Kit Steinkellner
October 22, 2014 2:20 pm

Renée Zellweger is Roxie Hart, she is Bridget Jones, she’s the woman who said “You had me at hello” to Tom Cruise. She’s an Oscar winner (and was nominated for her acting three years in a row). And no one will ever rock a bunny tail better than Zellweger. You can try. You will fail.

The thing is, when you Google “Renee Zellweger” right now, none of that comes up. In fact, you have to scroll down hard to get to Zellweger’s Wikipedia and IMDb pages. Right now her search results are clogged to the point of ridiculousness with talk about her face.

If you haven’t heard (God I hope you haven’t heard, I WISH I hadn’t heard), Zellweger recently attended Elle’s Women in Hollywood Awards. She hasn’t been seen around too much lately (her last film came out in 2010, she’s got a new film coming out next year) and when she arrived at the ceremony, cameras snapped and the Internet flipped its ish about Zellweger’s face not looking, like, EXACTLY how they remembered it.

People are specifically freaking out about Zellweger aging, which, I hate to burst anyone’s celebrity fantasy dream bubble, is something that happens to EVERYBODY, millionaire movie stars included. People are also freaking out the possibility that Zellweger has had cosmetic surgery. Like, freaking out to the point where doctors are weighing in on someone they don’t even know and newspapers are making offensive diagrams—pointing cartoon arrows at every pore on her face—to show how she might have changed.

So this is how we treat women we respect and love? No way, not good.

We scrutinize every aspect of their physical features—whether it’s their hands, their legs, or their lips—dissecting their looks as if we owned their bodies. Let’s be clear: we don’t own Renée Zellweger’s face—or any other face belonging to a famous woman, and therefore we don’t have the right to poke, prod and hyper-judge.

Unfortunately, this is something we see all the time—whether it’s an article analyzing the mathematical equation of Angelina Jolie’s eye-to-nose ratio or a story speculatively mocking a celebrity for looking slightly different than she did when she was in a movie a bunch of years ago.

The effect is to undermine the careers of women who’ve worked hard to achieve impressive feats, and flatten their worth down into a single snapshot. Of course, some famous people, like Zellweger, are pros at handling the madness. Today she responded to all the hoopla like the classiest of ladies:

“People don’t know me in my 40s,” she told People Magazine. “People don’t know me [as] healthy for a while. Perhaps I look different. Who doesn’t as they get older?! Ha. But I am different. I’m happy.”

The thing is, there are tons of male actors that have been in the spotlight since they were twenty-somethings and we’re not freaking out about what Leonardo DiCaprio or Ben Affleck’s face look like now. And, no one’s speculating about whether or not they’ve gotten work done either—which is something we both encourage women to do and judge them for doing.

Meanwhile, as women in the spotlight age, they are excoriated for their faces. They get picked apart for the lines on their faces, they get picked apart if they take medical action to erase those signs of aging. This is textbook “damned if you do, damned if you don’t,”

But what if there was a third option? What if we just didn’t obsess? What if we just left women’s faces alone and didn’t treat every inch of their skin like a carnival sideshow? What if we treated women who have made tremendous contributions to their field with the respect they deserve? What if we didn’t look for every possible opportunity to undercut and diminish the value of important women? What if we listened to them as much, or even more, as we looked at them? Now that would be progress.

All this obsession about how a woman’s face is supposed to look just makes you want to put a paper bag over your head and never leave the house. And that’s an unacceptable way to make women feel. So let’s shut down this craziness because I really don’t want to live in a world where this story is headline news.

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