A few years ago, I was mentioning to a hiring manager – a CLIENT – over the phone that I would be out of the office for several days because we were celebrating my husband’s 50th birthday. He then actually had the nerve to “joke” with me that my husband was “robbing the cradle”, and when I calmly mentioned that I was 43, his first response was to say “well you’d never know!”, in one of those creepy backhanded compliments.
It’s always annoyed me when people create some kind of hierarchy based on how you should supposedly look at a certain age, and how so many – and all the marketers around us (even the faux-feminist magazines like Glamour) inundate us with messaging that to age is, well, a mortal sin. Even the articles claiming to PROMOTE self-acceptance have tips on “feeling younger” and telling you things like “if you smile more you’ll “stop looking old”. Hell, I just googled “embrace aging” and came upon an article that I thought, okay, this might actually be a good one because it talks about “science-backed reasons to embrace aging” and starts out with a focus on Happiness…then by the end of the infographic? It tells you ways to stay “forever young”. WTF.
Live longer tips? Fine.
Embracing who you are? Awesome.
But implying that the more wrinkles we have is a genuine tragedy or that because we are different at 40 or 60 or 80 implies that we must do whatever we can to try to look like we are 20 or that to do X, Y or Z means we are “youthful”? Again, I call BS.
I am in my mid-40's, and while I wouldn’t mind the waistline I had at 19 or the abs I had at 24, I also wouldn’t trade where I am in my life – even with all that I’ve dealt with over the past few years – to be that age again. That insecure? That ignorant? That inexperienced? Awww HELL no. I have worked my arse off for everything I’ve learned and to get where I am today, and I am sick and tired of the world telling me that because I supposedly look like I’m in my 30s that I’ve got some kind of advantage. Nope, I don’t want to be carded at the grocery store or have a teenage boy hit on me.
Feelings are not age-exclusive. To feel “energetic” does not equate to “youth”. To “look your age” should not be deemed a compliment.
And the feeling of invisibility that often comes with getting into one's 40's and older if we DON'T try to freeze time? While some see it as freeing, the fac
"And then it happened to me. I realized that when I walk down the street, younger people simply don't see me. Not a glance, not a smile...Why people are increasingly treated as if they're invisible as they age (more prevalent it seems, for women) is curious, though perhaps not surprising. We live in a youth-fixated culture where people are afraid to age and to be vulnerable to growing older; where ideals about attractiveness are oriented around those with young, healthy bodies. Even the role models of middle age women...are over 40, but whose physiques are more similar to women decades younger."
~ from The Invisible Years
I bring this up because of how this contributes to the rampant ageism in the workplace, on top of the sexism women already deal with. Folks may talk about how there are more women in a position of power, the fact is that if it's in the news? It's not yet normalized. And when those women put on their jeans and go to the grocery store? Many of them disappear into the fray. It doesn't mean they all lose their confidence, but if they are not looking like JLo, the world around them often ceases to recognize their value, both as individuals and as employees.Think about how many candidates are turned away because HR and hiring teams make a false equivalency that an older person won't "fit in"- then deem the applicant as "overqualified" or similar illegitimate reasons for declining to move forward.
So with that, here are 5 things men and women need to stop doing – NOW:
1) Stop the surprised congratulations of women for how they look after finding out their age. “You don’t look it” is not a compliment, it’s a crappy way of telling women that if they DID look whatever 32, 46, 63, 81 or whatever is ‘supposed’ to look, that they’ve picked the short straw in life. “When we behave like someone is the exception for being attractive and older, we contribute to ageist stereotypes...Equating beauty with youth perpetuates a superficial definition of beauty. Also, it’s ageist, and that’s not cool.” (source)
2) Stop telling women they don’t look their age. ET and Extra! do this all the time, perpetuating the negative reinforcement that for a woman to look one’s age? It is a very, very bad thing. The amount of makeup plastered on celebrities to make them what they call “camera ready” is quite frankly, repulsive. I was sickened to hear about all of the online trollers who railed against the women of The Talk for all of them going without makeup for a day and talking about it. It shows how twisted our communities and families have been in teaching girls and women that it is NOT acceptable to go out – in their words – “without putting your face on”. I thought it was tragic during it when 60-something Sharon Osbourne, without her full makeup on, joked that seeing herself this way made her want more plastic surgery. So much self-hatred in our society as a result of the incredible disrespect to women that – gasp, just like men! – have the NERVE to get older. “Instead of telling a woman she doesn’t look her age, just tell her she looks good. Really good. “Wow, you’re beautiful,” is something every single person on the planet recognizes as sincere currency, and we can live off that bank of positive energy for days.” (source)
3) Stop promoting the “rule” that women should never reveal their age and stop taking offense when people ask you yours. WTF is up with shaming women in this way, and being so ashamed of how many years you’ve survived being on this crazy planet?! Why is how old you are a private question if not because the world has told us we might be looked down upon or treated in a negative fashion if we ‘admit’ our years? “Imagine a scene: at lunch, a co-worker casually asks, ‘How long have you and your spouse been married?’ and is gently and coyly rebuked with ‘Oh, a lady never reveals that sort of information.’ The co-worker, after a baffled pause, decides to eat at the OTHER table from now on. It’s not as if asking somebody’s age is the same as, for example, asking how many sexual partners they’ve had (now THAT is an interesting question to toss out around a lunch table at work).” (source)
4) Stop telling women that wearing makeup helps them “look like themselves, only better”. I kid you not, makeup artist and faux feminist Bobbi Brown told girls in O Magazine article that makeup will “enhance” their beauty, making it clear that they are NOT okay just as they are. This one also tells girls that if they don’t like their noses to talk to their parents about plastic surgery and to curvier girls that they have very few role models! She goes on to say that “Makeup is a way for a woman to look and feel like herself, only prettier and more confident”. Exactly what’s wrong with our world. If you are dependent on MAKEUP to feel confident? You are not truly confident. Oh yeah, and f*** you, Bobbi Brown.
5) Stop using the term “ageless”. This is one of those backhanded compliments that’s actually an insult to women as a whole. This article in Elite Daily articulated this problem perfectly when referring to how people gush over actor Helen Mirren:
“Although breathy media photo captions are quick to call the star “ageless,” that’s certainly far from true. Just because she’s lovely and vivacious doesn’t mean she hasn’t aged. With added years come wisdom, intelligence and a thought-provoking body confidence that women in their thirties would give anything to possess. So why are we so quick to make aging a negative concept? Feminists proudly proclaim that women are worth more than just sex appeal, with complex brains and emotions that deserve equal treatment. When we call a woman “ageless,” the adjective implies she’s still relevant because she maintains a sexuality comparable to that of a younger woman.”
Don't believe this is legit? Amy Schumer & co describe it perfectly...