I have a confession: I’m eighteen, and I read More magazine. Every month, I get a glimpse into what it means to be a woman over the age of forty in American society.
Recently, I overheard a saying: “Men age, women rot.” This phrase encapsulates the message that More sends its readers. It’s the reason that middle-aged men with heads full of gray hair, like George Clooney, are deemed “People Magazine’s Sexiest Man of the Year,” while middle-aged women are continuously bombarded with messages telling them to get Botox, to get face lifts, and to cover up those damn spider veins—because they didn’t simply age, they rotted.
I didn’t use George Clooney as an example for no reason; More has made my case for me. In an article in the December 2011 issue, a middle-aged woman details her disturbingly transformative encounter with George Clooney.
Moments before meeting George, the author is moaning to a friend about her aging looks. Her friend then compares getting plastic surgery to a sofa: “Just think of it as reupholstering. Every 20 years or so, (your face) gets worn out from too many people sitting on it.”
The author could “treat” herself to some Botox—it’s “like maintenance,” the friend claims. “Like getting your teeth cleaned.”
Right. That’s how I’ve always thought of plastic surgery. Just like getting your teeth cleaned.
Thank the heavens, that’s when George Clooney enters the scene. The author drops her wallet. George retrieves it, tells her that she resembles Jackie Kennedy, and exits.
The author is elated! She looks like Jackie Kennedy, not like a naturally aging woman! She declares that maybe she’ll “get her teeth cleaned”—i.e., undergo cosmetic surgery—after all. Notice that George never doubted his status as a gorgeous, aging man.
Meanwhile, an article from a recent issue applauded MSNBC news anchor, Mika Brzezinski, for fat-shaming her best friend into losing weight. “This year my husband and I went out for Valentine’s Day,” Brzezinski’s friend told More regarding her life post weight-loss. “After years of wearing almost nothing but a black pantsuit, I had on a leopard-print dress. I walked out of the bedroom and said to my husband, ‘Your wife is back.’”
Brzezinski’s friend didn’t “go anywhere” when she was plus-size; why perpetuate the prejudice that plus-sized women are unattractive by publishing this? Weight-loss should be a question of health, not of culturally sanctioned fatism.
More describes itself as a magazine “for women of style and substance.” The authors of these problematic articles are not women of substance; they are women who have fallen victim to a shamelessly unattainable standard of beauty.
A real woman of substance is someone who does her best to love and accept not only those around her, but also love and accept herself.
It’s your wrinkles after a lifetime of smiling, your neck after craning your head to look at the sun, and your stomach after giving birth that makes you so beautiful.
As the remarkable woman that you are, you deserve to feel good about yourself. You never rotted. You were flourishing the entire time.
Haley Zovickian is a Bay Area high school senior who loves reading, hiking, and the body-positive movement.