Jennifer Lopez is frequently berated for dating younger men. Women, generally get called out for the same thing. Why in 2017, is it still not seen as an empowering act, as it is for men with a younger partner?
Jennifer Lopez gets called out for an awful lot. She’s called out for her success; for making a comeback “over 40” (and it’s this that is deemed headline grabbing – the age number as opposed to career achievement), for being a diva and well, for the fact that Ben Affleck is really very “misunderstood,” according to Affleck’s third-wheeling BFF Matt Damon. And finally, she’s repeatedly called out for her relationships and marriages. There’s been too many of them, obviously and yet it’s not the men who are questioned, it’s the fact that they are generally younger than Jennifer Lopez that the mass media and society see as the “issue.”
She repeatedly gets called a cougar for the 17-year age gap between her and 28-year-old former boyfriend Casper Smart and now, Drake, while older men are practically congratulated for doing the same thing (and we can just see all the back-slapping that occurred when George Clooney’s younger wife Amal announced her pregnancy). “Men have been doing this for years, and it’s no big deal,” said Lopez recently said.
Oh, but it is a big deal. Especially if you’re a woman, and definitely if you’re Jennifer Lopez. The sexist fear of her doing this is layered: She’s over 40, successful, smart, beautiful and wealthy – why isn’t she with men “her own age”?! cries the Daily Mail and its tabloid copycats. Even Ellen DeGeneres was keen to pry about the “rumour” that Lopez frequented a younger person’s dating game (we thought you were on our side, Ellen), according to Harper’s Bazaar.
Lopez was understandably pissed at the line of questioning. “Okay, first of all, STOP. I don’t date younger men,” she responded, “It’s not like you have to be younger. It’s not about that. I just meet people. And, if I go out with them, I go out with them, and I like them, I like them. If I don’t, I don’t. It’s about the person; you know what I mean? It’s about who they are. It has nothing to do with age.”
And then she mentioned the cradle-snatching label that has followed her around for years, feeling driven to explain her reasoning for her choice of partner. “There’s this thing because I dated [Smart] and he was younger, and that was the first guy I ever dated who was younger than me,” she said, “But, then I got labelled right away. And then, that was it. It’s about whether or not I’m attracted to them or not. Attracted to their spirit, their soul, their energy, whatever–their body.”
But men don’t feel driven to explain dating a three-decades-younger woman; it’s just accepted. Whereas the toxic fear of a woman doing the same thing (because you don’t have to be J.LO to be confined to sexist labelling) is deemed INVESTIGATION-worthy to a tabloid (their caps) and such a travesty must be explained as it is in this piece. The article in question – a first-person account of a 58-year-old woman, anxious because her younger boyfriend of five years, “was one of the few men in my age group who deigned to go out with me” – is all the more outrageous and offensive because firstly, it was written by a female journalist and secondly that it was written at all.
But a good point is made by the woman in the article. She writes:
When men have a younger partner, they wear it as a badge of pride, carrying the totty on their arm proudly, and no one really thinks any the less of them, even if they have the years etched into their faces with a hatchet. But for a woman, being seen as the older, less attractive partner is slightly embarrassing.
And women are embarrassed. It’s fodder for a great deal of slagging in my family alone, should anyone’s male partner be even marginally younger.
The root of the problem lies in that language defines the way women and men are viewed in society; women are wrongly measured by a different standard. He’s ‘committed.’ She’s ‘obsessed.’ He’s simply asking for what he wants, whereas, she’s ‘difficult.’ She’s dating someone “younger,” he’s dating someone younger – it’s frequently written to praise the man and shame the woman.
And this should change. It’s as simple as that. I’ll happily high-five J.LO for collectively not giving a sh** when it comes to her quest for love and bagging handsome younger men. Because life’s too short not to. She doesn’t have a problem and no, it’s not a big deal.
But you know what? She’s J.LO. By that fact alone, she has had the last laugh.