The Invisibility Myth: Jane Fonda, Vanity & Me

➨I’ve got this quote swirling in my head from a Jane Fonda interview a couple of years ago:
 “I continued to try to be perfect on whatever level the man I was with wanted, willing to forgo emotional intimacy and betray my own body and soul if honestly speaking with my true voice might mean losing him,” she wrote. “It wasn’t even that I depended on any of them financially, as many women do who turn themselves into pretzels for their men. I always supported myself.” When she appeared at the 2017 Emmy Awards  much media coverage was given to her appearance. I’ve been reading the personal comments on social media; women praising her, eviscerating her, pitying her, judging her, men being downright nasty. In response, she said that; “Men are very visual, they want young women. So, for us, it’s all about trying to stay young.” Her cosmetic surgery, she added, had extended her acting career by a decade….The mixed messages of her words left me confused and a little bit angry for some reason – was I too guilty of judging?
 ➨How does any of this help the younger generation of women and men in our lives (or indeed those of us who cannot afford, or do not want to have surgery) stay visible, relevant and empowered as they age?  Surely it’s healthier mentally and physically to learn as early as possible not to aspire to the social media driven ideal of “perfection”, but that there are an infinite variety of body shapes, sizes, looks – all of them acceptable and not to be judged?
 Should us ordinary extraordinary women, feminists, humans bear some responsibility to halt the rot?  It feels to me like a no brainer; “Y-E-S of course we should” answer.  It’s a jungle out there and it’s not as easy as you might think to throw the fuck-off switch. Our individual freedoms and choices are greater than ever, and yet I see us encouraged to believe that self-love and contentment always lies in being beckoned around an elusive, distant corner, where the surgeons knife, beauticians needle, pharmacists pills and potions expensively and dependently lurk. Such very, very frustrating and confusing messages…We golden oldies know there really is a fulfilling life to be had post thirty without excess self-loathing needing to be part of the deal…

➨I’m not in Jane Fonda’s life choices league financially or globally, but my thoughts turned to the call I got recently, with the opportunity to bare all for a national newspaper article about women’s relationship with body image. I knew what the potential ramifications of such an in-your-face reveal could be, so although I wanted to do it for myself and for my Invisibility Myth project, I still ran it past my family. I said that if they had a problem with me doing the photo shoot, I wouldn’t go ahead.  I felt that my personal life decisions do have wider reaching consequences to my loved ones, when put out into the public arena. Their response was pride, respect and a big; go for it, but please don’t put the photos on social media!…Yes of course there will be a degree of embarrassment about Ma getting her kit off, but the overarching message of the piece (I’m trusting they won’t go for cheap sensationalism) is a disparate group of women of all ages and sizes, battling their personal body issues,  showing that taking your clothes off is a great leveller and can be pretty empowering.  And that it’s an ok thing to do. It sure is an interesting way of meeting new people, no designer labels attached and little space for shrinking violets!!! Swapping life stories in the buff with a young mother and an eighty seven year old was empowering, enlightening and hilarious.  If you are interested in the full story, it will be appearing in The Advantages of Age online magazine soon, as will the photos in a national Sunday newspaper magazine, but i’m not telling which one till i’ve seen them myself 😉…

 ➨ I’m offering my 61 year old words of wisdom to 79 year old Jane; Oh vanity, vanity all is vanity…You always were a beautiful, intelligent woman and I wish you had realised that when you were young…You didn’t  need to go under the knife, starve and mould yourself to what your Father led you to believe was the thing to do to be noticed.  The right sort of man would be privileged to have you in their lives, the rest are simply not worthy to worship at your (i’m sure) immaculate feet…

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