It’s not very often that a simple sentence flaws me, leaving me pondering the ways of the world for several minutes afterwards.

But that is exactly what my current read – Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost – did earlier this evening. The main character, Leila, is describing a man she’s seen and her description is as follows:

“…All set off by a handsome face with lines that on men were called ‘character’ and on women were considered cause for a Botox appointment.”

The way its written, in a very off hand, almost nonchalant manner, makes Ms Frost’s dig at the patriarchal nature of our society quite subtle. But it’s there. It’s most definitely there and it’s something that really got me thinking about the hypocrisy we face due to huge gender divides.

If an older man dates a younger woman, no one bats an eyelid…yet if an older woman dates a younger man she’s called a ‘cougar’, a term that is both unflattering and derogatory. The first examples that spring to mind are Michael Douglas (72) and his wife Catherine Zeta Jones (47), and Sam Taylor Johnson (49) and Aaron Taylor Johnson (26). The former are considered a Hollywood Golden couple and yet the latter’s relationship has come under intense media scrutiny over the years.

In a lot of action movies, the male lead can be middle-aged. Some of the actors playing the Avengers are fine examples of this. We’ve got Robert Downey Jr (51) and Jeremy Renner (45) both in lead roles but the female lead roles, played by Scarlett Johansson and Elizabeth Olsen, are comparatively younger. Sure, there is Gweneth Paltrow in her early forties as Pepper Potts but she’s not exactly playing a leading role. If you get me?

Also, a completely random example…but thongs! I was listening to The Guilty Feminist podcast at the gym today and they raised an interesting point. Thongs (allegedly, I haven’t actually researched this) were designed as a way of ensuring women could wear any outfit and not have a VPL (visible panty line). But do we see men wearing these uncomfortable garments? Sure, some do but the for most part the answer is no. Men are free to wear low-lying jeans that flash their snazzy new Calvin Klein’s. They don’t care about a VPL. Hell, they want VPs (visible pants)!

Why is there this divide? Why is it that I open magazines and see Leonardo DiCaprio being praised for being like whiskey and getting better with age, but women being slated for the natural lines that come with age? And they can’t win…if they try and do something about these natural, normal lines, they’re accused of being ‘fake’ and of ‘overdoing’ it.

What do women have to do to catch a break?

Phew. Wow. That was a lot longer than I anticipated.

 

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