When Gwen Stefani rang in the new year with a performance on NBC’s New Year’s Eve 2020, the singer was ruthlessly trolled for not acting her age. But as the iconic singer proves time and time again, talent doesn’t have a sell-by date.
The dawn of a decade has broken, the day is young and the new year is filled with fresh possibilities. So why, in 2020, are we still talking about a woman’s age?
Well, apparently, everyday sexism does not stand still for time nor any outrageously talented woman, because Gwen Stefani became the subject of ruthless trolling when she performed on NBC’s New Year’s Eve 2020 event.
We are, of course, talking about Gwen Stefani, the music icon who has been enriching our lives with pop classics like “Don’t Speak”, “Hollaback Girl” and “What You Waiting For?” since the mid-80s, and a woman who performs so fearlessly and powerfully, that just listening to one of her songs is like taking your vitamin supplement for the day. Yesterday was no exception, as the star gave a literally dazzling performance of one of her biggest hits, “The Sweet Escape,” dressed in silver sequinned everything.
Sadly, it wasn’t her impressive performance that a few Twitter users chose to focus on, but her age and her appearance. The singer was accused of having plastic surgery, being dressed inappropriately, and branded “middle aged”, while others demanded that she stop performing simply because she is 50.
“Question… is @gwenstefani the worst lip syncher ever or is she so botoxed and collagened up that she just looks dead inside?” wrote one troll.
In a reference to her sequinned leotard, hoodie and boots, another troll remarked: “Gwen Stefani dressed up like Arianna Grande for #NYE. Wierd. And also yikes.”
If you’re thinking: why would anyone have time to comment on a woman’s appearance when they should be either a) squeezed in the middle of a packed crowd chanting Auld Lang Syne whilst wearing novelty sunglasses and swigging gin from a tin or b) eating their entire body weight in Quality Street on the sofa whilst watching Jools’ Annual Hootenanny, we hear you. Thankfully, the sexist level of scrutiny heaped upon Stefani didn’t go unnoticed.
As the commentary of her performance spilled into depressingly gendered territory, Stefani’s fans turned out in force to defend the star.
“Shoutout to @gwenstefani killing it in NYC singing a track I vividly recall jamming to when I was in /Grade Four/ ~15 years ago. Not only is she an amazing artist but I stg she has not aged a single day. #Queen,” one fan wrote, while another simply wrote: “Gwen Stefani performing Hollaback Girl live is phenomenal”.
It was the words of one Twitter user by the name @ElaineHaas that summed up the overwhelming sentiment of the evening, though.
“2020 just started and so far social media has bullied Lucy Hale for eye size, bullied Lindsay Lohan over her appearance, age shamed Gwen Stefani, gone after Paula Abdul for being “dated” when she’s trying a comeback. First NY resolution? Don’t be an asshole. It’s not that hard,” she commented.
It’s not hard to see that the unhealthy obsession with a woman’s appearance results from a society riddled with impossible beauty standards, and media that participates in the casual denigration of famous women’s bodies. And while it’s hard to resist our cultural conditioning, we would all do well to remember that women should never be shamed for defying the traditional narrative of age-appropriate behaviour, and living life on their own terms. Nor should they be praised simply because they appear to have preserved their youth, either. When we shake off those toxic, patriarchal ideas about how a woman ought to dress, age and behave, we find that there is no right way to be a woman. And Stefani, in all her bedazzling silver glory, is perfect testament to that.