Considering Martha Stewart

I debated whether or not to write this post for days. Don’t we have more important things to consider than Martha Stewart in a bathing suit? However, I overcame my objections because her Sports Illustrated cover poses important questions about aging women in America today.

Being Martha Steward, aged sex symbol, takes time, money, and professional interventions. Obviously for Stewart looking good is just as much of a job as her cooking and style empires. Some of it is accomplished through sheer will power. If you have ever taken a look at her (exhausting) monthly calendar at the front of Living magazine, you will see that her mornings are filled with weight lifting, Pilates, swimming, and strenuous gardening. She drinks lot of green juice, too. All of this must account for her slim shape, with no hip shelf or menopot in sight.

However, it’s important to stress that she has a team of professionals to help. She employs exercise trainers, gets monthly facials, and has her hair dyed. Although she insists that she has had no major plastic surgery, she goes to a dermatologist twice a year for minor treatments like fillers. For the photo shoot she got a spray tan and a full body wax. So good health and discipline are not the only things she has going for her.

Is it good to know that some women can look like young beauty queens well into their eighties? Some commentators have praised Stewart’s cover shoot as aspirational, as proof that women can live up to American standards of beauty regardless of their age. However, I’m inclined to agree with Ashley Applebaum, who calls such people “super geezers.” While they certainly exist, presenting their stories as the new normal only serves to shame those without the time, money, and good health to follow in Stewart’s path. And doesn’t Stewart’s cover page just perpetuate the idea that in order to look good you need to be trim, without a wrinkle in sight?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

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10 Responses to Considering Martha Stewart

  1. bellneice says:

    The first thing that comes to my mind is ewww, and I’m usually more eloquent than that.
    I’ve heard that the French say that at a certain age a woman has to choose between her face and her derriere. I see it more as choosing between your body and your soul. All the energy, time, Photo Shopping and money to halt the hands of time could be better spent somewhere else.
    Would I feel better if it were an older woman who isn’t Martha? I’m not sure. Other than Martha and Cher, I can’t think of any older woman who would be considered, or who would consider appearing on the cover of SI.

    • Julie Zuckman says:

      Helen Mirren!

    • Sally Stein says:

      I concur that this is a choice between care for body or soul
      This cover looks soulless as well as downright silly. I keep thinking of the late 30s film Lost Horizon. This feels like Lost Horizon redux. How I’d welcome seeing this ex-con in real life outside the glam studio She may still look well-preserved but hopefully less silly. Sally

  2. Julie Zuckman says:

    Obviously this is not attainable by anyone without the time and money to devote to her body, skin, face and hair. Not to mention genetics and health. (I’d like to see a photo of Martha’s mother at the same age, out of curiosity.)
    Just because I’m also a senior now doesn’t mean I relate to her any more than I did when we were both youngish and then middle-aged. (I didn’t.)
    It’s “what has Madonna done to herself!” territory – a mix of schadenfreude, envy and just plain celebrity voyeurism.
    Also, what do men have to say about her on the cover? Isn’t it intended for their eyes?

  3. Lorax says:

    She does look great for her age – but as you said, lots of money to support the time and effort to get there. And as a woman who is ‘of a certain’ age… I think such covers should be left to the younger women. This just strikes me as another business trying to prove that they embrace “inclusivity” to the point that they look silly. I agree with Julie – wonder what the men think about these covers? When men comprise 72% of SI’s reader base, I think it is a fair business question.

  4. Nann says:

    The Martha Stewart brand is exponentially bigger than Martha Stewart the person. Think of other “personalities” whose selves are their jobs — Oprah, the Kardashians, etc.

    • Julie Zuckman says:

      Oprah and Martha actually produced tangible work. The Kardashians are famous for being famous. I used to really enjoy some of the Martha projects and Oprah’s book selections. Can’t say I’ve derived anything like that from the Kardashians.

  5. Marilise says:

    This picture is like every fashion photo–mostly illusion, the old smoke and mirrors tricks with makeup, hairdressers, lighting, just-so pose, camera filters, etc. And, if those don’t work well enough, there’s always Photo Shop.

  6. JS says:

    I’ve never thought of the Swimsuit Issue as anything other than an exercise in objectification and seeing the selection of an older woman who was a beautiful young woman and has extraordinary resources to maintain herself did not seem like something to celebrate. It also seems obvious that they picked just the clothes, especially the big wrap, did her makeup with care, and lit her just so in order to create the most flattering photo.

    Martha Stewart, although I have liked some of her magazine issues, has always been about the fantasy. I’ll never forget an article that revealed she and her daughter were scrambling to find a restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner. That’s right, the domestic goddess wasn’t making the big feast at one of her magnificent homes.

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