I remember how I considered middle-aged and much older women when I was much younger, I realize I bought into American customs and did so mindlessly. I ascribed to older women a lack of purpose and an inability to add meaningfully to a world and a dialogue that was not “theirs,” as though ownership of culture rationally belongs to any specific age group over others. My ideas came from where? Television? Films? Magazines? How crazy.
Must this lesson only be learned woman by woman, with the transition of time, and not by the perspicacious use of ones sights and perceptions? Because women like me are authoring and talking. Trees in the woodland are dropping. I ask that young women hear. Selective deafness will not stop the train. It will keep rolling down the track, quietly and dispassionately. It always arrives.
For me, aging as a woman in The U.S.A. is less about wrongdoings done to me than it is about a subtle weakening of my place within this civilization and a not-so-subtle disrespect that appears more with each gone by year. As an example, if I disapprove of pornography as systemically harmful to women, it is my age that provokes my labeling as a prude and a pearl-clutcher.
It can not be that I base my opinion on studies and stats and the knowledge that feminism is a movement– one that supports the liberation of all women, not to be confused with individual women who decide to reduce their identities to the sexual uses and abuses of their bodies, calling that empowerment. My age sets me for a kind of contempt only partly experienced by younger women with the exact same opinions. The wisdom that comes with age has little market value to anyone but those owning it, considering that knowledge is another word for old, and old is what nobody desires to be.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I can tell you what it isn’t, at the very least for me. It isn’t to attempt to look or act more radiant. It isn’t to write articles about how hot/thin/beautiful/ sexy middle-aged women are. They are, but throwing away my written voice on promoting shallow efforts at continued conformity to what is looked forward to of women in a patriarchal society does not feel beneficial. It is a perilous surrender. It encourages women my age to trade away opportunities to weigh in on concerns for a chance to be among the “seen” again. I won’t participating in a game I abhor, which I did not put together and can not succeed in.
To become an aging woman in The United States is to be continuously pestered by imagery and press that distance your younger feminist sisters from you, because the concept of not resembling those youthful images of femininity and becoming invisible frightens them. I resemble a normal 51-year-old, and it is just unusual realizing that my aesthetics is something many young women fear.
Ageism is a life-altering discrimination affecting women in ways that are different than the effects on men– different in age of onset and degree and personal consequence. If we continue to be erased in the 2nd half of our lives, we will remain stuck in a continuous cycle of commingling youth with greater social relevance in the first half of our lives, and the patriarchal axiom that women are only valuable when they are young, hot and fertile will continue unchallenged.