I’m going to make shallow judgements on women and their appearance in this post, which is a crappy thing to do, but we all do it on a daily basis, to ourselves and others, it’s ingrained.
I recently turned 46 and had a moment of “Wow. I’m closer to 50 than 40, now…” which I realise is daft, even arbitrary, but we all age with a mix of fear and fascination, right? We’re changing all the time, mostly subtly, peppered with moments of “Shit the bed, where did that crevice come from?” I’m intrigued and even derive pleasure from my sprawling grey hairs, how some are wiry and spiral vertically, whilst others zig zag sideways like my ‘80s crimpers have been at them. But then I’ll despair a little at the fact cellulite is starting to appear on my arms (the rest of my cellulite has been around long enough to really not give a shit). On the plus side I still don’t have any grey pubes.
As women, ageing is inevitably tied to the tiresome spectrum that is sexism. We ain’t no George Cloonies. We’re not allowed to simply get old, there are a variety of internal and external pressures to ‘fight’ the ageing process. And it’s a double-edged sword, as you’ll be demonised for trying too hard or for not trying hard enough. You no longer get wolf-whistled when you get older (unless it’s from behind then followed by an embarrassed ‘sorry’ when they see you’re old enough to be their Mum) and, even though it’s pretty great not having to decide whether to a) ignore it b) swear at them or c) employ some of the superb tactics shared via #EverydaySexism, it’s also directly linked to being ‘over the hill’ (unless you are cougar MILF, of course, lucky you, eh?). Society doesn’t value middle-aged and older women the way it should.
The recent focus on Susan Sarandon’s knockers is a case in point. Some people will say “she looks good for her age” (when in fact she just looks bloody good) whereas others are decrying and denying her natural form. Some people only like to look at fake tits and on younger women, they can’t handle this amazing 69 year old confidently carrying her cleavage. My knockers high-fived each other when I saw those pictures of her, I was so happy. Others were unimpressed, like this article tagged ‘sad sagging Sarandon’ -that reckons “Sarandon isn’t the only, too-old-to-wear-that celeb who has bared it all on the red carpet or gone over the top in inappropriate situations. Other actresses have tried holding onto their youth by wearing outfits that no one wants to see them in”. Pfffft. Possibly even worse than this, Piers Morgan waded in, because we all value his opinion on women’s appearance, don’t we?
I love these women, they’re breaking stupid ageist, sexist rules. I have a little crush on Jessica Lange at the moment. Also in her late 60s, she hasn’t succumbed to Hollywood homogeneity, and wears her own skin with pride, her beautiful arms and hands wrinkled, veiny and strong. She is one gorgeous woman, but I’m guessing plenty would disagree and just see an older woman who hasn’t even bothered with botox (as far as I know, she looks naturally wrinkly and fab to me). Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda are also flying the flag for older women in the sitcom Frankie And Grace, because – Shock! Horror! – women in their 70s can still have sex! Kim Novak on the other hand got serious stick at the 2015 Oscars because she has gone down the plastic surgery route, which in itself is an issue, as former Hollywood ‘starlets’ probably feel the pressure to mess with the natural ageing process more than anyone. A surgeon – someone who makes shit loads of money out of our obsession with appearance – comments that she’s gone from ‘dainty and feminine’ to ‘masculine and over-inflated.’ Yeah mate, she’s also gone from 25 to 81.
If you’re in or near Yorkshire, go visit Cartwright Hall in Bradford where an exhibition of photographs by Nancy Honey celebrates 100 Leading Ladies – 100 women aged over 55 who also happen to have defied gender stereotypes and made huge achievements in their respective fields. Though I can’t relate to most of them (there are a lot of Baronesses and Countesses in there who, inevitably, are mostly white) it’s still pretty cool, and on until April 10th.
And have you come across Iris Apfel, yet? She’s 94, furiously funny, funky and rocks massive bangles like no one I’ve ever seen. She also advises “I think you can be attractive at any age.” Go find Albert Maysles’ documentary about her, it’s well worth a watch. She’s precisely the sort of inspiration we need to age disgracefully, raising a middle finger to all those pressures and being true to ourselves.