This toxic conditioning reduces women to objects – people without agency or talents of our own. And it’s an attitude that is amplified tenfold in Hollywood, where notions of female youth and “perfection” are still lauded above all else.
So it’s up to a new generation of female stars, such as Italian actor Matilda De Angelis, to push back at these empty values (and the rampant sexism they give rise to).
Taking to Instagram this week, De Angelis – the breakout star of new crime drama The Undoing – shared a photo of herself with an acne breakout, in a powerful message about false beauty standards and body shaming.
In a translation of the Italian caption, De Angelis discusses the challenges of “being an actress and working with a face eaten by acne”.
“Every day I have to wake up and present myself first in front of the mirror and then in front of the camera with all the emotional load that already entails […] with all my fears and insecurities literally on the skin,” she writes.
“I wanted to share this little truth perhaps to feel stronger, perhaps to accept myself better.”
While acknowledging that there are worse problems in the world, De Angelis says her experience of acne has taught her an important lesson about self-worth.
“Our fears can paralyze us or they can become a great force, it is up to us to choose the path,” she says.
The actor’s words carry a vital sense of pushback that women everywhere can learn from. In an industry where stars such as Charlize Theron continue to face ageism, in all its ugly reality, and – on the other end of the scale – teenage actors are told their breasts aren’t big enough, everyone has a role to play in fighting misogyny.
The #MeToo movement has been an important part of this journey; but there is no room to be complacent.
The battle against sexism is just as evident in everyday life. Whether it’s forgetting to call female politicians by their full names (an oversight that never happens to men, funnily enough) or female barristers being sexually harassed, the fightback against male chauvinism is needed from all angles.
De Angelis’ post in a reminder for women that we don’t have to conform to any imposed gender standards: from beauty to behaviour or beyond. And that mindset starts with being confident in who we are; including owning the so-called flaws that we, as women, are not supposed to have.
De Angelis, who is well-known within the Italian TV industry, was propelled into the US spotlight with her breakthrough role in The Undoing this year. De Angelis plays artist Elena in the Sky Atlantic thriller, opposite Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman.
The psychodrama is a modern-age whodunnit. After Elena is murdered with a sculptural hammer in her studio one night, the spotlight falls on her relationship with married pediatrician Jonathan (Grant). Elena also has several intense scenes with Jonathan’s wife, the elusive Grace (Kidman), on the run-up to her untimely death, and reappears in a series of flashbacks during the show.
In real life, De Angelis is also good friends with I May Destroy You creator Michaela Coel, whom she met at a rising stars event in Berlin. “I love her completely,” the actor says of Coel, in an interview with The Times this week.
Images: Getty, Sky Atlantic