I started to write an article about Star Wars the Force Awakens and the positive portrayal of women I witnessed in the film. I started to write about a woman, Rey, who was allowed to just be herself. She didn’t have to act like a man or be the object of one. She was allowed to “run on her own”. I started to write about seeing women working along side men and even leading men. I started to. Sadly, I am not anymore because sexism has reared its ugly head once again and I can’t ignore it.
I’m sure you are aware that actors from the old Star Wars film reprised their characters’ roles. Watching the film felt like attending a class reunion where you really wanted to see people again! I was thrilled to see that Hans, Leia, and Luke looked like real people who grow up and age. I was impressed, but evidently others were not, at least, not with Carrie Fisher. The reactions to her portrayal of an older and accomplished Leia have confirmed for me that our society’s double standard is alive and well.
Women cannot win.
If you are young you are held to unrealistic beauty standards and evidently, when you age you are held to unrealistic beauty standards. Carrie Fisher is having to see her body/looks discussed…again. It appears it is okay for Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill to age, but not Carrie. To quote many, “She didn’t age well”. What the hell does that mean exactly? I’m angry that of all the things that I could have written about this film, THIS is what I find myself thinking about, this unfair expectation that women face…daily.
I shouldn’t have been shocked by people’s reactions, but I really had hoped that a movie so full of positive portrayals of women would inspire a more positive response. But, instead we got more of the same and I have to wonder if women will ever be allowed to just…be. One of the more egregious opinions I read was in The New York Post and as much as I hate to give this guy any attention, it truly must be read to be believed http://nypost.com/2015/12/30/if-carrie-fisher-doesnt-like-being-judged-on-looks-she-should-quit-acting/. It is full of half-truths and misogynistic assumptions and some very big leaps in logic. What I find the scariest is his sincerity. This guy really believes the manure he is spreading! Basically, what he believes is that if you make money from your looks you then have no room to complain when people talk about you… as if your ONLY value lies in your looks. Like most good propaganda and stereotyping there is a nugget of truth in this pile of shite. If you make your living through your looks then, yes, you have to be prepared to be compartmentalized. But, here’s the thing…women are put in that box forever. It’s a double standard that women can’t seem to escape no matter who they are or what they have accomplished.
This particular issue, women being judged and valued by their looks, has taken on more importance to me as I age. Along with the reflection that naturally comes with living as a woman, I now have the privilege of watching my six granddaughters rapidly approach womanhood. I have even more reasons to be invested in how women are treated and portrayed. I don’t want my granddaughters to have to fight for the right to be seen as valuable as a man or god forbid…believe they are less than. But, I must face reality and the reality is that they still face pressure and prejudice.
I found this article that quotes some interesting research from 1974. http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/02/04/susan-sontag-on-the-three-standards-of-beauty-girl-boy-and-man/
[For women], only one standard of female beauty is sanctioned: the girl.
The great advantage men have is that our culture allows two standards of male beauty: the boy and the man. The beauty of a boy resembles the beauty of a girl. In both sexes it is a fragile kind of beauty and flourishes naturally only in the early part of the life-cycle. Happily, men are able to accept themselves under another standard of good looks — heavier, rougher, more thickly built. A man does not grieve when he loses the smooth, unlined, hairless skin of a boy. For he has only exchanged one form of attractiveness for another: the darker skin of a man’s face, roughened by daily shaving, showing the marks of emotion and the normal lines of age.
There is no equivalent of this second standard for women. The single standard of beauty for women dictates that they must go on having clear skin. Every wrinkle, every line, every gray hair, is a defeat. No wonder that no boy minds becoming a man, while even the passage from girlhood to early womanhood is experienced by many women as their downfall, for all women are trained to continue wanting to look like girls.
I’d love to say things have changed since 1974, I don’t believe they have. After-all, we are told this is the most interesting man in the world
and there is a recent (note the recent because its 2016 and this IS happening) trend in Hollywood to portray much older men as the love interest of young women. Here is a link to a very interesting article about this trend with eye-opening charts like the following one displaying the ages of Tom Cruise and his female co-stars.
The messages my granddaughters and all women are exposed to are constant and persistent.
I’m glad my granddaughters got to see The Force Awakens and the positive roles all of the women played and hope they don’t find out that 40 years after earning her role as Leia, Disney once again asked Carrie Fisher to lose weight to be able to play a part 15 years younger than her male co-star.
My lovely husband of almost forty years reminded me that there is a difference between real-life and real people and Hollywood and advertising. “Do you really think that men only focus on looks? Do you think I’m still in love with you after 40 years because of your looks? ” No. I don’t. I know when I look at my husband I see…him. And, I think that is what he sees when he looks at me. In his eyes, I am allowed to just be and that is my wish for my granddaughters and all women that they are allowed to just… be.