When events come together to make me think, I tend to write about it. That happened this week when a 2012 interview with Dustin Hoffman popped up in the media.
Speaking about his portrayal of Tootsie, Hoffman reveals that the film was “never a comedy for me.” The shock of seeing himself as an interesting, less than attractive woman incited a startling revelation:
“It was at that moment I had an epiphany, and I went home and started crying. Talking to my wife, I said I have to make this picture, and she said, “Why?” And I said, “Because I think I am an interesting woman when I look at myself on screen. And I know that if I met myself at a party, I would never talk to that character because she doesn’t fulfill physically the demands that we’re brought up to think women have to have in order to ask them out.” She says, “What are you saying?” And I said, “There’s too many interesting women I have…not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.”
Because reading the above quote just can’t do Dustin justice, make sure to watch the AFI video. It’s amazing to see a man who “passed for a woman” talk about how society has “brainwashed” men to judge women entirely on the basis of their physical appearance.
If you’ve ever run away from a camera, recoiled upon catching sight of yourself in a mirror, or cut yourself out of family photos, this video should make you think. The simple, exuberant joy we had as little girls has been replaced by “issues.” Why are we always too much or not enough? How do we stop constantly agonizing over it?
How especially do we handle body image and cancer issues when we’re in the throes of treatment? I’ve written a lot about how those issues affected me after my mastectomy but, in truth, the seeds were planted long before my diagnosis. Cancer, in it’s usual opportunistic way, just recognized a weakness and puffed it up exponentially.
The hard truth is that once you know something, you can’t not know it. That’s why there is no way to revert back to the childish innocence we enjoyed before we were brainwashed. The best we can hope is to be aware of the real issue, which is the constant judgment of women as physical objects. And, most importantly, we can stop, take a breath and focus in awareness on our inner beauty when we victimize ourselves by falling prey to those same impossible standards.
Do you suffer with body image issues? Did your cancer experience make those issues worse for you? What did you think of the Dustin Hoffman and Dove Camera Shy videos?
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