Dear Justin Theroux,
First off can we say that it’s been nice getting to know better you over the last few days while you promote Girl On the Train. It’s true, we’ve known you as Jen’s man-in-black for several years now. Some of us even know you as the creepy, topless, bad guy from Charlie’s Angels or Carrie’s writer boyfriend who couldn’t quite…reach a proper conclusion on Sex and the City. But as far as your relationship with our favourite Friend goes, you tend to keep things on the DL, lest your any word be misconstrued as a sign of marital distress or a pregnancy confirmation.
Which is why your recent press tour has been such a treat.
There were your sensitive and kind-hearted comments about the Brangelina split. Talk about taking the high road. And your hilarious revelation that Jen is going to “kill” you if you buy another leather jacket. (We feel your addiction.) And most importantly there was the interview you gave to The Sunday Times, where you were asked how you feel about the whole “Mr. Jennifer Aniston” thing, and you—rather than burst into a ball of repressed macho rage or storming out of the room—said that the title is no biggie, just “a shorthand for describing who [you] are.”
And then you said more:
“Jennifer is a proper badass. She has lived through a lot of bullshit. Many people would have crumbled under some of the stresses that have been put on her. I’m very proud of her for that, for the way she handles herself. So in a weird way it’s an honor to stand behind her. Truly, in that sense, she’s amazing.”
[Clapping hand emojis to infinity.]
Talk about #relationshipgoals, and may we add that you, Justin, are pretty amazing yourself.
In just a few sentences you achieved the perfect partner trifecta, simultaneously gushing over and standing up for your woman—supporting her strength, all while demonstrating a quiet, cool confidence that isn’t shaken by a powerful babe. And while you probably weren’t trying to provoke a socio-political discourse simply by saying a few sweet things about the lady you married, your comments strike us as kind of a big deal—worthy of celebration, and part of a larger conversation.
We don’t need to remind you that wives have been referred to by their husband’s names as a matter of course for at least a few centuries…and it’s still happening. Who among us hasn’t recently been to a wedding where the newlyweds were introduced as Mr. & Mrs. So-and-So? It’s 2016, but nobody bats an eye—even worse, the tradition is considered “romantic.” That’s because of the long and still-held construct wherein women are expected to play a role that is subtly (or not so subtly) secondary—the best supporting actress to a best actor, the Tami Taylor to a Coach.
Just look at Michelle Obama, a formidable and impressive individual by any standard, who has downplayed her natural fierceness because the American public prefer to see her playing First Mom, tastefully appointed in J.Crew, supporting non-controversial causes like children’s nutrition rather that shaking shit up. We’re not dissing Mobama…or motherhood…or J.Crew, for that matter. Just pointing out that, unlike you Justin, much of the world is still not entirely comfortable with dominant women.
Maybe you saw this Atlantic article discussing the real reason that Hillary Clinton has been the subject of such intense vitriol over the course of her presidential run. It’s not that Clinton hasn’t given people reasons to question her politics. It’s just that the level of rage and knee-jerk animosity she provokes has more to do with what’s between her legs than what was or wasn’t on her email server. (Anyone who doesn’t believe this can peruse this sampling of merchandise on sale at the Republican National Convention last summer.)
A possible explanation can be found in the “precarious manhood theory,” which explains that while womanhood is innate, manhood (as defined by our society) is something that must be earned and maintained. This is where we get the notions about a “real” man (virile and hairy and axe wielding), and it’s why a certain type of masculinity is predicated on being the superior sex. In other words, some men are threatened by powerful women for the most obvious reason imaginable. When we talk about “toppling the patriarchy” (as Jill Soloway did so radly at the recent Emmy Awards), we’re saying someone’s gonna get toppled.
Speaking of the Emmys, Julie Bowen (who was nominated in the Best Actress category), gave an interview after the awards where she explained that her husband wasn’t there this year because he had a tennis tournament (fine), and also because: “It’s tough to be a purse-holder.” Bowen is presumably referring to the fact that her husband is frequently forced to step aside and support her at industry events, sometimes even being asked to—gasp!—hold onto her handbag for a few minutes. And apparently this is some kind of hardship…maybe even an indignity.
It’s not that we don’t get it—this is Modern Family’s five millionth awards season, and we can see how that might get snoozy for even the most supportive spouse. It’s just that you don’t often hear people talk about how it it can’t be easy to be the not-famous or lesser-known woman on the arm of a male celebrity. Women like Sibi Blazic (married to Christian Bale) or Grace Hightower (married to Robert De Niro) or whatever lingerie model Leo is dating at the moment, are generally presumed to have hit the jackpot. Nobody wonders how they handle playing second fiddle in public, because their being there doesn’t conflict with hundreds of years of social structure.
Which is where you come in, Justin—reminding the world that a powerful female partner is not a boner-killer, but rather something to be proud of, and certainly not an assault to any definition of masculinity that matters. As much as the actions of women, the future of gender equality will be determined by the actions of men, especially the ones who are strong enough to abandon outdated stereotypes, share their power and maybe even hold a purse when the situation demands it.
So this Canadian Thanksgiving, on behalf of proper badass women everywhere, we are thankful for you, Mr. Jennifer Aniston. Go ahead and get yourself another leather jacket—you’re earned it.
An Open Letter to Kim Kardashian, Re: The Sexy Lie
An Open Letter to Demi Lovato, Re: #NoMakeUpMondays
An Open Letter to Drew Barrymore, Re: Motherhood
An Open Letter to Rob Lowe, re: Boyeurism