Fabulous abs, Nicole Kidman. But this frantic effort to look half her age is downright demeaning | Yvonne Robert

NOT55-year-old icole Kidman is not only an excellent, award-winning actress and good company, witty and intelligent. Next month’s cover of Perfect magazine reveals that she also has the latest weapon in the anti-aging arsenal, namely muscles. Plus, unlike Botox’s frozen facial impact to hold back the years, it’s muscles that move — if Kidman’s reverse plank, also pictured, is any guide.

Since the portrait of the actress was released last week, dressed in what looks like a high-end padded coat, it turns out she’s definitely not the only one gaining sculpted biceps, abs washboard and banished bat wings (upper arm sag) in the now known elastic period. like quarantine.

The revelation of her physical transformation has sparked a series of articles about older women who have undergone a similar transformation, strong in body and therefore, it is said, stronger in spirit, creating a new healthy femininity. which also goes back in time towards granting the physical shape they never had in their twenties. What’s not to like?

Especially since, for example, a recent survey by Women in Sport revealed that more than a million girls who considered themselves athletic in primary school lost interest in physical activity during adolescence. Fear of being judged and lack of trust are among the main reasons mentioned. Gymnast Simone Biles, tennis star Serena Williams and many English footballers were also cruelly judged and “in shape”, criticized as unfeminine and too manly in their physique. So won’t this mini-army of 40-plus celebrities, media columnists and influencers, led by Kidman, encourage more women to lift those weights?

Maybe. Biles, Williams and their fellow athletes are in great shape because they are dedicated to their sport. What they don’t do is a complex strategy to try to trick Father Time. When body transformation becomes intertwined with the impossible quest to turn 30 at twice that age, the trap of femininity is set.

In the 1980s, feminist Susan Brownmiller wrote an entire book about femininity, a measure by which men and women calculate a woman’s presumed physical strengths, behavior and deficiencies. Brownmiller described the attempt to acquire womanhood as “both incredibly inconsistent [as]… meticulously demanding… Femininity always demands more”. And she warned that “endless absorption in the pursuit of perfect appearance…is the ultimate restriction on freedom of mind”.

Madonna, with a very fresh face and alarming lips, recently celebrated her 64th birthday in fishnet tights and a split skirt in the thigh. And why not? She traveled from toy boy (emblazoned on one of her first leather jackets) to toy boys seemingly without adding a year. But, she told her fans, she has decades of battle scars, including torn ligaments and a hip replacement. Arthritis must surely follow. Under these circumstances, “letting go,” the gravest of sins in a culture obsessed with youth, may seem like a blessed relief. “Are old people really human beings? Simone de Beauvoir asked in her book Old age. How can we know in a nation of women Peter Pan?

To achieve Kidman’s biceps, a fitness instructor has estimated, you have to five workouts per week.

Reinvention is Kidman’s profession, but the continuous parade of testimonials from others eager to publicize their efforts to supposedly age their lives through diet, exercise, wardrobe, abstinence, cover-up and a dose of self-deception is scary, a kind of competitive competition. . “I can do this ageless magic trick better than you”, the complete opposite of brotherly solidarity.

Does a bit of exhibitionism by women old enough to know really matter? Arguably it is, because it fuels judgmental attitudes about health and aging that ignore the impact of wealth and class.

Linda Tirado, while working two jobs and being a mother of two, wrote a article in 2013 titled This is Why Bad Decisions of the Poor Make Perfect Sense for the HuffPost. She explained that she smoked because “it’s a stimulant. When I’m too tired to take another step, I can smoke and continue for another hour. She, and many others like her, struggling to make ends meet, don’t have the time or the resources to become a “wank chick” – but as these images flood popular culture, they measure up. often to those who do.

Relentless introspection (as opposed to the insurrection necessary to challenge life’s inequalities) and obsession with what has been lost, instead of contemplating the gains that come with age, keep us from feeling comfortable with the process of becoming ourselves, as flawed and crumpled. In Natural causes: life, death and the illusion of controlauthor and activist Barbara Ehrenreich writes refreshingly, “Once I realized I was old enough to die, I decided I was also old enough to be free from pain, boredom or boredom in the pursuit of a longer life.

Exercise can be enjoyable. It boosts mental and physical health. According to research published last week, a 10-minute walk each day helped Korean octogenarians live 40% longer over the five-year study than those who hardly moved at all.

Makes sense. But not the extremes. The pursuit of eternal youth voraciously fills the space in which it should be possible to see and admire many ways to sail beautifully into wrinkled old age. Judi Dench, 87, was pictured visiting the BBC last week The repair shop. She didn’t look the least bit scared of who she is now and what’s to come.

Yvonne Roberts is a freelance journalist, writer and broadcaster

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