracted the comment, and he took down the image. Case closed.
Unless, of course, you work at a tabloid. Because then, rather than take a woman’s words at face value, you go straight to the clinic in Harley Street and ask them if the Duchess of Cambridge – aka the very same woman who causes dresses to sell out within moments of wearing them – was a customer.
A shrewd business owner would be well aware of ‘the Kate effect’, which is the term used to describe the fact that, when the duchess wears an item of clothing, dons an accessory or uses a beauty product, it increases the desirability among 38% of shoppers.
As such, they would never be willing to definitively deny that one the most influential members of the Royal Family is a client – even if, y’know, she isn’t. Instead, they’d say something vague and noncommittal. Something along the lines of “we have non-disclosure agreements where we can’t disclose our high-end clients”, in a bid to make people think that Kate might be one of them. Ugh.
Naturally, this ongoing commentary birthed a string of stories, all about what baby Botox is, the benefits of using it over regular non-baby Botox, and contact details for the spa in question (nothing like a bit of free publicity, eh?). About the fact that “Kate doesn’t NEED Botox”, because she has a “naturally youthful appearance” anyway.
And so women all over the world were subjected to another wave of conflicting – but similarly toxic – beauty standards. They were simultaneously informed that to use Botox is bad, but that not to use Botox is worse. That ageing is a form of failure, but that using anti-ageing products or procedures is even more so.
Basically, it was the tabloid equivalent of that iconic scene from HBO’s Game of Thrones: “Shame, shame, shame, shame…”
It doesn’t matter if you’re praising a woman for losing weight, or criticising her weight gain. It doesn’t matter if you’re crowing over the fact she uses Botox and “isn’t as perfect as she makes out”, or saluting her for “ageing gracefully”. None of it matters, really, because it all has the same impact: when we reduce a woman’s worth to her appearance, we slyly diminish her role and her value as a contributor to society. People care far too much about how things look, rather than looking at how things are. And it’s high time that we speak out against this rampant sexism.
After all, if a bonafide princess can’t get through life without having her appearance shamed on social media, who can?
For far too long, the representation of women by both mainstream and social media has failed to reflect who we see in the mirror, and its impact on our mental health is worrying. Stylist’s Love Women initiative promises to change that. We’ve partnered with Dove, whose latest project (in conjunction with photo library Getty Images) aims to increase the supply of diverse pictures of women – which we will be using going forward.
Our editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski has also made five pledges to Stylist readers:
- We will ensure the women you see on our pages represent all women – inclusive of ethnicity, body shape, sexuality, age and disability. When we create content and ideas, we will ensure that all women are represented at the table. We commit to featuring one fashion or beauty photoshoot a month that uses real, diverse women.
- We will ensure that we never sell an impossible dream. We believe in aspiration, but not in selling a lie. We will work with influencers, celebrities and other partners to encourage them to reveal their truths, too.
- We will celebrate the so-called flaws of women to prove the normality in all of our bodies. We will run videos, photoshoots and honest accounts of our bodies and how they behave.
- We will hold regular huddles with our advertisers and brand partners to challenge the way they portray and reflect women in their branding and advertising. We will call out and challenge brands, media and people who refuse to represent women with respect and truth. We will call on the government to support our goals.
- Through insight and anecdote, we will teach everyone about the issues facing women, what needs to be done and how we can all work together to resolve this self-esteem crisis.