A 42-Year Old Hot Woman: Readjusting The Male Gaze

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Perhaps, it was a moment of progressive discovery for writer Tom Junod when he dedicated his Culture Blog piece in Esquire magazine to the newly discovered “hotness” of the 42-year-old American woman. His analysis of changing trends in American society pointed to an increase in the benchmark of the age of women who are considered most alluring by men.  The article, though, which managed to turn a lot of heads on social media, invited criticism seeking to debunk skewed gender politics that are not limited to Junod only.

Citing the examples of American actresses like Cameron Diaz, Sofia Vergara and Amy Poehler, Junod obviously keeps his list of “hot” women restricted to those who have actively maintained themselves to look a certain way. With huge showbiz obsession and the pressure to look good shoved down women’s throats, his piece does nothing but reinstate those pressures. And why do women need to look good, anyway? Is it so that the average 42-year-old American man can have the pleasure of looking at pretty things?

The whole discourse regarding the age of women and their respective hotness quotient has been an old, sexist one since ages. From teenaged girls to older women, categories created on the basis of age are fetishized to serve the male interests.

While the “George Clooneys” and “Brad Pitts” of the film industry also face pressures with regards to looking good on screen, it hardly translates into a full-fledged categorization on the basis of which age group appeals more to women in general. The pressures of being physically enticing, then, are imposed upon female actresses in a much more intensified manner.

The question that remains to be asked after all this analysis is if women really care about what Esquire or Tom Junod thinks about their age and relative hotness. While some may get affected by it, some won’t. And what feminism allows us to do is to understand that female subjectivity exists; that not all women have “armoured themselves with Yoga and Pilates” and even among those who have, not all women do it to attend to the male gaze. Such universalized notions and a masculine tone that says “we’ve got women all figured out” is what is most problematic with a huge part of social media today.

So, however forward thinking Tom Junod might consider himself to be for granting middle-aged women the status of being “alluring”, he is only a part of a larger culture that typecasts women as something to be looked at objectively.

Samiksha Bhan

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