Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Burning the Double Standard at Both Ends

Jamie Lee Curtis “came out” and exposed the kinds of trickery that the entertainment industry uses to make women look more beautiful in film and print. Why? Because at age 40+, she was through being poked, prodded, and starved to maintain a media friendly image. Kirstie Alley is stepping up to the plate to speak out against the same kinds of standards. What do these women have in common? They only chose to complain about these images and standards after they no longer met them. How can we blithely applaud them for their efforts against unrealistic expectations of beauty when they and other highly visible women achieved (and continue to achieve) wealth and success perpetuating them?

The same can be said for every over-forty actress heard voicing her disgust at the lack of juicy roles in Hollywood for women their age. How much effort was made by these women to thwart sexist ageism in Hollywood when people were lining up to take their picture? How many of them turned down roles because they had to play a much younger wife to a sixty year-old, Viagra chugging geezer? Does it occur to either Curtis or Alley that their efforts today would not be necessary if they and other women had not sanctified those potentially dangerous stereotypes to begin with? Those women are not standing up and saying "no" to someone else's stupid expectations. They're trying to sell empowerment because they can no longer sell their young, beautiful asses. Now, they're on our side? Give me a break. I'll let them play in my sandbox when I think it means something, not because it's their only other option.

When we bask in the reflected glory of false bravado, we can easily forget that unrealistic beauty standards are not only reinforced but celebrated because other women agree to meet them. As long as not-so-visible women and former media darlings are the only ones in the vanguard against an entirely unhealthy image of beauty, we're screwed. The world is saturated with images of young women who are so thin that they have to buy breasts. And it's only getting worse.

Fostering the illusion of eternal youth and beauty is worth it for famous actresses because at the end of the day, they know it is bullshit and they're getting paid a lot of money to pretend that it's not. I will stop doubting the sincerity and intentions of these babes when there are fewer shows like “Fat Actress” and more shows like “Thin Gorgeous Actress Eats a Ham Sandwich and Refuses to Pretend She’d Actually Sleep with an Old Skanky Bastard”.

Schizophelia Jones

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