cate blanchett: a woman’s woman

In this modern age of open-mindedness, equality and freedom for all (cough), you would think that the ‘feminist movement’, that nasty concept with hairy-armpit connotations, should be well and truly behind us. It isn’t, of course. And it’s not just in the Middle East where having a vagina makes you a second-rate person, it’s sadly still a mindset that women the world over must tackle on a daily basis as they get sidelined in work promotions, condemned for choosing career over family, or leered at for wearing high heels. Yes, even after Hermione Grainger’s stirring UN address, the problem of gender discrimination persists.

The thing that really pisses me off, however, is the way in which women themselves perpetuate negative feminine stereotypes. Not all women mind you, but a bloody great many. Is it just my imagination, or do certain women equate ‘confidence’ with ‘being a downright nasty bitch’? Why do some women (generally those of a certain age or ‘X’ generation) after ruthlessly climbing the esteem ladder to stand atop the human success pyramid feel they must further cement their superiority by being pretentious, domineering, manipulative sociopaths and thus perpetuate the image of women as moody, hormonal bitches? Yeah, thanks a lot.

While this is clearly a topic that necessitates further discussion, it has been brought to mind today by Cate Blanchett’s fabulous tribute to Gough Whitlam. Having found myself with a dearth of positive female role models, it is heartening to know that there are still women out there who have ‘made it’ and don’t feel the need to punish the world for their success. On that note I explore several serious (and some not-so-serious) reasons why Cate Blanchett is one such ambassador, and why she gives me hope for the future of successful women.

1. Career

In just two decades Cate Blanchett has established herself as one of the greatest leading ladies of our time. She is universally acclaimed for her work and has mastered all genres from high fantasy to melancholic character studies, quirky comedies, cheesy action-adventures, war narratives, and period dramas. She chooses fantastic projects, having worked with all the best Australian actors as well as super talents like Glenn Close, Frances McDormand, Ralph Fiennes, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Dame Judi Dench and directors like Peter Jackson, Stephen Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen.

2. Galadriel

Not only did she score the best female role in Middle Earth, she somehow completely embodied Galadriel, the regal and terrifyingly kick-ass Elf Queen of Lothlorien. Honestly, who else could have even come close?

3. Success

Cate Blanchett is the only Australian to win two acting Oscars, and one of only six women to win in both acting categories, not to mention numerous BAFTA’s, AFI awards and other nominations. She also has several honorary doctorates.

4. Name

Catherine Blanchett was born with the perfect stage moniker, and best of all her middle name is Elise.

5. Loyalty

Despite being a Hollywood star, she has a home in Sydney and regularly returns to Australia to perform in theatre or offer fabulous memorial tributes. A recent five-year stint with her husband Andrew Upton as artistic director of the Sydney Theatre Company cemented her ‘national hero’ designation.

6. Theatre

Unlike many of her Hollywood counterparts, Cate Blanchett is as good on stage as she is on screen, and is not afraid to take on a risky live-audience role. Her career began onstage opposite Geoffrey Rush in Oleanna when she was 23 and went onward and upward from there.

7. Natural Beauty

Another rare quality to find in a modern Hollywood star, Ms Blanchett is ageing naturally and gracefully. It helps when you have a great face to start with but despite acknowledging the increasing pressure for women to be flawless on screen, she chooses to maintain a natural approach to staying beautiful.

8. Dignity

No leaked drunken videos or naked photos. No arrests for DUI or drug-possession. No string of divorces and scandalous affairs. Cate Blanchett is unfailingly dignified. She has been married to one man for 17 years and has three sons, proving that even in Hollywood it is possible to have a successful, long-term relationship.

9. Conservation

Cate Blanchett put her name behind the Australian Conservation Foundation’s online campaign for climate change awareness and is a patron of SolarAid. Instead of raving about how environmentally conscious she is on Twitter (which seems to be a requirement of celebrity shtick these days) she just quietly does something about it.

10. Women’s Advocate

Not only was her memorial tribute to Gough Whitlam a stunningly articulate piece of oratory, it also highlighted the very real struggle that women have faced over the years trying to establish themselves as equal career professionals. Several times she has spoken openly about her concern for the status of women in today’s society and yet is dignified enough not to pretend to have all the answers. In my opinion her continuous positive example is one of the most powerful pro-feminine messages in the world today.

So despair not, undervalued women of the world, for our fate is not left in the hands of the many bitter and twisted female leaders stirring up resentment wherever their stiletto heels tread. As long are there are women like Cate Blanchett out there quietly waving the flag of decent humanity, we may still have a chance at being taken seriously as successful, confident and, above all, respected members of society.

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