Earlier this week, during a conversation with Goldie Hawn at the Aspen Ideas Festival, former Disney CEO Michael Eisner shared a bit of his insight into Hollywood, stating: “From my position, the hardest artist to find is a beautiful, funny woman, by far. They usually—boy am I going to get in trouble, I know this goes online—but usually, unbelievably beautiful women, you being an exception, are not funny.”
First off, Eisner is absolutely, positively, dead wrong. Not only is Hollywood full of beautiful, funny, smart, and talented women, but it seems that beauty is a fundamental requirement for any woman working in Hollywood today. So in saying that it’s difficult to find a beautiful, funny woman, Eisner is essentially saying that it’s tough to find a funny woman. And once again, he’s wrong, wrong, wrong.
Eisner’s statement frustrates me on so many levels, but what I’m most upset about is the fact that men of power (and might I say, often unattractive men) find it within their authority to express their opinions about the faces and bodies of other women. And what’s equally as troubling is the fact that Hollywood is full of men who think just like Eisner, and who are preventing more films and television shows from reflecting actual women; women who age, have flaws, and aren’t just perky young props for their on-screen male counterparts.
The frustration I’m feeling leads me to an ongoing conversation I’ve been having with my boyfriend for a few years now, in which I try to explain why I feel like no matter what I may accomplish in life, my worth will always be defined by my appearance. At first my boyfriend, who is probably the most carefree guy on earth, asked me why I don’t just decide to stop feeling that way. And maybe I’m missing something and it’s just that simple, but I’m sure that these feelings I’ve always had are much more complex and can’t be dropped that easily.
Each day, women and girls are bombarded with images and expectations. We compare ourselves to the standards established and perpetuated by flawless looking girls we see on-screen and in print, but the catch is, these women don’t actually live up to such standards either. Even Victoria’s Secret models, who represent the epitome of natural beauty, aren’t good enough for the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and often wear layer upon layer of body makeup. In high school, we watch 25 year-olds play teenagers and assume we too should be that mature and attractive. And as we age, we see less and less women who look like us. After two decades of being fed all of this imagery of what a woman is and isn’t supposed to look like, how am I ever supposed to feel content? How is any woman, particularly those who don’t fit the mold of what’s deemed “classically” beautiful, supposed to feel okay with herself?
I guess my question is this: why does being beautiful matter so much? Not just to me, but to our society as a whole? Why does our culture demand that women look a certain way? We can’t be too skinny, or too fat. We can’t wear too much makeup, or too little; dress too slutty or too prudish. We can’t just be ourselves and get away with it. We can’t live a single day without worrying about how we are being perceived by someone else. Yes, men are pressured to look and dress a certain way too, but they aren’t as confined by the implications of their appearance.
Being a woman in today’s society means constantly fighting an internal battle. I’m tired of feeling like what I look like is more important than who I am inside. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. And the only way we are going to reach that light is if we, men and women alike, challenge the archaic ideas of people like Michael Eisner; those who have the power to make positive change, but instead perpetuate ideas that are hurting us all.