Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How Men Judge Women - Dustin Hoffman's Epiphany

Dustin Hoffman
Today is Tuesday, July 9, 2013.

Dustin Hoffman is an actor who is known for playing antiheroes and vulnerable characters.  In 1982, he starred in a movie entitled Tootsie, in which he plays a struggling actor who dresses as a woman in order to get a part in a TV soap opera.  

In an interview last December, he talked about how the movie came to be.  The question the producers asked was, "If you (a male) were born female, how would you be different?"  Hoffman clarified that this was not a question about how it would feel to be a woman, but what is the difference between the experience of being male and the experience of being female. 

To prepare for the film, Hoffman wanted the makeup people to make him look like a real woman, not just like a drag queen.  He wanted to be able to walk down the street in New York without anybody noticing that he was not in fact a woman.   When you see pictures of Hoffman for this role (and if you have ever seen the film), you know the makeup people did a superb job, and Hoffman's body language was also impeccable.  

As actor Michael Dorsey, dressed up as 
"Dorothy Michaels" in Tootsie. 
--> Hoffman explained that he didn't think the makeup made him look "pretty enough," and he asked them to make him look "more beautiful."  Their reply was that they couldn't improve anymore on his looks, given what they started with.  Hoffman was shocked.

Then he started thinking (and I'm paraphrasing, here), "I'm an interesting person, and I would be an interesting woman, but if I saw that woman (his character in makeup) at a party, I wouldn't go up to her and get to know her, because I wouldn't think she was pretty enough."  

At this point in the interview, Hoffman began to choke up and you could tell he was fighting back tears as he confessed that there were many interesting women that he had never gotten to know because he hadn't thought they were pretty enough to talk to.  It was obvious that he felt a great deal of remorse.  Here's a link to the video clip.

I think that it goes the other way, too.  Some women fail to go up and get to know certain men because they are not handsome or good looking, or if they are out of shape.  We all do this, and unconsciously, to boot.  Those of us who are not particularly beautiful or handsome, those of us who have physical imperfections, and those of us who are overweight can relate.  

The last year I taught, I had a student teacher, and not only was she a great teacher, but she was also really beautiful.  I remember introducing her to various staff members, and being struck by the way the male staff responded to her.  All of these men were happily married, and I think all of them would have been shocked if I told them that they were openly flirting with her.  Each and every one of them flirted - it was amazing how their demeanor changed from their normal, generally nice guy mode to flirting mode.  It was as if they couldn't help it.  Maybe they couldn't, I don't know.  I  only know that a man has never spoken to me that way, ever. 

The Internet is starting to change our way of getting to know people.  Nowadays we can easily exchange photos of each other, or even see the person we are talking to in real time, but when you exchange pictures, it's still possible to "present" ourselves in a more flattering light than would be possible in an in-person meeting.  Back when the Internet first got started, it was not quite so easy to exchange photos or videos.  People on "listservs" (email and bulletin board groups) communicated using text – not even smileys!  

I've met a lot of people on the Internet, and have had the experience of meeting quite a few of those in person, as well.  Some of the people I met in person were ones with whom I had been in daily contact, and we had shared some pretty intimate details of our lives.   Most people, I have found, represent themselves online pretty fairly, but I did have a few surprises.  What I have found, though, is that there are a number of people whose physical appearance would have put me off badly if I had met them in person, first.  I'm sure that must be true of me, for them, as well.  The Internet has given us the ability to transcend or bypass physical appearance and connect with strangers on a mental level.  (Emotional connections are possible, too, but generally not before a mental connection is established.) 

We judge ourselves and others so harshly, sometimes, and we do filter out a lot of perfectly interesting, lovable people without even thinking much about it.   Something to think about:  How many people have you not gotten to know because they were not pretty enough, not good-looking enough, not "cool" enough?   :-/

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