Today, I wanted to talk about the double-standards of aging between men and women. When men start aging, going gray, having some wrinkles, they are seen by society as distinguished, independent, wise, ‘silver foxes’, and handsome. When it’s an older women, she is seen more as dependent, unproductive, unhealthy, and should be taking better care of herself. God forbid a woman has a gray hair, she either has to pluck it or dye it. Ironically, older women tend to live longer than men, so many women are not unhealthy.
Don’t worry, I know most people don’t tend to think like this. But, media portrayals through various mediums like magazines and television, are rampant with ageism between the sexes.
For example, Miriam O’Reilly, an Irish TV host, sued BBC for age discrimination in 2010. At that time she was 51. She used to be one of the presenters for their show CountryFile, until they dropped her for younger presenters. They replaced her with younger presenters, but kept John Craven, who had been on the show since it began about 20 years before the lawsuit, who was 68 at the time. Sure, he had been with the BBC for a long time, but O’Reilly had also contributed to the BBC for about 20 years. The BBC told her that they wanted a new presenter to appeal to youth.
O’Reilly experienced comments such as “time for Botox” and “careful with those wrinkles when high definition comes in”. O’Reilly won her case. The BBC apologized and still wanted to work with her because she had been with them for so long.
O’Reilly stated that “The idea that wrinkles or grey hair can sound the death knell for the careers of female TV presenters is beyond appalling, especially in a country where over a third of the population is aged 50 and over.” Truth. I got my information for this case from the BBC’s article about it and the agedicrimination.info website.
A more familiar example might be the hate that Hillary Clinton faced during the election. Whether or not you like her or not, you can’t deny that many people were put off by her age and the fact that she was a woman. She’s 69 and Donald Trump is only a year older, yet he stated “Well, I just don’t think she has a presidential look, and you need a presidential look” and states that he thinks she lacks stamina.
Older women have mainly been represented as the “grandmother and cookies” generalization. Strong, smart, and leaders are not words that people, or at least any form of media has associated with older women. Those adjectives are used with men.
I’m not saying that it’s not true that older men are smart and independent, but why can’t it be true for women also? Why does it only have to be men who are aging nicely and not women?
This post was prompted by the Daily Prompt: Gray
Feel free to leave any comments and questions!