This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
- DAY: Friday
- MOOD: Apoplectic
- ACCESSORIES: A bottle of gin
Ageism is alive and well… everywhere. As an ageing woman, one’s value apparently fades like poster left in a shop window too long, like the last slices of a stale loaf, or the browning banana in a bowl. A cliche? Or are you one of those positive women who feel they are never too old?
On the train home the other day, I looked up from the novel I was reading and noticed:
- I was the only person reading an actual book
- I appeared to be the oldest (female) commuter there
- Everyone else was plugged in to mobile phones and tuned out
This made me feel a tad uneasy. Could it be that I was out of touch? It wasn’t that I didn’t use tech, it was that I valued the old-school feel of a real book – no batteries required. But was it time to accept that I was from a different time? And that my time had come and gone?
I cogitated that in other cultures, such as the Japanese, the mature are treated with respect, because most of us have paid our dues and walked the walk. Not so, in the western world, where to be old is to be perceived as irrelevant, out of sync and approaching obsolescence. Just look at how mature women are portrayed in the media (with a few exceptions):
- Nan, Gran or ‘Nonna’
- Witch or hag
- Losing our minds
- Struggling, sad, lonely pensioner
The reality is so very different. After so many years of giving, of raising our families and running around like headless chooks, we women finally reach an age where we have time to be ourselves, to re-find and even redefine ourselves. Often, this is THE most productive period of our lives.
In the workplace, an older woman is armed with priceless skills that only time can give – wisdom and experience, even perhaps with a bit of patience thrown in? But time and again, she is discriminated against purely on the basis of her ageing appearance. As if getting old was some kind of offence, or worse, that she should be ashamed to look her age.
Society of course, pressures women to go to endless (and often drastic) measures to look thinner and younger. The whole cosmetic industry makes billions on that premise – notwithstanding female insecurity. We have been indoctrinated from childhood to evaluate our value with how we look. All of this of course, has a disturbing, historical grounding in patriarchal, misogynistic beliefs that relate only to women’s reproductive or sexual uses.
No prospective employer will ever say explicitly, ‘you’re too old’ – as we know age discrimination is unlawful, but it will be there somewhere, hidden in the subtext.
But what to do? Arm ourselves with a gun and a bottle of gin? Actually, there is no answer for it, except to lead by example, and not to feel depreciated by a profoundly discriminatory culture. There’s wisdom and poetry in grey hair, my friends, as you already know. We mature women have more value than we often realise, and we have to let the rest of the world know it, loud and clear!
For myself, I honour a power suit, (real) pearls, defiant red lipstick and a sassy attitude. There will be no more apologising from for the magnificent, highly capable, wise and strong woman that it’s taken years for us to become. “You’re out of touch,” I will ricochet, “the new trend for any REALLY SMART employer is…”
We think you’ll also enjoy Annabel’s article Challenging the Stigma: The Beauty and Value of Ageing
You can read Katherine’s blog here