Since the announcement of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s ‘conscious uncoupling’ there’s been a glut of online commentary about their divorce, most of it highly critical. I was going to steer clear of the subject because the demise of someone else’s marriage is not of interest to me (also it’s none of my damn business). However, the vitriol that Paltrow has received after breaking her news is rather disturbing. A family being dismantled is sad, regardless who it is. True, Martin and Paltrow will be saved from the hurdles that a lot of more normal divorcing couples have to negotiate with regards to selling property and splitting assets. Many unhappy marriages trundle on and on because there won’t be enough money to go round once the house is divided. None the less, Paltrow’s turn of phrase has vexed a lot of people, I’m not crazy about her terminology – ‘conscious uncoupling’ smacks of pretentious psychobabble, but I don’t think she deserves to burn at the stake for it.
The reason why Gwyneth sticks in so many craws is because she puts herself forward as perfect – even her divorce is better than everyone else’s. Her squeaky clean, good girl image is on display for the world to pick to pieces. Her lifestyle website Goop and her cook books ‘It’s All Good’ and ‘Notes From My Kitchen Table’, extol the virtues of cleanly, goody two shoes living. That’s all fine and dandy, however to the time poor, cash poor average woman it rather reeks of holier-than-thou smugness. I should point out that I actually don’t mind Gwyneth – I find her entirely inoffensive – I’ve also got her cookbooks which are rather good. However, I don’t give two hoots about the private lives of celebrities. Really, who cares who’s put on weight or gone to rehab? Not I.
There’s a dark underside to the Gwenny bashing: she represents that perfect girl that we’re told we should aspire to be. Tall, slender, blonde, pretty, talented, lovely. Anything less than Paltrow perfection is a woeful fail. That’s pretty much everyone then, no? Even if we don’t aspire to be like Gwyneth, we’re still told that we should.
The trouble with the ‘perfect girl’ syndrome is that it’s invariably a glossy shell which obscures a fallible, normal human being. One of my closest friends is one of those apparently faultless women – slim long limbs, a main of golden hair, symmetrical bone structure and dainty features that would make angels weep. Oh, and did I mention that she is staggeringly talented? She’s also warm, kind and funny and just as likely to fall on her arse and make a fool of herself as anyone else. Over the many, many years we’ve know each other, my lovely friend has often commented on how other women don’t seem to like her. When we were younger and cushioned by wide eyed naivety, she was totally bemused as to why she received such hostility. As the years have oozed by she’s come to realise that the reason why she is rebuffed by other girls lies in the beautiful face that looks back at her from the mirror. She is judged purely on her looks; nothing more, nothing less.
It’s time that we women stopped feeling threatened by our own gender. My friend can’t help how she looks, in the same way that someone who is born with a facial disfigurement can’t change what they were born with. We’re indoctrinated from an early age to be competitive – fairy stories and then the media teaches us that we should be beautiful, winsome and perfect in order to have value. It’s a bogus paradigm where everyone loses. The beautiful are despised for their genetic disposition and everyone else hates themselves for not measuring up to an impossible standard. Let’s give the jealousy and hostility a rest, how about we all invest in a little more compassion? Not only for our fellow woman but also for ourselves. Divorce is painful, no matter the how it’s tarted up with phychobabble.
Feature photo courtesy of Collegecandy.com