It’s here (PDF), if anyone else wants to read it. And it turns out G and I have at least one thing in common: “I can get whiny because I have to express every emotion that I have the second that I’m having it.”
Not very calm and serene though, is it?
Over the past few days, I’ve developed a minor obsession with Gwyneth Paltrow. I know, I know – the only kind of “obsession” it is acceptable to have with Gwyneth Paltrow is an obsession founded on loathing. And yet, here I am.
I blame her month-long PR assault, which started with her cook book, was followed by a string of premieres for the new Iron Man flick, and culminated last week with her being named People magazine’s “Most Beautiful Woman.” I also blame my favourite celebrity gossip blog, Lainey Gossip, which consistently depicts Paltrow as a Hollywood “queen bee,” who always sits at the best table, hobnobs with only her coolest fellow celebrities, and basically serves as an arbiter for what’s hot and what’s not, while being simultaneously beloved by all in her industry (if not by the general public).
All of which makes her sound like a high school Mean Girl, I am well aware, but work with me here. I have a point, and I’ll get to it.
Either way, the result is that I must have uttered the words “Gwyneth Paltrow” about fifty times in the past week, peaking with Mr Musings calling out to me from the living room as I lay in bed on Saturday morning, “Did I just hear you muttering the words, ‘Gwyneth, Gwyneth…’?” And indeed, he had. Although in my defence, I was muttering them because I was writing this post in my head, and I often quietly talk to myself when I write.
I am fascinated by Gwyneth not because I covet her film career, her body (actively flaunted – I think the word may be justified in this case? – in recent weeks to entice the masses to buy her book and hire her trainer), or her ascetic lifestyle (although I have long found people who lead highly regimented lives intriguing – see also Wintour, Anna, with whom I always associate the sound of a whip cracking whenever I read or hear her name). What I covet - and what I am so intrigued by - is her enormous self-confidence. That she appears to unreservedly like herself. Like best pal Beyonce, Gwyneth is a queen, and she makes no apologies for it.
It wasn’t just her looks, but also her presence that so captured me. I was frantic, anxious, and insecure; high-achieving, yes, but never satisfied. I blurted out answers in class (very unladylike) and feared that my appetite for food was insatiable and out-of-control. Gwyneth, in contrast, seemed characterized by an aura of calm entitlement, i.e., the opposite of frantic insecurity.
As Kjerstin goes on to say, that “calm entitlement” is born of a multiplicity of privileges. Of having been born into a wealthy, influential family. Of inhabiting a tall, thin, blonde body that is computed as “beautiful” automatically and without thinking. Of “being privileged in every possible way that a woman can be, and feeling as though you deserve it.”
But that “calm entitlement” is also, I would argue, a product of Paltrow’s own doing. Gwyneth Paltrow isn’t “the most beautiful woman in the world,” and she knows it. She may have won an Oscar at 26, but she’s not exactly a leading actress of her generation, either – she’s no Kate Winslet or Cate Blanchett. But she carries herself as though she is all these things - beautiful, supremely talented, sitting at the best lunch table (the “best lunch table” being, by definition, whichever lunch table Gwyneth is sitting at), and the world responds to her accordingly.
(Beyonce is remarkably similar in style, but is received differently because, let’s face it, she has established her as one of the leading performers of her generation, possibly the leading performer.)
Gwyneth, perhaps, takes this further than is socially desirable, edging over from confidence to sanctimony, but I still think there are lessons to be learned for those of us who, like Kjerstin (or me), err more towards anxiety and insecurity. Lessons which have nothing to do with working out for five hours a day, or going gluten, dairy, sugar and egg-free.
Which is the reason for my Gwyneth obsession over the past few days. Whenever those petty insecurities rear their head - as they do several times a day - I ask myself, how would the Gwyneth in my head deal with this? And every time (this being an imaginary Gwyneth and all), the answer is that she wouldn’t give a toss. She would feel secure in the quality of her work. She wouldn’t complain about looking “fat.” She wouldn’t worry that “everyone was hanging out without her,” because she would be confident that wherever she was was the best place to be.
And imaginary or not, it has made me approach the world rather more calmly.
Related: How to be fabulous in three easy(ish) steps.
Elsewhere: Why I’m Breaking Up With The World’s Most Beautiful Woman: Gwyneth Was My Thinspo. (Mirror Mirror Off the Wall)
My hope for women is the same as my hope for all people. Find something that matters to you and pursue it wholeheartedly.
Go for it, if it floats your boat. I don’t think that guys have to be “masculine” all the time, or that women have to be “feminine.” Most of us are an idiosyncratic mix of both. Gender is a construct, etc etc.
Hi Gabrielle. Moving to London - how exciting! What will you be studying? Re: feminist events, UK Feminista runs an activist training camp each summer, this year to be held in Birmingham on 17-18 August (not London, I know, but the UK is tiny compared to the US or Oz, and pretty cheap/easy to get around by train).
The London Feminist Network is a bit more radfem than, say, I am, but is an excellent source of feminist news and events. And you should definitely follow Feminist Events (@feministlondon) on Twitter. The Feminism In London conference, which I attended when I first moved here in 2010, is scheduled for 26 October. @Sarcastathon on Twitter has just launched a feminist group, too, focussed on taking feminism “out of the tweets and into the streets.”
And of course, I run a feminist discussion group of my own, which you can get on the list for either by clicking here, or emailing us at email@example.com. We meet on the first Monday of every month.
Anything I’ve missed?
Just a quick note to let you know that the next London Feminist Discussion Group, hosted by Sarah Graham and I, will be held on Tuesday May 7 at 7pm, at LEON on Old Compton Street in Soho. We’ll be talking about the Dove ‘Real Beauty’ Sketches Campaign.
All women (and interested men) welcome. We are a trans-inclusive group. Just RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org (or join our Facebook group) by Thursday May 2 so we can book an appropriately sized space.
A few articles you might want to take a look at before the meeting:
Dove vs Science: Thanks, But We Are NOT Our Own Worst Beauty Critics (Mirror, Mirror… Off The Wall)
Why Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ Video Makes Me Uncomfortable… and Kind of Makes Me Angry (little drops)
The problem with the Dove Real Beauty Sketches campaign (Eat The Damn Cake)
One Narrative Fits All: Dove and “Real Beauty” (The Beheld)
Dove’s ‘real beauty’ sketches ad deserves some praise (The Guardian)
And there are plenty more where that came from if you care to Google.
Hope to see you there!