Why We Need To Stop Telling Women To Act Their Age
"You're only as young as you feel," the saying goes. That is, unless you're a woman over a certain age. Despite great strides in gender equality, ageism towards women is still perfectly acceptable in our modern society. It's the reason women past their 'prime' struggle to get hired in Hollywood, why older performers get slated for their risque stage attire, or why you cringe when your mum starts slut-dropping in the bar; because God forbid a woman past 40 still enjoys herself!
In an age where youth is anything, it is no wonder women; both celebrities and us mere mortals are turning to plastic surgery to turn back the clocks. Men, on the other hand seem immune to the downsides of ageing, especially in la la land. Take David Beckham for example. David, aged 41 is constantly referred to as being like a fine aged wine, DILF and all round hottie (although I totally get why). His wife, on the other hand, is ridiculed for appearing "gaunt and tired, with jutting cheekbones and circles under her eyes".
Film stars also mirror the same double standards. Hollywood heavy weight Brad Pitt, aged 53 is still a regular feature in the latest action block busters, usually paired with an attractive, younger woman. Actresses of a similar age often find themselves typecast as mothers, nagging wives or supporting roles. Risa Bramon Garcia, a director, casting director, and teacher, says:
The problem happens when writers and producers don't see women as being sexual after 40 - by sexual I mean complex human beings who are attractive and appealing, vital and powerful, in their 40s and 50s and beyond.
Tackling the issue of ageism is pop legend Madonna. Despite being the undisputed queen of pop music; pushing the envelope of female sexuality and gay rights, while inspiring countless modern artists such as Britney Spears and Lady Gaga, her decades of ruling the charts are now being overshadowed by her age.
In early December 2016, Madonna was a feature on James Corden's Carpool Karaoke. During the segment, Madonna was, well, being typical Madonna - singing and dancing seductively; the horror!
In retaliation, the ever obnoxious Piers Morgan pretended to almost vomit on Good Morning Britain quipping that he feels "slightly nauseous," while proceeding to ask "has anyone got a bucket?"
His reasoning for his obscene reaction?
You can't be 58 and dancing around like that. Put it away!
Delightful as ever, Piers. On the same token, perhaps you should act your age and stop being a little b*tch. Not very mature for a 51-year-old.
Let's be honest, Madonna has a figure that women half her age would kill for. If we didn't know Madonna's age, would we still be repulsed, or is the fact that a 58-year-old woman is going against how she is expected to behave that makes us uncomfortable? Perhaps Piers would prefer it if Madonna stayed at home, sipping tea. However, can we really expect a woman who released sexually charged classics such as 'Justify My Love' to fade into retired bliss? I don't think so.
Piers' cruel jibes follow in the wake of several incidents where Madonna's age has been dissected. Last year, Radio One refused to give her single 'Living for Love' any air time, as Madonna doesn't fall into the radio station's target 15-30 demographic. Arguably, the song would have been a smash hit, if it had been released by a younger artist.
Discussing the plague of ageism, Madonna told Billboard:
Age is only brought up with regard to women. It's connected to sexism, chauvinism and misogyny. When Leonardo is 60 years old, no one is going to talk about his relevance. Am I relevant as a female in this society that hates women? Well, to people who are educated and are not chauvinists or misogynists, yes.
However, ageism as a concept far exceeds the glitz and glamour of celebrity culture, and arguably has roots in society's sexist past. 50 years ago, the lives of men and women, and their expected roles were very different to today. Men were the bread winners, while women looked after the family, cooked and cleaned. Female sexuality was something rarely talked about or celebrated. Sex for example, was typically for the man to enjoy and for a woman to "lay back and think of England," (my Grandma's words, not mine).
While societal views towards women have shifted considerably, many people can't get their heads around older women embracing their sexuality and breaking away from behavioral expectations.
However, women aren't restricted to the role of housewife anymore. In the past few decades, there has been a phenomena that's happened to older generations, that my mum refers to as a 'second youth'. Rather than staying in on a Saturday night, more and more women are hitting the town, dressing in whatever the hell they want, and giving 20-year-olds a run for their money, and why not? Women work just as hard as men, and should be able to let their hair down. Furthermore, with divorce rates at a record high, for many women in their 40s and 50s, now is the first time in their lives that they can go out and enjoy themselves, without marital commitments, or the burden of young children to look after.
Why I may have a slightly unorthodox relationship with my mum, who I regularly hit the town with (she can out-party me to be fair), I still have many friends that cringe at the thought of their mums leaving the house and actually socialising with people, or daring to wear anything that isn't a baggy jumper or 'mumsy'. As shocking as it may be, we are all going to be old one day, so the next time time you judge an older woman for not 'acting her age', just remember that you will be her in 30 years time.
Featured Image Credit: HBO