Are We Okay? Sydney Sweeney Discourse Edition

Are We Okay? Sydney Sweeney Discourse Edition

By Anne T. Donahue

This week, a national newspaper dropped an op-ed by a writer who urged the de-politicization of beauty. The argument was tethered to Sydney Sweeney and the way she looks, particularly in conjunction with “wokeness” which the author claims has no place in beauty-centric discourse.

I would link to the piece, but no thank you. So instead I will ask: are we, as a people, okay?

For the record and for those who do not know, Sydney Sweeney is a producer and actor whose face and body has been the subject of conversation, particularly in relation to her body shape. Like many women and female-identifying folks, she has breasts, and sometimes, depending on her chosen outfits, they’re a noticeable physical trait. This has astounded many because we’re surrounded by persons who are still grappling with the notion that having female-centric traits can also mean that one is talented, smart, and interesting. The piece in question grapples with this, but then urges us to accept that Sweeney’s physicality means . . . something. I’m not sure what. This is why I’m asking whether we’re all doing okay.

It’s wild that in the year of our lord 2024, to be consumed by a famous person’s appearance is something we’re finding bandwidth for. (Again, Kim, there are people that are dying.) It’s also wild that in the midst of a crumbling media landscape, there’s room in somebody’s budget for an essay on Sydney Sweeney’s body. (Please see the paragraph’s first parenthesis.) But I digress. To believe “wokeness” cannot “compare” to Sweeney’s “beauty” is the type of thing you really have to think about before diving into because it’s a fucking bananas thought to have. Basically what I’m saying is, can we just talk about people’s bodies in a normal way?

That begins by maybe not talking about them at all. I understand that famous people are going to be looked at (see: red carpets, large screens onto which they are projected), but to perceive them is another thing altogether. Most of us would rather not be perceived, and to assign more meaning to an image than “here is this person” is a baffling choice. Have we not learned that an aesthetic does not equate anything outside other than a specific wardrobe or beauty option? Have we not learned to stop analysing people’s bodies and to assign meaning to something that isn’t any of our business? As self-important as much of us feel, our thoughts and feelings about a person’s face/shape/size/height/physical traits has nothing to do with us. Why would it? And what does it say about us that we can’t seem to shut up?

Well, it tells us all that we have miles to go – a fact we can glean after years of body positivity and acceptance have given way to a re-commitment to extreme weight loss, as per the trend of celebrities looking vastly different than they may have less than a year ago. But that’s the other thing: as much as we might have to say about that (see: celebrities losing weight via Ozempic, via whatever), we don’t get to pass judgement about that, either. Why? Because they’re not our bodies and we don’t know them. How others choose to present themselves is their business, and our job (as fellow persons) is to let people live their damn lives.

And so I circle back to the Sweeney piece. It’s confusing that after so much discourse about the good and bad ways we make people feel, we’re still throwing words and loose arguments around to justify being utterly strange about the way a famous woman looks. Wokeness has nothing to do with any of it: to be a person who’s aware of other people’s feelings and mental and emotional health isn’t (or shouldn’t) be politically divisive. Unless we’re being overtly asked by a specific person about the way they – themselves – look, there’s no reason for us to weigh in on how their physicality factors into anything. We’re grown-ups. Everything feels terrible. And at the very least, we all know how shitty it is to be perceived, even if those perceptions are considered “flattering.”

Need a little more Anne? Read more from Anne T. Donahue right here!

Tags: Anne T. Donahue, Sydney Sweeney, top story, topstory

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