Woke Angst over Martha Stewart's Plastic Surgery & Photo Shopped Swimsuit Photo
She looks young for her age and that is a good thing
I told you a month ago that I was going to make Substack notes my primary social media platform because people on it are “totally civil and respectful.” Well, that didn’t last long.
A woke Substack writer used notes to insult and criticize my beloved grandmother, who died in 2012 at 100 years old. I was furious. I tried to block the writer but learned it doesn’t work retroactively. The debate revolved around the recent swimsuit cover photo featuring 81-year-old Martha Stewart.
Empowering Swimsuit Model
My point in the note above was that “Sports Illustrated” put Martha on the cover of its famous swimsuit issue was a commendable effort to promote positive perspectives on aging. Of course, it also aimed to attract attention through its shock value. Clearly this strategy worked. Stewart proudly announced Tuesday that her cover photo has gotten a staggering 10 billion impressions online within in a week of its release. (The issue features three other covers with younger women.)
Woke Reverse Ageism
Following my note on the bathing suit photo, "beauty journalist” Jessica DeFino restacked it to her subscribers and wrote:
counterpoint: it doesn’t really count as celebrating an older woman if you’re celebrating her for still looking young and fuckable
I was taken aback by DeFino's unsolicited response and engaged in a back-and-forth exchange that quickly deteriorated.
Me: “I don't think she looks young, I think she looks good for her age.”
Looks good for her age is another way of saying Looks younger than people her age normally do. This is classic beauty culture rhetoric. Different language, same ideology.
Me: “It is a GOOD THING to look ‘good for your age’ because it means you are in good health, fit, agile, etc. Ask any primary doctor.”
DeFino: No. This response — which assumes health, fitness, and agility are and should be associated with one very specific aesthetic — is bursting with beauty culture conditioning. So is the medical system.
Me: “My grandmother, who died at 100, told people she was in her ‘mid-80s’ because she looked so good for her age. The reason is she got up early every morning and did an hour of exercise. She dieted her whole life so she maintained her weight. She also did her hair, dressed nicely and did her nails until the day she died — peacefully and happily. I walk in her footsteps and look good for my age.”
What a lovely memory of a woman who internalized systemic ageism in such a way that she felt the need to lie about her age to the end <3
I was furious. I reminded myself that I don’t fight with strangers on the internet. Instead, I blocked her. But the post stayed up and DeFino used my comments to write a whole newsletter on the debate. She ended her newsletter on her nasty judgment about my grandmother. (I’m not linking to it so just search her name in Substack if you want to read.)
‘Internalized systemic ageism’ — aka age is a number
While some may think living to 100 was an achievement, my grandmother thought it determined how people treated her. At her 100th birthday party, she told us to tell the restaurant waitstaff that she was turning 93* years old. We could only mention her age when they left the room.
Likewise, Martha told “The Today Show”:
I don't act my age, and I don't want to even think about my age.
Both women worked to appear younger, which also means being healthier. Like my grandmother, Martha says she exercises regularly (Pilates every other day) and diets (cut out carbs for months before this photo shoot.) They both obviously color their gray hair, do not dress age-appropriately and have extremely high self-esteem.
Martha has been posting more photos of herself in bathing suits since the cover landed. She told NBC about how she looks:
…there might be some physical defects in terms of the “ideal” woman, but I have nice legs, I have a good body, I have good skin. I might be a little fat here and there, but who cares? It looks good altogether, the package is good..
Plastic Surgery for Aging
The 10 billion views of Martha’s cover are mostly from all of us trying to figure out what plastic surgery she’s had done.
Martha denies any work. She told Variety:
I’ve had absolutely no plastic surgery whatsoever. I have very healthy, good hair. I drink green juice every day. I take my vitamins. I eat very healthfully. I have very good skin doctors. I’m very careful in the sun. I wear hats and I wear sunblock every single day.
I saw Martha in a facial spa in New York City years ago. I share the details with paid subscribers below.
Plastic surgeons, however, say Martha has not been transparent about how her face looks so young. Dr. Alexander Z. Rivkin, M.D posted this side-by-side below and wrote that she clearly had a facelift, among other procedures. According to internet sleuths, Martha had work done by Dr. Andrew Jacono in New York City.
Martha is a natural beauty and her career started as a model. She’s famous for being beautiful, so investing in surgery to look younger makes sense for her career. It wouldn’t fit her brand to talk about getting work done. She’s always been unrelatable and created an image of perfection (except for the time in prison.)
Photoshop and Filters:
Martha is also being criticized for being heavily photoshopped “filtered’ in the photos. She told Variety:
They are incredibly accurate pictures. I was really pleased that there was not much airbrushing.
The truth is that all magazine photos are photoshopped (“airbrushed”), just as are all advertisements. This isn’t just a celebrity trick. Average women can’t pay for photoshop but social media posts are almost all filtered in some way. Facetune is an enormously popular app that takes away lines and wrinkles and can change the size of your body parts.
I highly doubt other 80-year-old women are looking at Martha’s photoshopped photos and thinking this is exactly how she looks in real life and feeling badly about themselves in comparison.
Looks Good for Her Age
I understand that people say that it feels like an insult when they are told that they look good for their age, rather than just looking good. I agree that it’s a slight because no one is telling a 25-year-old that she looks good for her age.
But DeFino's attack on my viewpoint as being "one very specific aesthetic" is just woke, wordy shtick and wrong.
Looking younger is a good thing because it almost always signifies good physical health, mobility and an active engagement with life. It is not about conforming to narrow beauty standards but embracing the best of ourselves and celebrating overall well-being. As I said, most doctors would agree that they prefer patients who appear healthy and vibrant, regardless of their age.
When Martha learned that she would become the oldest person ever to grace the cover of "Sports Illustrated," her response was: "I don't think about age very much, but I thought that this is kind of historic."
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