aging · body image · fitness · normative bodies

Thoughts about Nicole Kidman and her Biceps

Perfect magazine and Nicole Kidman

See Nicole Kidman Shows Off Her Ripped Guns In High-Fashion Perfect Magazine Photoshoot.

She looks amazing.

But not all feminist commentators had positive things to say.

Fab abs, writes Yvonne Roberts, in the Guardian, but this frantic effort to look half your age is frankly demeaning. Her piece about Nicole Kidman is making the rounds on social media and I’m amazed the range of reactions to the Roberts’ piece and to Kidman’s transformation.

One friend wonders why the focus on age, writing “There is nothing about muscles that indicates trying to look half your age. and there is nothing about hard core fitness that is demeaning to anyone. I feel like this is peak body shaming. remember when strong was the radical feminist move? Remember when it was transversive to lift heavy weights?”

A common theme in the comments was just leave women alone and stop talking about our bodies, “Judging women for how they look is so, so predictable and boring. There are so many ways to be. Leave each other the fuck alone.”

Many people talked about how looking amazing was part of Kidman’s job and no one judges men in the industry for their body building efforts. Seen The Rock lately?

I get all that. I really do. I lift weights and I don’t do it to look younger. I want to be stronger.

But still.

Tracy wrote, “My first reaction is ‘ffs please let me age in peace.’ Is there no age where we can stop chasing the oppressive aesthetic of youthful normative femininity?”

And I get that too.

The issue isn’t Nicole Kidman’s guns or her age really. The issue is about expectations that we all do that, that all women make looking young and buff our goals.

Some friends commented about how much time Kidman spends in the gym and then said maybe they could do that in retirement. But here’s the thing: I’m not sure that’s how I’d choose to spend my retirement time.

What’s attractive about retirement for me is reading more, spending more time with family, travel, but also bike trips and boat trips, long back country canoe trips and yes also, time for the gym.

For me time in the gym isn’t primarily about looks, though of course obvious muscles are a welcome side effect. Really though I go to the gym to support my other activities. I want to keep doing long canoe trips and bike trips. Being strong lets me keep doing the things that I love.

So the issue isn’t really Kidman and her biceps. It’s the norms that weigh down on women’s lives. It’s making Kidman a standard by which we judge all women. Kidman could have her biceps and her gym life. We could celebrate her achievements. The issue for feminists is Kidman as fifty-something role model for the rest of us.

I know we’ve all been thinking this past week about the representations of women in the media in light of Bell Media anchor Lisa LaFlamme’s firing from Bell Media arguably in light of her decision to stop colouring her hair during the pandemic.

[Here is an aside from Tracy, who Sam said could add things as she proofed the post: “Nicole Kidman can do what she likes. What bugs me is 1. That this is news because it makes it seem like a miracle that a 55 year-old woman could look good. 2. That looking good is in itself seen as a newsworthy achievement for older women — that is a good indication of where our value still lies. 3. That the standard is now set by a multimillionaire whose business it is to look good (and according to the normative standards of youthful feminine beauty). I frankly would rather admire Judy Dench and Helen Mirren and Lisa Laflamme who at least don’t mind looking older.” End of Tracy’s aside.]

We need a more diverse range of older women as role models including women with grey hair and without sculpted guns. Then I think we’d all feel better applauding Nicole Kidman for the way she looks and the work it took her to get there. [Tracy: hear hear!]

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