The reality of "Annoying Woman Syndrome" and the famous faces who cannot escape it.

There are some famous women whose very existence appears to grate on the public so badly they leave people’s emotions shredded like a pile of cheese.

In some cases, our heightened interest in personalised celebrity culture and our direct access to the leading ladies of Hollywood via their social media accounts has endeared a certain type of woman to the public.

(Jennifer Aniston makes Friends jokes! Florence Pugh is addicted to her ice-cream machine! Chrissy Teigen just cannot keep track of her pet hamster!).

Watch: Miss Americana reignited the debate about Taylor Swift’s likeability.

Video by Netflix

But not every famous female face has emerged unscathed from this particularly glaring spotlight. There are a few names that never fail to ignite public debate around their supposed intense unlikeability; even when their projects soar, their reputations can sink.

It’s a phenomenon that can all be traced back to the one defining label they all appear to be tarred with.

There’s a reason why Taylor Swift’s documented musings on creativity and loneliness always elicit a layer of brutal suspicion.

A story behind why Anne Hathaway’s tearful acceptance speeches are met with eye rolls by an audience of thousands.

An explanation as to why Reese Witherspoon’s peppy social media posts championing female empowerment always gets people’s fingers itching to ridicule her with words.

It’s down to the fact that they have all been diagnosed (by social media and various columnists, at least) with Annoying Woman Syndrome. It’s a growing epidemic for women in the public eye who don’t consistently perform the way we want them to.

The criteria for how we, as an audience, decide which women in the public eye are deemed likable and which are not has always been a puzzling one, a seemingly endless array of moving goalposts with very little wiggle room available to change your reputation once it’s been assigned.

In reality, it’s an oddly over-emotional attachment to a group of women we’ll never know or even encounter on a personal level. It’s also a filter that is never applied to their famous male counterparts.


If you need to understand how the effects of Annoying Woman Syndrome play out in real-time, look no further than the recent treatment of Award-winning singer and songwriter, Taylor Swift.

"There's a reason why Taylor Swift's documented musings on creativity and loneliness always elicit a layer of brutal suspicion".Image: Netflix.

With the release of her highly anticipated Netflix film Miss Americana, the conversation around the 30-year-old Grammy winner should have centred around her latest album, her loneliness or the fact that she disclosed her history with disordered eating for the first time.

Instead, many of the comments about the film were centred around how 'likable' she came across on screen as she told her story and that even her desire to 'no longer play the good girl' had caused some viewers' skin to crawl.

A quick Google search of her name will reveal that no matter what kind of music Taylor Swift releases, what style of interview she gives, or which causes she attaches her name to, one headline theme will always rise high above the rest.

Headlines such as  Taylor Swift: Why is it so difficult to support her? , Why Do I Find Taylor Swift So Annoying?, and Taylor Swift Is The 21st Century's Most Disorienting Pop Star all sum up the public perception of the 30-year-old.

For many years, actress Anne Hathaway has walked a similar public path to Swift, winning Oscars and opening box-office topping movies, and yet her career success is still vastly overshadowed by an examination into why the general public is so rankled by her existence.

It's a discussion led by a group of people so committed to discussing her 'annoying' qualities that they have dubbed themselves the 'Hathahaters'.


Similarly, actress, producer and entrepreneur Reese Witherspoon's bio reads like the type of person we should aspire to be friends with, and yet her speeches about equality and her social media presence regularly see her top lists such as IMDB's 30 Most Annoying Actors and Actresses.

Unfortunately, harsh criticism lobbed at famous women is not an experience solely reserved for the Reeses, Annes and Taylors of the world, although it does stem from a different source.

Public figures such as activist and actress, Jameela Jamil, and actress and writer, Lena Dunham, are often in the mix when it comes to the unfortunate-but-popular bloodsport of attacking famous women on public platforms.

The difference here is that the criticism towards famous faces such as Jamil and Dunham appears to manifest over their (often valid, yet sometimes controversial) views and opinions, rather than just their mere existence while promoting their latest projects.

On the flip side of this, Annoying Woman Syndrome is assigned to the women who don't play the publicity game the way we want them to, the ones who don't subscribe to the idea of being 'the cool girl' or the self-deprecater in the eye of their own success.

The public finds Taylor Swift annoying because she's never hidden the fact that she seeks our approval and validation.

The court of public opinion has forevermore dubbed Anne Hathaway annoying because she relishes in her success instead of shrugging it off in favour of cracking a joke.

Listen to the hosts of Mamamia Out Loud discuss Taylor Swift’s documentary Miss Americana and Annoying Woman Syndrome. Post continues. 

Reese Witherspoon's empire is becoming overshadowed by her Annoying Women Syndrome simply because the public has tired of her endless cheerleader-esque approach to female empowerment.

In the adult world, it can often feel like we've never left high school and our attitude to women in the public eye who appear as 'try-hards' (those who show their work, openly seek approval and celebrate their wins without deflecting via humour) are still not seen as worthy to sit at the cool kids' table.

One of the more heinous side effects of Annoying Woman Syndrome (besides the fact that it allows people to publically voice their dislike for a woman via the safety of  a chorus) is that the 'annoying' women in question are painfully aware of how we see them.

The public annoyance of Anne Hathway escalated in 2013 when she hit the awards circuit hard, picking up a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a BAFTA and an Oscar for her role in Les Misérables. As a result, she walked away with a slew of statues and a tidal wave of public hatred aimed at the tearful way she accepted the accolades.


In the weeks after the award circuit, Anne became aware of the rising public dislike for her, which went on to result in the loss of jobs. The 37-year-old actress told Harper's Bazaar that discovering the existence of 'Hathahaters' was like being "punched in the gut" and that she felt "shocked and slapped and embarrassed. Even now I can feel the shame."

For her part, Taylor Swift has also tried to subtly adapt her behaviour when she senses her Annoying Women Syndrome has ignited a flood of online backlash. She's talked about how she disabled her infamous Girl Squad and stopped openly discussing her romantic life in an attempt to quell public dislike of her.

Even Reese Witherspoon has carefully altered her public persona to lessen the annoyance she can have on the general public.

In her book, Why Not Me, Mindy Kaling writes that Reese urged her to always smile for lurking paparazzi because the public never want to see photos that don't portray the actresses as looking anything other than happily grateful for their lives.

The reality of Annoying Woman Syndrome is that it's so deeply ingrained in the way we externally process women and popular culture that it's a cycle we're seemingly trapped in forevermore.

But if this syndrome is based on those who celebrate their success, try their hardest and set out to be liked rather than feared, maybe it's time we all aspire to be Annoying Women.

Featured image: Getty.

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