Photo via Justine Bateman on Instagram
The other day I saw an alarming photograph of a woman’s face on Instagram. The woman was not smiling. She didn’t appear to be trying to look, I don’t know, pretty or anything. Her brows were wild and her eyeliner was severe. It was an extreme closeup and every line on her face was emphasized.
My first thought was, oh my god, is she mad that this photo being out in the world? Her best friend had posted it—had she gotten permission?
Turns out Justine Bateman, the woman in the photo, does not give a shit about mine or anyone else’s judgey assholery regarding her naturally aging face. Her new book, Face: One Square Foot of Skin, is a series of fictional stories about how pervasive and damaging ageism is in our society, and how a face that shows evidence of a long life should wield power, not incite prejudice.
You’re looking at f***ing determination and truth and creativity. You’re looking at loss and sorrow and the effort for a deeper perspective. You’re looking at satisfaction and happiness. You’re looking at a manifestation of a connection so deep and rooted that it’s more real than I am. You’re looking at my face.
She was no victim of someone’s poor judgement. She was a confident, alluring, badass. I wanted to know her. I wanted to be her friend. I wanted to be her. She looked fucking fierce.
How is it possible for my thoughts to transform so completely in just a moment?
And if my thoughts can transform that quickly, maybe there’s hope for society? Granted, I’m supposed to think this way. I run a website and podcast that’s all about empowering women to not care what people think of them. To be comfortable in their skin. To wear the lines on their faces with pride. And I’m ashamed of my initial reaction.
Susanna Schrobsdorff describes me perfectly in her Time magazine article about Bateman’s new book:
We are still stuck in the crack between empowerment feminism and reality.
I walk and talk like a feminist and then I look at a photo of a woman’s face and wonder how it can be OK for all of that reality to be right there for every one to see. Where’s the filter? Doesn’t she know about Facetune?
Looking at Bateman’s photo and then correcting my my knee jerk reaction was a swift smack upside the head, and I’m grateful for it. For some, it might require more of a steady thump to get through.
So let’s start thumping. More photos like this, please. More books like this. More badasses like Bateman. Let’s go.