When Newsweek published a cover story called The Girls Gone Wild Effect, there was no backlash on social media sticking up for their value as women, because social media was not yet a major part of most people’s lives. The viewing public was left to read only what the publications presented and women were viewed as more of a sexual female than anything else.
The magazines in the 90s were driven by a damsel-in-distress narrative. It was as if it were a sport to watch women self destruct. Harvey Levin, founder of TMZ, admitted in 2006 that “Britney is gold. She is crack to our readers. Her life is a complete train wreck, and I thank God for her every day.”
Fast forward more than a decade later, and suddenly women are sharing the hidden secrets and hurts behind their 90s sweethearts image. Some were very young when they were forced into the spotlight, like Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton. Women like Monica Lewinsky are now starting to reclaim their story to reveal the other side of what really happened.
Nowadays, women are speaking up and trying to have their voice be heard in an industry tainted with sexual undertones and double standards. In recent days, fans have gone to bat for Britney Spears with the #FreeBritney campaign to free her from the conservatorship over which her father presides. She has now come out with a popular new documentary on the subject.
Also, other famous women became victims of abuse:
- When Lindsay Lohan hit rock bottom, she was viewed as being naughty. She is now living in Dubai far away from headlines and photographers who want to blast their side of her story for all to see.
- Janet Jackson was blacklisted after the 2004 Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” where Justin Timberlake caused her breast to be exposed on television and in front of millions of viewers. Meanwhile, Justin Timberlake enjoyed even bigger fame for the incident almost as if fellow males were giving him a unified High Five.
- Brandy faked a marriage so that she would not be viewed as an unwed mother.
- Anna Nicole Smith has been viewed as “white trash” while she was still living. However, her obituary described her as “obtrusively voluptuous.”
Perhaps one of the most tragic victim of female fan and publication hypocrisy was with Whitney Houston. Her marital issues were a struggle, and she dealt with drug addition. Both were broadcast for the world to see. As she was struggling, it seemed as if the world was cheering on her downfall.
Most women who grew up in front of a camera or on stage in a sexualized culture will admit that it was a different time in the early Nineties. In David Friend’s book, The Naughty Nineties, he explains that there was a market for humiliation that was thriving at the time. He traces the trend partially back to The Jerry Springer Show.
Photographers only perpetuated the issue. They would take pictures under skirts or chase cars to get an image to publicize. It was never young men who made the covers of these magazines half dressed or appearing with smeared makeup or plastic surgeries. It was also not black women. Beyonce once said that she was told it was “because Black people did not sell.” It was disaster or personal tragedy that made the headlines and sold like hot cakes.