Helen Mirren recently interviewed with Allure magazine and did not hold back. The notoriously sharp-tongued actress and feminist icon spilled to an eager interviewer her definition of feminism, her opinions on the current political atmosphere, and advice she wishes she could give to her younger self.
At age 73, Mirren has witnessed many women in political positions and what their legacies have become. Of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, she says, ““Although I completely disagreed with her politics, Mrs. Thatcher was a great role model for women…a little four-year-old watching TV says, ‘Who’s this, Mommy or Daddy?’ ‘That’s the Prime Minister.’ Immediately, the girl thinks, Oh, I see; that’s possible.” Perhaps sometimes, representation is more important in the long run than a person’s actual policies.
As for present politics, Mirren remains puzzled by the complete lack of women in US government. “The idiocy of the Republican Party to have a room full of 25 old white men making decisions about the health of this country that is 50.8 percent women and 37 percent other races — I looked this up!” she says. Mirren believes in the well-documented fact that when women are put on an equal playing field socially, economically and politically, everyone is better off, regardless of gender. “If you go to a place where women are given advantages, life gets better, especially for children,” she says.
Today, she proudly embraces the title ‘feminist’ and encourages others to do the same. However, Mirren was candid in her interview about initially struggling to identify with the label. “I wasn’t into the very didactic feminism of the ’60s and ’70s because I liked wearing makeup and high heels,” she remembers. “That was a no-no. It was sort of ‘That’s playing to the patriarchy.’ I was thinking, Well, I just really like it. Then as feminism developed, they realized you can like nice dresses, high-heeled shoes, and makeup. That’s not stopping you from being feminist.”
As for her notoriety as a sex symbol, she seemed a bit reluctant to discuss it and said, “they called me sexy in those days. I fell into the cliché of sexiness: blonde hair, tits, waist, which I hated at the time because it was not fashionable. You had to be thin and have a cigarette and only wear black. And I just never fit into that look.”
But after meditating on it, sexiness to her seems to come from a sort of indescribable inner strength. She tells her interviewer, “When intelligence is combined with beauty, it’s extraordinary.”
Mirren, of course, doesn’t mean superficial beauty necessarily. She explains that 90% of women are not what society would think of as typically “beautiful,” and that’s okay. As cliche as it sounds, she really means inner beauty: kindness, authenticity, generosity. Those things are truly beautiful, simple as that.
As an older woman in Hollywood, she understands how the female body is treated as a commodity. Luckily, she has likely given up caring and wishes she could tell her younger self to do the same. If she could, she tells Allure, she would tell her younger self to, “f*** off” and stop being so “bloody polite.” If only it were that easy for the rest of us.
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