When I was a kid, my dad used to call me “Four Eyes” because, you guessed it, I wore eyeglasses. And did I need them! I had been squinting through a tiny bit of glass I picked up on the playground in order to read the blackboard from just a few feet away. My teacher figured out that maybe I needed to get my eyes tested and of course, the result was thick-lensed eyeglasses. But I insisted on flesh-colored frames because I thought maybe no one would notice them.
I was a hard-bitten tomboy and didn’t much care about being pretty or “feminine,” which was a good thing because once you wore glasses, you were done for in that category. All you have to do is watch a few old movies and see how eyeglasses were used to stigmatize and signal that the person wearing glasses was prissy or stuffy or stupid or “spinsterish” or mean or petty. Not nice or desirable, in other words. Alfred Hitchcock used glasses to indicate the woman wearing them was not good. The only movie in which the glasses-wearing woman came out on top, so to speak, was Spellbound. Ingrid Bergman was the woman and she wore glasses when she was acting as the psychiatrist to Gregory Peck. To be attractive and desirable, she took the glasses off.
Many girls and women preferred to stumble through an event without their glasses than have it known that they needed them.
Of course contact lenses were an option, but I fought them a long time out of the debt I felt I owed my glasses. And they were expensive.
Enter Sophia Loren. I suppose the eyeglass manufacturers were hurting after contact lenses became popular and so hired her to change the image. But change the image they did. Sophia Loren wearing eyeglasses? She looked good, and she changed the way people thought about glasses.
Now I’ve even seen women news anchors wearing glasses and no one would think them prissy or stuffy or stupid or “spinsterish” or mean or petty. Eyeglasses are still used to add dimensions to character in the media but often not in a negative way.
So hooray for Sophia Loren for glamorizing glasses. Thank you.