Cameron Diaz on the cover Photo: Harper's Bazaar
So Cameron Diaz, who turned 40 in August, sat down for an interview with the UK's Sunday Times magazine. Of course it was long and extensive and of course the online media, (yeah, that's us!) has taken the juiciest bits and magnified them. They are as follows:
Diaz told a journalist by the name of Giles Hattersly, a man who appeared to flirt with her throughout the interview, that stripping down to her underwear and appearing in sexy magazine spreads is "empowering."
"I think every woman does want to be objectified," she said. "There's a little part of you at all times that hopes to be somewhat objectified, and I think it's healthy."
Cameron Diaz just last week.
Okay. Before we slap on our 'You're Doing Feminism Wrong' sashes and wave our 'oh no you di-n't' fingers in her face, let's consider a few things.
1.Diaz, who began as a model before her break-out role in The Mask at just 22, has come of age in an industry that accords the greatest amount of power to women for doing exactly what she describes - taking their clothes off. Despite mediocre roles in movies like Bad Teacher last year, Diaz is currently the second highest earning actress in Hollywood, (Kristen Stewart is number one and she's not exactly known for being dowdy.) So it makes sense that there is always a 'little part' of Diaz that wants to be objectified - because objectification is her bread and butter. In other words, don't hate the playa.
2.I can understand - at least in part - what Diaz is saying here. Who doesn't want to look pretty? Which woman - or man - does not enjoy getting dressed up and having their photo taken? If you need proof, why not have a trawl through a few dozen Instagram accounts and the numerous 'Selfies' therein. Even Tina Fey, patron saint of pop cultured feminism, has admitted that she loves magazine shoots.
3.Diaz - a grown woman - is allowed to do and say whatever she likes without having to suffer the condemnation of other ladies. I'm sure Diaz is well aware of this. I mean, she did say she could handle herself.
There is a difference between 'feeling pretty' and straight up objectification. See, objectification, for those who may not know, is about taking away someone's humanness and turning them into - yep! - an object. That is, a thing that has no feelings or thoughts and exists solely for the purpose of another human being's pleasure. It means reducing another human to simply their body parts. And if you wanna get old-school femmo on this, it also implies ownership of the 'object' by another human, historically a man. So what Diaz is saying, although she may not realise it, (then again, she may) is that she does not care if people do not see Cameron Diaz, a person. She considers it healthy in fact, if she is reduced to a blonde with breasts and legs. If this were true, the title of the Sunday Times piece should read 'Interview with blonde with breasts and legs'. Only it doesn't - it names her.
Ariel Levy spoke about this conundrum at length in her book, Female Chauvinist Pigs. Please allow me to quote from it.
“There are some women who are probably genuinely aroused by the idea of being photographed naked. But I think we can safely assume that many more women appear in Playboy for the simple reason that they are paid to. Which is fine. But 'because I was paid to' is not the same thing as 'I'm taking control of my sexuality.”
And because I'm feeling preachy today, let me quote from it again.
"Women's liberation and empowerment are terms feminists started using to talk about casting off the limitations imposed upon women and demanding equality. We have perverted these words. The freedom to be sexually provocative or promiscuous is not enough freedom; it is not the only 'women's issue' worth paying attention to. And we are not even free in the sexual arena. We have simply adopted a new norm, a new role to play: lusty, busty exhibitionist. There are other choices. If we are really going to be sexually liberated, we need to make room for a range of options as wide as the variety of human desire. We need to allow ourselves the freedom to figure out what we internally want from sex instead of mimicking whatever popular culture holds up to us as sexy. That would be liberation."
So ... yeah. I think it's fine if Diaz wants to make those choices, because unlike many non-celebrities she has earned power from it. I just don't know how to quantify that power in human terms, especially as, at the age of 40, Diaz's power is not likely to last much longer, simply because sexual power is inextricably tied to youth. And I'm not really sure that it's healthy.