The first thing that I learned in Hollywood was how to avoid the dreaded “turkey neck.” A novice to the horrors of a saggy under-chin, I found myself seated with a group of middle-aged mothers at a free wellness seminar in our apartment complex. Tami and Shiva, our neck health experts, coached us in a series of breathing exercises and stretches that they assured would protect us from this dreadful fate. Having lived 22 years under the illusion that the turkey neck was simply the part of the bird that you had to chop off before plucking, gutting, and cooking thanksgiving dinner, I was intrigued to learn more about my neglected chin and neck skin, but more importantly about this new group of people that places so much importance on such things. My newfound neck gurus did not disappoint.
The message that I took away from the neck seminar was this: there is a right way and a wrong way to look. If you look “right,” you are powerful. Happy. You belong. If you look “wrong,” you are lesser. This message is transmitted to women far more frequently and intensely than it is to men. It is no surprise that the students at the chin maintenance class were overwhelmingly female, with the exception of two males whom I had invited. Women in our country are held to an extremely limited and nearly unreachable physical standard. We scrutinize every part of the female form, all the way down to the skin on the underside of the chin. The skin on the underside of the chin! Seriously?
Though it is shocking to me every time, the strict social controls on women’s bodies that I am discussing here is not by any means a revolutionary discovery. And it is not only happening in Hollywood. This phenomenon has been observed, discussed, and resisted by many. Media, including the film industry, has often been accused of creating limited views of beauty and valuing women primarily for their bodies while simultaneously making women feel physically and intellectually inadequate. In 2014, only 52% of Hollywood’s most popular films passed the Bechdel test, whose sole requirement is that a film must include two women talking to each other about something other than a man (bechdeltest.com, 2015). Hollywood produces an overwhelming amount of content that excludes and objectifies women. However, this industry is not an evil machine intentionally designed to oppress women. So what is going on here that is causing this type of content to be produced?
Well, women aren’t producing it. According to Melissa Silverstein’s blog, Women and Hollywood, women comprise 7% of directors on major Hollywood films, 18% of editors, and 5% of cinematographers (http://blogs.indiewire.com/womenandhollywood/statistics, 2015). In a city that produces some of the most viewed content in the world, men tell the story. What would happen if women became more involved with filmmaking in Hollywood? Would the turkey neck survive? I doubt it. When women and men have an equal role in producing media, women and men will have more equal relationships in other facets of life as well.
Perhaps the best way to avoid the dreaded turkey neck is not eliminate saggy neck skin, but instead to stop dreading bodies that stray from a narrow idea of the perfect body. Until then, keep your chin up, neck back, digastric muscle strong, and breathe deeply. You too could have a flawless neck.