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Lean In, But Not To See Amal Clooney's Bunions

05/04/2016 10:32 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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via Fairfax

Having to spend some time in the doctor's waiting room recently, I picked up one of the dusty old gossip magazines from the coffee table and started flicking through. I can't remember the last time I actually held a magazine in my hands, let alone a gossip mag, but anything would be better that staring at the anatomical illustrations that explain bladder weakness.

On one of the pages was a photo of a woman who I have long admired, Amal Clooney. I have been in awe of her and her brilliance after reading about her fight for Julian Assange's extradition. A lawyer that specialises in both International Law and Human Rights, she is fluent in three languages and the kind of woman I want my daughters to look up to and be inspired by.

And then I read the text accompanying the photo.

"The sight of Amal Clooney's gnarled feet yesterday will have had many of us mere mortals flinching in sympathy.

"She may be a leading international lawyer, with the thinnest legs since Bambi, the thickest hair since Rapunzel and the hand in marriage of the hottest man in the world, but she does have an Achilles heel -- two prominent, and painful-looking, bunions."

I could feel my shoulders tense as I quickly closed the magazine and threw it on the table, as if somehow the mere touch of it would cause a rapid decrease in brain cells. Why on earth, of all the things that could be written about Amal Clooney, are they writing about her legs, hair, husband and bunions? But, more importantly, why are women reading such mind-numbing rubbish?

What made this all the more disconcerting for me was that this article was written by a woman and published in a women's magazine that was run by a female editor. How can we demand equality when it is women who are doing the objectifying of other women in the media? What happened to our strong, feminist voices that fought against this in the '60s and '70s? Has the increase of new technology overloaded us with so many avenues in which to view such articles that our cries for equality have been drowned out?

In her book, Lean in: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, American author and COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg brought attention to a super important -- and deeply pervasive -- cultural bias: "Success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less.

"Acting in stereotypically feminine ways makes it difficult to reach for the same opportunities as men, but defying expectations and reaching for those opportunities leads to being judged as undeserving and selfish," she wrote.

I think she may be on to something.

Can you imagine picking up a GQ or Maxim magazine and reading an article about Obama's corns or Brad Pitts nipple slip? It just doesn't happen, because not only are men judged on their intellect, they themselves do not scrutinise each other's physical appearance the way many women do.

As women, we must ensure that we are always broadening our minds and sharpening our intellect. By buying these cringe-worthy magazines we are colluding with their view that these stories are of interest to us. We must turn our backs on the publications that deliver mind-numbing articles that undermine our achievements and potential because when we stop reading them, they will stop writing them.

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