Two days ago, actress Renee Zellweger reappeared on the scene at the 2014 ELLE Women in Hollywood Awards, after being off the Hollywood radar for many years. She sparked an outrage from viewers and series of articles discussing her appearance due to the fact that her face looked significantly different from the last she had been sighted on a red carpet. It looks like Renee Zellweger had plastic surgery to possibly lift the sagging skin on her face and reduce wrinkles, which resulted in a nearly unrecognizable woman. A lot of people lamented the fact that she had succumbed to the pressure of maintain a youthful look when gravity is keen on dragging you down with her. Renee should have been stronger they said, she should have embraced aging and stayed natural.
While the complaints about Renee Zellweger’s change in appearance are most certainly not unanimous, it is important that all of us take ownership of our responsibility in creating or sustaining a world in which women dread the concept of aging. Her appearance at the Awards is our opportunity for introspection. We complain about society but fail to see that we ARE society. We are the people who shame women for being too fat or too thin, look too old or had too much plastic surgery, don’t put enough makeup on or have on too much makeup. It is critical that we acknowledge our role in not only creating this world, but also in our ability to dismantle the intricate design of impossible aesthetics. Decisions about body image are not made in a bubble. Women who decide to
get plastic surgery
get butt implants
wear metal necklaces to elongate their necks
lighten their skin
wear corsets to achieve an hour glass figure
all made said decisions as a direct representation of what each society’s aesthetic standards are. We are the gatekeepers to our own aesthetic prison. So our job is to redefine those standards and break down that social entrapment. Our is job to make room. Make room for women to exist on the whole spectrum of beauty. Even better, make room for women to just exist. Just exist without having to appeal to our aesthetics. Just exist. That should be good enough.
Having said all this, I acknowledge that we must take care to not burden Renee Zellweger with our own issues of body image, nearly objectifying her for the sake of our dissection of body image and social pressure. None of us have stopped to wonder if Renee Zellweger is happy with the way she looks.
We spoke for her
We spoke about her
But we made no attempt to listen to how she feels about herself, if she’s happy with herself.
We must respect that she may be very happy with her looks and did this for her own pleasure. We must also respect that she may not want to talk about her appearance. Renee, you are more than just your body, and this is me acknowledging that, and making room for you to just be.
At the end of the day when it is just you, your body, and the mirror, the most important question to ask is: Renee, do you love you?
Isabelle Masado writes about body compassion on her blog "The Dear Body Project". She knows all too well that the personal is the political, is the community. As such, there is no discussing body compassion without talking about the assault on black bodies, trans women, and people with disabilities. Her mantra is, "How can I live in a way that makes room for you too"? She writes to examine, to heal, to redeem.