Dustin Hoffman muses on how he’d be different if he were a woman

Cover of "Tootsie - 25th Anniversary Edit...

Cover of Tootsie – 25th Anniversary Edition

This three-minute video has been circulating heavily on Facebook, with Dustin Hoffman telling the story behind making his hit 1982 movie, Tootsie.

Before he would go forward with doing Tootsie, the story of a man posing as a woman to get work, he wanted the makeup artists to demonstrate that they could make him look like a real woman, not like a man in drag.

When he saw that yes, they could make him look like a woman, his next thought was — can you make me a beautiful woman?

He chokes back tears realizing how he’s internalized that message of judging women on their looks.

In inhabiting the world as a woman, Dustin Hoffman had an experience I believe all women have had throughout their entire lives: looking at a photo of themselves or looking in the mirror and wishing we were prettier. We learn early on that beauty is currency not just in attracting men but impressing women, and we know that’s a scale upon which we’ll be judged.

I don’t know a woman who hasn’t wished she was taller or shorter, her curly hair was straight or her straight hair was curly, that she was curvier or less curvy, had better skin, better teeth … we can even get critical about things like kneecaps and toes.

Having grown up with that strong social message that prettier is better, when I see an unattractive woman, my knee jerk feeling is sometimes pity, or wondering if she couldn’t do something a little different with her hair or makeup to make the best of what she has.

Watching this video, I got a knot in my stomach. Isn’t it sad that even as a temporary woman, he’d feel unattractive? Isn’t is sad that I’d feel concern for someone because of something as superficial as looks?

This video is from the American Film Institute archives and it got posted to YouTube back in December, so I don’t know why it’s suddenly ricocheting around Facebook now. But I’m glad it is.

Related blog post:
What do you praise kids for? What about your friends, family and coworkers?

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