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Renée Zellweger and What Went Wrong?

The whole outcry that occurred on Tuesday over Renee Zellweger’s re-appearance in public saddened me greatly. However, this was not due to the general public consensus that seemed to be emerging. My sadness comes not from the fact that some say she looks older, or because others are saying she no longer looks attractive or even because she has had surgery at all. But rather it stems from the fact that she succumbed to peer pressure instead of loving herself.

A few articles that I came across attacked those that expressed their shock at her transformation, labelling it as misogyny and sexism. However it is my personal belief that this is not a feminist issue. It is not the issue of the sexist industry she finds herself in. And it most certainly is not an ageist issue. The issue is that she looks so startlingly DIFFERENT. Any person that is in the public eye, who disappears for a while and then returns looking like a wholly different person is bound to garner widespread attention (see Bruce Jenner).

How can it be an ageist issue when she is only 45 years old? Haven’t we been told for years now that the 40’s are the new 30’s, and how fantastic women look these days at that age (and this is not just celebrities but ordinary women too). Perhaps in her industry there was pressure for her to appear younger but not so drastically and not so early on. She didn’t have to try and look so different. Photos of her at 43 were glowing, yet now at 45 she doesn’t look younger she just looks like another woman (if anything more her age than she did before). So why did she bother in the first place? To look younger or rather because she just didn’t like how she looked at all?

Ultimately I believe that’s the wrong message to give young girls. It’s sad that she felt she needed to go to such lengths to compete in her industry. Perhaps her desired effect was to end up looking so different and that is of course her choice, but I personally do not believe that that was the case. I believe she had body image issues (as seen by her drastic loss of weight so quickly after the Bridget Jones films) that have probably plagued her her whole life. There is pressure for women to bounce back as quickly as possible after pregnancy, weight gain, etc. (and that needs to be addressed) but there was no pressure on her to change her face.

Perhaps she blamed her appearance on getting less work recently, but that can’t be down to age as she did not look old at all. She changed because she didn’t love how she naturally looked and that’s a great shame. We should accept ourselves as who we are rather than trying to change everything about ourselves to fit into a perceived stereotype, no matter the industry you find yourself in. Women should be empowered at any age in any industry. If you love yourself the industry won’t matter and if you love yourself you’ll only make changes for the right reasons.

We should endeavour to question the extreme plastic surgery that seems to be integrating itself within our culture. Sure some people must make changes to be happy, but let’s not encourage changes based on insecurities that ultimately would remain present regardless.

I read further articles shaming people for having a problem with her ‘daring to age’. She isn’t becoming old. She was just unhappy. She doesn’t look younger, she just looks different. These articles claim that the public condemns ageing but I personally would never judge a woman for having cellulite or wrinkles. I want to live in a world where I can be allowed to be imperfect and so must everyone. But I do not want to live in a world where I can’t just be, where I have to take drastic actions to change who I am to ‘fit in’. It’s not about being pretty enough. She was pretty enough already, as are all women. Yet she seems to have not thought so. And that’s the issues we must address. Why are women not encouraged to love themselves and be happy? How can we address our insecurities and how can we find the source for them? Is it the media? Is it men? Is it our work environment? Is it coming from other women?

An article in the Guardian stated sarcastically, ‘Pity the woman so brazen as to pull back the curtain on these expectations by letting herself be seen in public past a certain age – with or without the help of the medical community’ (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/21/renee-zellweger-face-nothing-wrong). That’s fine, be in public when you’re older but god damn it hold your head high while you’re at it and love yourself.

She was a unique and beautiful actress who unfortunately now conforms to Hollywood standards by looking just like everyone else instead of actively trying to defy them. I don’t believe the public only supports attractive older women, I think in general we support women who embrace their looks and only try to enhance them. Not shy away from them. Some plastic surgery here and there maybe, a healthy diet, exercise, lots of sleep; work with what you got. Don’t despise it. Love it.

It’s sad and I feel sorry for her but it is definitely not a good example for women to follow or tout as anti-feminist. It’s not out of condemnation, only surprise. Beauty standards are an issue but not in this case, at least not in the way the media is making out. Getting older is normal, let’s make that known. Especially outside Hollywood. However Renee clearly didn’t see herself as the public did, as don’t many women unfortunately, so let’s fight to change that. Let’s fight to embrace our uniqueness. Not celebrating women’s diverse beauty and not addressing the reasons why women feel so insecure after a certain age is what is really anti-feminist. Women should have full control over their bodies, but let’s try and make that positive and inspiring control.