And why you are, too, if you say I can’t or shouldn’t comment on her face.
In the last few years, there’s been this line:
“Women who criticise other women are the problem.”
We need to stop saying this. It’s the patriarchy speaking. Women should be critical of whomever they want. In fact, criticism is the cornerstone of philosophical thinking. By criticising me for criticising Madonna and labelling me the problem or a misogynist or the patriarchy, then you’re sounding a little post-feminist, and that’s of no use to women.
Countless essays have appeared since Madonna showed up looking like this:
And many of these “think pieces” have told us to “stop talking about Madonna’s face”. Because it’s anti-feminist. Remember, women who criticises other women are the worst!
You think Madonna wants us to stop talking about her face? Despite what her “I’m in my 60s and I still do molly and have sweaty sex”, the woman is the least feminist among us.
Madonna is the embodiment of misogyny. She would be nowhere without our constant gaze. The reason why we talk about her face is because it’s an attack against women and ageing. When the (far fewer) men have distorted their faces to stave off the creases and the sagging, think Mickey Rourke, we have equally criticised them and commented about their faces.
The reason it looks like misogyny is because it’s mostly women who are poisoning their faces. But it’s not about women. You watch, as more men start to freakify their faces, we’ll comment about them.
Despite what she says, by stiffening her features to stop the ageing process (sorry Mads, you’re going to age and die like the rest of us), Madonna is doing nothing for ageism, and even less for women. We criticise her because of how she is denigrating women. That’s what botox and fillers do – they say we’re not enough, we’re need to stop the signs of aging, and the more young women look at these “examples”, the less they know what it is to be a woman in the world.
Yesterday, I popped on “You People” a new film starring Julia Louise Dreyfus, among others. But I just couldn’t. The fillers and botox just make me squirm. Dreyfus is so fucking funny, a wonderful actress who was one of the outstanding women responsible for this piece of art.
And yet, there she is, a cancer survivor! But she has caved. And then Kristen Bell in “The People We Hate at the Wedding”. Kristen, it’s ok. You are not Veronica Mars anymore, and it’s ok.
Who wants to be “fuckable” or a “milf”? We’re told that it’s what women want. What women? I am yet to meet a woman in her 50s, 60s, 70s who actually give a shit about whether they are still “hot”. You know who thinks this shit? Celebrities and influencers.
Back when I was a kid, I watched Countdown and I would marvel at platform shoes on the Bay City Rollers. I’d say “mamma look at those!” And my mum would say “yes but they’re famous people – they look that way for TV”.
And that’s what changed. We live in a global shopping mall where we can order in the morning and receive our order the next day (or the same day if you’re in the US and have an Amazon Prime membership – I mean, doesn’t everyone?). Women have botox parties, or head to the “aesthetician” in a white lab coat down at the local shopping centre nestled between a Subway and an ATM.
Look, I know about the sister wound. I’ve written about it. I’ve talked about it. I’ve lectured about it. But to suggest that criticising other women is always misogyny is a false friend.
The reason why we comment on Madonna’s face is because she looks ridiculous, and she doesn’t do women any favours because of it. Do you know why it’s mostly women’s looks we comment about? Because it’s mostly women who are having these procedures. Trust me, when I saw Mickey Rourke, one of the most beautiful men of the 80s, with his new face, I was shocked and commented. We all commented. And listen, if Brad Pitt or George Clooney start messing with their faces like this, trust me, it will also be news.
As writer, Jess DeFino said in her terrific piece: Madonna’s Face Is Not Subversive
It’s fine to talk about Madonna’s face.
“Instead of focusing on what I said in my speech … Many people chose to only talk about Close-up photos of me,” Madonna said in an Instagram caption about the response to her cosmetic work. “Once again I am caught in the glare of ageism and misogyny That permeates the world we live in.”
What she should have said: “Instead of focusing on what I said in my speech, many people chose to focus on what I said with my face, because aesthetic communication is arguably a more powerful form of communication — one that has a long and insidious history of seeding oppressive beauty standards throughout society, setting stifling appearance expectations for women, and influencing cultural attitudes toward those who don’t comply. I am once again caught in the glare of ageism and misogyny that I myself uphold by adopting ageist, sexist beauty ideals.”
Unfortunately, the fluffy form of pop feminism that dominates today’s media landscape tells us that when we call out women who perpetuate misogynistic beauty beliefs — like the idea that the unmodified, aging female face is unsightly and should be avoided at all costs — we’re the ones Doing A Misogyny™. This is a tactic employed by people who would like to preserve the aspects of the patriarchy that benefit them.”
Do I like my ageing face? Not really. It is becoming a bit square. My frown lines aren’t too bad considering how angry and frustrated I am in general. There is definitely sagging. But this is what being human looks like, unless you have more money than you need, which most don’t. However, In today’s world where Instagram is “real life”, and men on Tiktok with balls down to their knees think they’re women, it’s hard to be sure.
If Madonna really wants to be a subversive feminist icon, this is the wrong path to take. Sex is not a path to feminism. Sex is the path to more misogyny.
We need to be really careful not to rush to use the “misogyny” or “patriarchy” card because we’ll start sounding like self diagnosing “mental health” tiktokers, aka the boy who cried wolf. If we use the words gratuitously, when it’s actually time to pronounce it, it will have no meaning.
Guys! Not everything misogyny or the patriarchy. Some things are just true. And by telling women that we should not be talking about Madonna’s face, you’re just infantilising us. Do you think we’re so stupid or fragile?
As Jess DeFino continues:
“It is not sexist to call attention to the ways in which prominent women are compelled to manipulate their faces — particularly when those women have a track record of influencing popular culture, particularly when the process of mechanical manipulation defies the physical limits of the human body and the financial limits of the majority of the population and comes with a laundry list of potential risks. What’s sexist is furthering the already-impossible appearance ideals that women are disproportionately expected to emulate (or else suffer the social, financial, political, and psychological consequences of non-compliance). What’s sexist is discouraging people from discussing it by co-opting the language of gender discrimination.”
Read the article, I don’t do it justice.