It happened towards the end of our morning meeting here in the Mamamia office. Fifteen women of all ages were gathered around the news desks, discussing the stories everyone is talking about today.
After the news and opinion stories had been allocated, talk turned to celebrity news. We all looked up to see the face of Nicole Kidman on the gossip segments of the breakfast TV shows under the headline “Red carpet backlash against Nicole Kidman’s new face”.
There was a collective intake of breath as we looked at her face. It did indeed look different.
In the images on TV and all over the internet, Kidman was shown at the Cannes film festival yesterday where she was promoting Grace Of Monaco at a screening and in a press conference.
She is still recognisably Nicole Kidman, still impeccable, but there’s no doubt her face has gone through some changes.
Discussion turned to whether we should write a post about it? The new face? The supposed backlash? The room was divided. There was some feeling that we shouldn’t do it. “We don’t want to get into surgery-shaming,” insisted one person. “But can’t we mention that she looks different without applying a value judgment to it?” argued another. “How is it different to a haircut?” interjected a third. “If she was brunette or had a bob then we’d cover that, wouldn’t we?”
Yes we would. But talking about someone’s face isn’t the same as talking about their hair. Is it?
This is the thing. Some changes a woman makes – like to her hair, her clothes or her makeup – can be discussed in a values-neutral way.
Jennifer Aniston’s haircut two days ago was one of the most popular celebrity posts on this website. When a famous woman changes her appearance, people are interested.
Other changes, however, are more loaded. No one would accuse you of being bitchy or judgmental for discussing someone going from blonde to brunette, or showing your pregnant tummy. But if you point out that someone’s face has changed – even if those changes are as plainly obvious as a dramatic haircut– then your comment is immediately fraught.
Changing your face still comes with huge helpings of social shame. It comes that way because even though our bodies are one of the very few things in our lives we actually do have control over, people are still obsessed with policing them, with telling us what we can and can’t do with them.