One of the most persistent recycled stories in the mass media (included in this term is social media) is presenting pictures of women, particularly actresses, asking whether the subjects have aged well. Of course the inference is they have not. The writer or poster then steps backs to allow the masses to feed off the calculated frenzy, all to satisfy our prurient interest – looking with disdain at the fallen beauties, as if no longer worthy of our adulation. The supposed progressive step forward has been the insertion of one, maybe two, men in the line-up – don’t be fooled – the focus is always the women. When reading the pieces, something inside of me tells me that those writing and posting are either supremely comfortable with their own looks, or they themselves are not subjected to the same standards of beauty and aging, or that the writer/submitter/poster are following the age old truism and pattern of subjecting women to an impossible standard, never imposed upon men.
Currently, the newest version of Star Wars is in the process of breaking all box-office records and because of this phenomenon two of its past and present stars have been in the news. One is Harrison Ford (Han Solo), with regards to his compensation; the other, is Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), with regards to whether she has aged well. Carrie Fisher ultimately sickened by being placed in the proverbial digital box took to Twitter.
Youth&BeautyR/NOT ACCOMPLISHMENTS,theyre theTEMPORARY happy/BiProducts/of Time&/or DNA/Dont Hold yourBreath4either/ifUmust holdAir/takeGarys
I have a rough theory, that literature, advertising, and the written word have too long been dominated by men’s view of the world, particularly our obsession with our penises. Okay, okay, okay, stop and think about this for a moment before you label me as being more of an idiotic fool than I am willing to admit or accept. I muse because I also believe that a fundamental underlying tenet of oppressive behavior is to make the oppressor feel better about him/her/themselves. With those two beliefs on the table, please indulge me and continue reading.
The dictionary definition of penile is defined as “of, relating to, or affecting the penis.” Let me make clear what I am not musing about. I am not concerned with all things penises – you know, penis as God. I am not smart enough to solve what Eve did or did not do (no less Adam), or who dared to eat the apple. Two virgins, seventy two virgins, you got me – all past my intellectual capacity. This muse also has nothing to do with Sigmund Freud’s theory of penis envy. So that we are clear, I willingly reject Freud’s concept/theory/analysis of penis envy, that is, I find it difficult to accept that a woman’s psychological health is defined by her envy of something she does not possess. Sure, I believe all of these concepts, and theories have molded us, particularly as related to concepts of beauty, and aging. Simply stated, a full discussion of religion tenets and beliefs or psychiatric theories and theorems are far beyond the reach of this muse. Before leaving Freud, I always envisioned Freud diddling with his thing before releasing his theory on the rest of us. I’m sorry, I digressed.
Grady Paris, a law school friend and lawyer, use to complain loudly (after a difficult day of negotiating) that the negotiations were impeded by “dangling dicks” (read this as male egos, but be clear, dangling dicks were actually her words). While she complained I envisioned a butcher’s work, with dangling sausages hanging from their hooks, all drying, dangling everywhere. I ultimately catalogued Grady’s complaint as wonderful symbolism, identifying the challenges female lawyers face in a male-dominated profession (if not in numbers, in thought and clearly under any benefit analysis) (sorry for talking like a lawyer but no better way of explaining).
Sure, there were ways to test Grady’s premise, probably more reliable than Freud’s concept of women being jealous of our junk. One can readily collect the raw number of women in the profession, examine the earning capacity of women versus men, or even look at positions, rank, and opportunities provided (partnerships in firms, faculty in the law schools, by way of example). I admit, I simply agreed with Grady’s observation without subjecting it to any empirical testing (okay, the lawyer lingo now ceases, I promise).
Betty Wong, another friend who happens to be a lawyer, one day provided a wonderful metaphor for life. At the time, we were traveling in the state of Florida to visit with clients. The clients’ family member died after the commercial shrimp boat he was working exploded in the Gulf. While crossing one of Florida’s impossibly long bridges, Betty stated, “You see a cow every day, in one form or another.” I don’t know whether she had just seen a cow, whether she made the statement because it related to our far ranging discussions, or whether her statement was a Chinese thing. Betty continued driving, while I continued my futile attempt to keep my eyes open. During our two to three days of travel, I grew tired of her cows intruding.
“See.” “See.” “See.”
After our trip, I never sought to empirically test Betty’s statement. I readily accepted the statement as having an inherent truth – all while we moved from urban, to coastal, to rural, and back to an urban setting. The scope of her words included the shoes I wore, the bag I carried, the steering wheel I gripped – the milk I drank. When I attempted to exclude her caveat (“in some form or the other”), I still was consumed by the grazing bovines piercing my thoughts and eyes. I say all this to say – even though I may not be able to empirically test my theory (same as Betty’s theory on cows, or Grady’s theory of dangling peniles), I know what I know; I see what I see.
The actress (Maggie Gyllenhaal) complained of being rejected for a part because she was deemed too old (37) to play the mate of the male in the movie (55). The fashion industry has been forced acknowledged they too long have engaged in the process of placing square women in round pegs and vice versa – the perfect breast, the ideal size, imposing arbitrary definitions of beauty. Academics too have extensively researched and written on the subject, particularly the effect of same on women from cradle to grave.
Recently, I was visiting a former client’s shop for a facial (stop smiling and get over it). Dr. Al-Haj, a trained surgeon and owner of the facility, provided the best grounding rationale for taking better care of ourselves. She listened, nodded and refused to engage in my male-based rationale, and practiced dance of avoidance. While writing, the good doctor looked up, explaining, “You are still a 1954 model and like most 1954 models, you have to change the oil more.”
I muse to our behavior affects all of us, but the bulls-eye will only continue to hit women when they remain the only target – “Oh, my, my, my, how she has aged” – in the storyline. DNA is what it is – DNA. The aging process is what it is – unavoidable. No doubt, we can enhance, nip, tuck, cream, massage, dress, drape, exercise – and even admit to being convinced to have a regular facial. But surely, we have to stop the insane process of allowing women to be hoisted on our petard and held to an impossible standard. If I am wrong, send me just one article on that 1942 model (Harrison Ford) saying how horribly he has aged, or better yet, send me an article comparing the 1942 model to the 1956 model (Carrie Fisher) questioning which one has aged the worst. Don’t bother, remember oppression doesn’t work that way. Oppression can be direct, or subtle, doesn’t matter, because the underlying intent remains the same – to make the one not being oppressed feel better. And for those who are disturbed by my penis theory – calm down. In the movie, Rush Hour 2, Chris Tucker theorized crime can be best be solved by following “the rich white man”. I think my theory is just as viable – empirically grounded, historically proven, and readily seen (sort of like Betty’s cows)… dangling, dangling, dangling everywhere, every day.