'They couldn't make me a prettier woman'

Hoffman: ‘I went home and started crying to my wife, and I said, “I have to make this picture”.

Hoffman: ‘I went home and started crying to my wife, and I said, “I have to make this picture”.

Discovering for the first time what it’s like to be a woman within a patriarchal society can bring a grown man to tears.

Just ask Dustin Hoffman, who cried when he saw what he looked like as his character Tootsie — a struggling actor who disguises himself as a woman to land roles in the 1982 hit comedy of the same name.

‘I was shocked that I wasn’t more attractive and I said [to the make-up artists], “Now you have me looking like a woman, now make me a beautiful woman”,’ Hoffman said in an interview dug up from the AFI archives and republished by Mary Sue’s Jill Pantozzi.

Hoffman plays Tootsie — a struggling actor who disguises himself as a woman to land roles in the 1982 hit comedy of the same name.

Hoffman plays Tootsie — a struggling actor who disguises himself as a woman to land roles in the 1982 hit comedy of the same name.

‘If I was going to be a woman, I would want to be as beautiful as possible’, ‘And they said to me, “Uh, that’s as beautiful as we can get you”.’

Thirty years later, when he recounts his shock in discovering that Columbia Studio’s make-up artists couldn’t make him look beautiful, the Academy Award winner fought back the tears again.

It’s easy to see how a man could believe in the fantasy that physical beauty is within the grasp of every woman — or even every man pretending to be a woman.

Women are sold this lie daily: that beauty is simply a matter of drinking eight glasses of water a day, eating mountains of chia seeds and quinoa salad, a good moisturiser and a touch of lippy and mascara.

The multi-billion dollar beauty, diet and cosmetic surgery industries are testament to the fact that much of the time women are conned into believing it too.

The reality is that we can’t all be physically beautiful. Even the women who did strike it lucky in the genetic lottery have a beauty expiry date. Those who age as nature intended are castigated for letting themselves go and those who try to cling on to their youthful appearance — an essential component of beauty standards — are mercilessly mocked for drinking from the fount of someone else’s youth when they undergo plastic surgery and botox.

But Hoffman’s tears were not just because the best make-up artists in the business were unable to make him look hot. He cried because he realised the lesson that every woman has to learn the hard way: that our culture uses a woman’s beauty as the primary standard of her worth.

‘I went home and started crying to my wife, and I said, “I have to make this picture”. And she said, “Why?” And I said, “Because I think I’m an interesting woman when I look at myself on screen, and I know that if I met myself at a party, I would never talk to that character because she doesn’t fulfill, physically, the demands that we’re brought up to think that women have to have in order for us to ask them out”.’

His distress was also caused by the realisation that our culture’s reduction of women’s worth to that of eye candy, had hurt him too.

‘There’s too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.’

Three decades on, the brainwashing continues apace.

Regardless of our education, profession, accomplishments and contributions, our value is still determined by whether or not the men in the room want to bang us. We need look no further than the very public discussion of Australia’s first female Prime Minister’s legs, breasts and a*se by everyone from political opponents to noted feminists for confirmation of this.

Just thinking about the individual tyranny that women must endure and the collective waste of human potential, is enough to bring anyone to tears. It’s just a shame that it takes a man to impersonate a woman before we realise it.

 

Kasey Edwards is the best-selling author of 30-Something and Over It and 30-Something and The Clock is Ticking www.kaseyedwards.com

 

 

33 comments

  • Dorothy Michaels is deadset one of my heroes. If anyone tries to tell you that 'Tootsie' is somehow anti-feminist (etc), they are to be avoided at all costs.

    Commenter
    Clem Bastow
    Date and time
    July 09, 2013, 5:22AM
    • And how can you top "her" comments to Dr Brewster on the stairs in that famous hospital scene: "Ah am a WOMAN"!" Screen magic, truly.

      Commenter
      reality bites
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 09, 2013, 9:45AM
    • I'm a feminist. One of my all-time favourite movies, kids love it too, brilliant. I always thought they did a great job with him as a woman, funny he thought he was not pretty. Just shows that women are never happy with their appearance! Better than Robin Williams as Mrs Doubtfire!

      Commenter
      Carmine
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 09, 2013, 2:53PM
    • Well, yes, but then nobody has the right to define feminism. What is feminist to you may not be feminist to me, and vice-verca.

      Commenter
      Peter
      Date and time
      July 09, 2013, 10:06PM
  • Beauty is how close someone is to to the species average:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koinophilia#Physical_attractiveness

    Thank god Dustin Hoffman (and my wife !) are not average !

    Commenter
    Dr Mat
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    July 09, 2013, 8:58AM
    • "You were a tomato! A tomato doesn't have logic, a tomato cant move."

      "That's what I said, so if he cant move, how is he supposed to sit down"

      That argument scene is still one of the best and under rated scenes in movie history. Great acting. Should be no.. 1 for best argument in a movie.

      Commenter
      pete
      Date and time
      July 09, 2013, 9:02AM
      • A great movie when I first saw it in 193 and still great now.

        "I'd like to make her look a little more attractive, how far can you pull back?

        "How do you feel about Cleveland?"

        Commenter
        Jace
        Date and time
        July 09, 2013, 9:24AM
        • I've always admired Dustin Hoffman, but a little part of me just fell in love with him after reading this.

          Thanks Daily Life.

          Commenter
          The evil twin
          Date and time
          July 09, 2013, 9:28AM
          • Kasey should probably do some research on a topic before writing an article on it. A recent, well-publicised study found men who are better looking earn 22% more than those who are not. What's interesting is women's income wasn't found to be as highly impacted by their looks. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2291055/Men-bank-good-looks-earn-average-colleagues.html

            How exactly does this square with Kasey's unsupported assertion that average looking women are disadvantaged more than men in society? It doesn't. This is the problem with feminist articles (and sites) such as this. There are definitely issues of discrimination in society but when writers invent injustice it causes cynicism and gives credence to suggestions that some women play the "gender card" for their own gains. Eg PM's trying to boost polls; female writers trying to get a provocative (but untrue) article published.

            Commenter
            JohnW
            Date and time
            July 09, 2013, 9:44AM
            • Are you an average looking woman? I can tell you that there are many, many instances where you're overlooked for someone younger/prettier/tinner. Not just in employment but every day. There are times when I am convinced that I must be invisible because I seem to be ignored everywhere I go. Pretty sure that's not 'playing the gender card'.

              Commenter
              Anita
              Location
              Sydney
              Date and time
              July 09, 2013, 1:35PM

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