Wondering about Wonder Woman

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

Men should probably not write about women, but I am a special case.

Although I'm not female, I am a homo sapien. So that's a start. I am married to a woman. I have a sister, three daughters-in-law and two granddaughters. I voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but in fairness, I would have voted for any mammal. Better yet. I voted for Carol Mosley Braun.

More recently, I went to see Wonder Woman, directed by a woman (Patty Jenkins) and starring a woman (Gal Godot). The movie was pretty good, but I was struck by how similar this version of Wonder Woman was to the previous Linda Carter, decades-old iteration, most notably the costume. Both women dressed in thigh-high boots, corset, strapless and bare legs. Both women are man-pleasers.

As I left the theater, it occurred to me that this man-woman paradigm might not have changed all that much. For sure there has been progress, especially in sports, the workplace and Disney movies for kids. There are increasing numbers of senators and CEOs. Hopefully, there will be more.

But women are still valued for their beauty above all else. They know this because of the time, effort and expense they put into their appearance. Women are always talking about their weight, hair, skin, nails, eyebrows, clothes, and shoes. Oak Park retail abounds with stores dedicated to beauty — nail salons, hair parlors and boutiques for stuff to enhance a woman's appearance. Then there is Ulta, 100,000 square feet of every beauty product known to woman. There you can buy potions, elixirs and concoctions that will transform the ordinary to the extraordinary. See P.T. Barnum for further details.

How difficult it must be for young girls to process the mixed messages of empowerment and beauty. There's cheerleading and drill team, but there's soccer and basketball. It does beg the question whether an activity that emphasizes costume and hair is really a sport. All the girls and women on TV and in the movies rock the house in deshabille that would get them sent home from school. Facebook "Likes" are more about beauty than brains. 

Really, what's a girl, mother or any woman to do? If woman has beauty, why does she need to flaunt it? If she doesn't, society makes her feel shame.

Northwestern psychology professor Renee Engelin wrote Beauty Sick. She notes that it is hard to change the world when women are so busy changing their bodies, skin, hair and clothes.

Like most matters cultural, there's no clear way forward, and despite my excellent credentials, I have no clue other than maybe women and men should stop talking so much about how women look.

There's just something not quite right here.

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