The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Dame Helen Mirren’s Red Bikini: It’s Okay To Be Old, So Long As You’re “Hot”

Posted by Clem Bastow on July 24, 2008

(Note: If you haven’t seen the photos of Dame Helen Mirren on holidays in her red bikini yet, have a look, lest the rest of this post make no sense.)

I’ve to’ed and fro’ed over the whole “OMG Helen Mirren in a bikini!” fuss for the past week – there’s no doubt that Mirren looks smashing in her swimsuit, but it’s the media and blogosphere’s reaction that bothers me, because the not-so-hidden undertones to the coverage essentially say, “See, we’ll put a 63-year-old woman in our paper! (Provided she looks ‘hot’.)”

If Mirren stepped out in a bikini with equal confidence but instead showed off varicose veins, a sagging bosom or crepey skin, you can bet your boots the papers would be howling, “Put some clothes on, nanna!”

And while much of the coverage purports to be batting for visibility on behalf of older women, I can’t help but feel as though all this does is exert yet more pressure on women – both older and younger – who don’t manage to fit into that small and unforgiving genre of appearance known as “hot”.

Take this opinion piece from the Herald Sun. At first, it seems to be supportive:

What a reversal of nature’s rules to find so many men lusting after a woman older than their mother.

But that’s exactly why the picture was such a vision of hope for ageing women around the world.

Here was a woman, who turns 63 on Saturday, looking not just good “for her age” but damn hot. Full stop.

So far, so good (sort of). But it’s not long before the big “bup bow” starts sounding for all the mere mortal 63-year-old women of the world:

She may not even have known the snappers were there until she was snapped.

Yet there was no cellulite on show, no canteen-lady bat-wing arms, no sagging tum and no crepe-like skin creeping over her neck.

In other words, if you have cellulite, canteen-lady arms, a sagging tum or crepe-like skin, you better put it away! The piece goes on to further stick the boot in by damning Greg Norman’s partner, Chris Evert, with similar faint praise:

You would think that after ditching his wife of 25 years, he would have taken up with some 22-year-old blonde reject from the Playboy mansion.

And we wouldn’t have been surprised.

Let’s face it, that’s become the usual for an ageing, wealthy and powerful man.

But the new love of the Shark’s life is the same age he is – 53-year-old former tennis champion Chris Evert.

She also looks great for her age.

Wow, er, go sister – well done you, Evert. At least you kept your looks, eh? The article finishes up by mentioning that Madonna is about to turn 50, but despite all this apparent ra-ra treatment of older women, it leaves a decidedly unpleasant aftertaste. It says, if you are over 50 and hot, then you have nothing to worry about. The rest of you, eh, not so much.

The thing is, it’s great that Mirren has stepped out in her swingin’ swimsuit, but how long will it be until one of the gossip magazines publishes a picture of Jerry Hall and hoots about her cellulite, or compares Dame Maggie Smith to Yoda, or runs an unflattering photo of any female celebrity over the age of 45 who doesn’t look like an airbrushed pin-up?


4 Responses to “Dame Helen Mirren’s Red Bikini: It’s Okay To Be Old, So Long As You’re “Hot””

  1. Marie Johnson said

    You do make a valid point that a 63-year old woman with a not-so-hot body would NOT be posted on most headlines.

    But, let’s face it, unattractive women (and men) of ALL ages suffer the same discrimination – unless it’s one of those “shocking” candid photos of celebrities sans makeup or with a bit of bulge (remember those horrid pictures of Kirstie Alley when she first ballooned a few years ago.)

  2. petiteyogini said

    I agree with you. Plus it’s not really fair to compare aging normal women with celebrities. I’m sure it’s a lot easier to “age gracefully” when you can afford it.

  3. Brownie said

    Helen Mirren caused a fuss in Australia when about 14 years old – getting her kit off while making a movie – The Age Of Consent in Queensland.

    The Prime Minister of the time, made no public comment.

  4. Barbara said

    I agree with what you wrote about Helen, and while I admire her as an actress, I went back and looked at some older photos of her and there is more happening here than good health and exercise.

    it is unfair to ask the general public to try to live up to that image, few can afford it. I think a lost of all the ‘enhancements’ she has had should be included.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: