What he said

Les Amants
René Magritte 1928

Some guy over in France said something about women in their fifties. Apparently, that guy is an author and French director. I must confess that I had never heard about him despite having seen some French films and read some French books. I also speak French and I have lived in France and studied in Belgium but I have never come across that guy’s name: Yann Moix. But, suddenly, all women seem to know him and all women seem to care about what he has to say. My bad, most likely. But I am almost 42. Should I worry?

I read what he said about “not being able to love” women after fifty and that they were somehow “invisible” to him. He praised as “extraordinary” the body of 25 year-old women and classified as “too old” that of a 50 year-old one. He also said that he preferred Asian women to all the other ones, not specifying however, if his favourites were the Indonesian, the Saudi or the Yugurs.  

This babble was published on Marie Claire, a magazine which is known mainly for having the majority of its pages filled with unrealistically perfect and shockingly young models in self-demeaning attitudes and not for its scientific accuracy or sociological content. This was already silly enough, I thought, when I saw his interview quoted all over the international press. Even on Courier International – the newspaper I used to read to perfect my French back when I was an “extraordinary” body in its 20´s.

Nevertheless, the worse was still to come. And much worse than any rubbish a middle-aged man could say about middle-aged women’s bodies was the reaction of these same middle-aged women to some middle-aged guy’s opinion. And again, all over the international press, tweets, posts, stories, essays and articles from very angry women sprung up like mushrooms. Mostly, he was accused of being “sexist”, “racist”and “ageist”, of objectifying women by reducing them to a number, a body, a type, of “not knowing what he was missing” and consequently and surely for his own dismay, he was rejected by many women in their 50’s who said they wouldn’t want anything to do with him anyway, while sending him and posting photos of their backsides.

I couldn’t help feeling somehow embarrassed by all this.

Embarrassed by the fact that, like many other men, this short, dark, uninviting 50 year-old man feels the need to affirm his masculinity and to come to terms with his own aging  by consuming young female bodies and embarrassed by the fact that 50 year-old women feel personally affected by what this man,or any other man, thinks about them.

Basically, I felt ashamed because men objectify women and women, in return, deify men. And that’s how both decide to relate to one another. Never as equal individuals.

More than deifying men, women deify men’s judgment on them. Women put themselves under their light in order to bloom and crave obsessively their attention and praise. They allow men’s opinions to define their self-worth, they scale themselves up or down according to men’s perspectives and they let themselves be engulfed by men’s descriptions.

As a result, a comment of a male stranger is more important for women’s self-esteem than all the nasty things they overcame and all the accomplishments they made; the gaze of some guy on the metro is more valuable as an assessment than a personal insight from a female friend;  the validation of any male replaces years of therapy.

Like a deus ex machina, men are here to tell women if they are beautiful, if they are lovable, if they are human and how human they are. Like a deus ex machina, they give sense to their narratives and save them from themselves. Or condemn them to eternal self-hatred and lack of purpose in life.

And because male praise is a finite resource in this economy of illusions, women have to be in a constant state of competition among themselves. A minute of manly attention is the currency and women are the product to be under scrutiny. Their assets have to be shown and they have to prove they are valuable. And because there is always another woman who is more beautiful, slimmer, younger, taller, more interesting (whatever that may be) for some man in this world, their self-esteem is always under the Damocles sword of the male power to define it. Then, the strategy is to supress other women and, by doing that, they supress themselves and reduce what they are to what men tell, think or imagine about them. They are trapped in this pre-existing role and they struggle to perform it the best they can. Daily, women see themselves on stage, facing male sentence and fighting for the prize, which is male recognition. There, under the male gaze, they become visible to themselves and through men’s perspective, they constantly and thoroughly scan their own body and mind. 

The guy can be called Yann, Manuel, Sven or Akinori. The women can be French, German, Chinese or Indian. Like a body part is not a human nor an judgement an individual , names and nationalities are irrelevant. The story is laid out before us and it keeps repeating itself. Over and over again. Not on social media but in our own everyday lives.

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