Aging while female is not your worst nightmare

I’m going to tell you a story that is so common and so troubling it is effectively split off from the emotional lives of young women, tucked away into whatever neural recesses exist for the purpose of shelving information that feels irrelevant yet distantly threatening. I wonder if young women will read this? The irony is that they probably won’t, and the silently nodding heads will be ones that are graying, like mine.

After passing out of childhood and into puberty, I, like most women, entered a three-decade phase of my life that included an adolescence and young adulthood that was peppered with the sexual harassment, sexism in the workplace, mommy wars, pay gaps, and gendered put-downs that few females escape. It was a huge chunk of time. The issues feminism took up during those years were critical, and they continue to be. I am grateful to all of the women and men who fought and continue to fight for women’s equality, reproductive rights, and freedom from violence and harassment. It is brave and necessary work.

But then something happened, and if not for the mirrors in my house, I would be very confused about what changed and why. Young women, you’ll experience this too, some day. You’ll catch your reflection and your breath at the same time and be abruptly reminded that your exterior no longer matches how you feel inside, and that it now undermines the power of your voice, the voice that took decades to build up. I was talking about this to a friend recently who is 50, one year younger than I am. She said, “Oh wow. I remember my grandmother telling me the exact same thing about being shocked by her reflection in the mirror because she still felt like a young woman inside, and she was 80.” So this probably will not end for me, nor for any of us given the gift of not dying young. It bears remembering.

Men do not catcall me anymore, and I’m happy to have aged out of that, although some of my friends are not. My daughter is grown, so the mommy wars rage on without me. I’m now happy to be self-employed—an escape hatch from workplace sexism that is not available to all women, and one that I fully appreciate. I charge what I want as a consultant and will never again stumble across information at the office that a male co-worker who is younger, less educated and less experienced than me makes more money than me simply because he belongs to the penis-owning gender. I am not free of the physical and sexual dangers all women live with, but they have receded somewhat for me at this stage of my life.

All of this liberation, however, is not entirely freeing. I have simply been transported into the next phase of sexism that comes with middle age, and it’s a dramatic change well illustrated metaphorically by the female body that is ogled and objectified transforming into the female body that is invisible. If the loudest and most heralded voices of contemporary feminism most often belong to the youngest and most sexually appealing women, is this not a hypocritical replication within feminism of what happens in our patriarchal society at large?

I’m looking at perhaps three more decades of my life that will be shaped to some degree by not only misogyny, but by the intersection of misogyny and ageism. That’s a whole bunch of years I never gave the slightest thought to when I was younger. No older woman ever demanded that I think about the fact that it would eventually happen to me. No one asked that I care about it, respond to it, and recognize the unfairness of what can sometimes feel like a one-way feminist street. I temporarily stopped the oncoming freight train of ageism right in its tracks with my indifference, like everyone else my age did. Even in my late-30’s, middle age seemed light years away. I did not read articles like this. They were not about me.

When I recall how I thought about middle-aged and older women when I was younger, I realize I bought into American stereotypes and did so mindlessly. I ascribed to older women a lack of relevance and an inability to contribute meaningfully to a world and a dialogue that was no longer “theirs,” as if ownership of culture rationally belongs to any particular age group over others. My ideas came from where? Television? Movies? Magazines? How silly.

Must this lesson only be learned woman by woman, with the passage of time, and not by the perspicacious use of ones eyes and ears? Because women like me are writing and talking. Trees in the forest are falling. I ask that young women hear. Elective deafness will not stop the train. It will keep rolling down the track, silently and dispassionately. It always arrives.

For me, aging as a woman in America is less about injustices done to me than it is about a subtle undermining of my place within this society and a not-so-subtle disrespect that pops up more with each passing year. For example, if I condemn pornography as systemically damaging to women, it is my age that provokes my labeling as a prude and a pearl-clutcher. It cannot be that I base my opinion on studies and statistics and the understanding that feminism is a movement—one that supports the liberation of all women, not to be confused with individual women who choose to reduce their identities to the sexual uses and abuses of their bodies, calling that empowerment. My age sets me up for a kind of disdain only partially experienced by younger women with the same views. The wisdom that comes with age has little value to anyone but those possessing it, because wisdom is another word for old, and old is what no one wants to be.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I can tell you what it isn’t, at least for me. It isn’t to try to look or act younger. It isn’t to write blog posts about how hot/thin/beautiful/sexy middle-aged women are. They are, but wasting my written voice on championing shallow efforts at continued conformity to what is expected of women in a patriarchal society does not feel productive. It is an insidious capitulation. It entices women my age to trade away opportunities to weigh in on important matters for a chance to be among the “seen” again. I won’t play a game I despise, and that I did not create and cannot win.

To be an aging woman in America is to be constantly bombarded by imagery and media that distance your younger feminist sisters from you, because the idea of no longer resembling those youthful images of femininity and becoming invisible terrifies them. I look like a typical 51-year-old, and it is just bizarre realizing that my appearance is something many young women dread.

Ageism is a life-altering injustice 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 second half of our lives, we will remain stuck in a perpetual cycle of conflating 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.

Let’s stick together. Let’s make a conscious effort to stop putting down older women to set oneself apart from them and from an inevitable form of bigotry that cannot presently be escaped. Whatever you think of Madonna at 56, or Jamie Lee Curtis at 56, let’s acknowledge that most of us will one day be 56, if we aren’t already, and we’ll want to define for ourselves what that means.

Surely it will involve relevance and influence, whether we are singers, actors, writers, activists, or any other identity we have chosen and loved. As feminists we are stronger together than apart—women of all races, of all gender expressions, of all sexual orientations, of all socioeconomic classes, of all religions, of all ethnicities, and yes, of all ages, too.

Lori-Day-headshotLori Day is an educational psychologist, consultant, and parenting coach with Lori Day Consulting in Newburyport, MA. She is the author of Her Next Chapter: How Mother-Daughter Book Clubs Can Help Girls Navigate Malicious Media, Risky Relationships, Girl Gossip, and So Much More and speaks on the topic of raising confident girls in a disempowering marketing and media culture. You can connect with Lori on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Guest Writer
Guest Writer

One of Feminist Current's amazing guest writers.

Like this article? Tip Feminist Current!

Personal Info

Donation Total: $1

  • Derrington

    This is spot on. One of the grosser acts of patriarchy is to distance younger women from their mentors and the guidance and support older women can give younger women and vice versa. With the wolves all around us, we need to be watching each others backs now more than ever and giving each other support wherever we can to ensure that women lives are seen as relevant, whatever their age, colour, ablebodiness or whatever situation we find ourselves in. We are all relevant, and more so in this age of porn and rampant media sexism.

    • That is true, but we are not just “mentors”. We are also active participants in the labour force and in social movements.

      • derrington

        Yes, I know we occupy a number of different roles too many to mention for most of us, but in particular our ability to help and guide younger women fight male supremacy is particularly needed since its that experience that will help the younger generation circumnavigate the tiger traps that are laid out to prevent progress in the gender wars. This is particularly relevant at the moment with so many women taken in by sex(ism) positive feminism.

    • It also distances some of us older women from the mentoring we need when we finally find ourselves (having spent our young adulthoods unlearning disastrous socialization). Women who mentor are looking to mentor YOUNG women. Middle aged and older women are expected to already have the answers. But we didn’t all have that opportunity, and we need mentoring just as much, if not more, than younger women do.

      • Renée Layberry

        What a beautifully-articulated comment. So true!

      • ptittle

        Added to all that, mentoring wasn’t a ‘thing’ back in the 70s, so even more reason for older women to need it now! ‘Course, it’s too late now. Not a lot of careers you can start at 60.

  • Survivorthriver

    Sher Hite stated that patriarchy depended on splitting off younger and older females. The older females have too much life experience and observation to be cowed as easily by males.

    I was aware of this as a 20-something as I am today. I made a conscious decision to honor and respect and befriend older women in my youth. My associates are now in 70’s and 80’s. I’d advice all young women to befriend an elder. A crone.

    • I love that! I don’t know a lot about feminism even though I pretend to sometimes in my writing. This was interesting for me to learn. And I love having friends of all ages. Not all women feel that way though, I notice.

      • derrington

        My best friend’s mother became my mentor and entry card into feminism when I was in my teens. I always enjoyed older women as company as they helped separate the wheat from the chaff in all sorts of areas.

      • Faryl Palles

        Excellent comment thread and, as a 61 y.o. woman whose closest friend was 24 years older, a post that I get but wouldn’t say is my experience. My friend, who died 11 years ago at age 73, experienced becoming invisible and it infuriated her. My mother was drop-dead gorgeous when she was young, and when her looks began to fade, she became jealous of her pretty daughters. There are so many stories to tell.

        PATRIARCHY. Everything discussed here is a result of patriarchy. IMO, if you want to liberate people, men as well as women, people of color or white, study patriarchy. Name it when you see it. Use the word often. Fill your reading list with books about patriarchy—men have written these, too. Think systemically. We are so steeped in patriarchy that we don’t even realize the extent to which our values harm us.

        In Sisterhood.

        • Kara

          Yes, Patriarchy and the rape culture we live in are insidious. However, we absolutely cannot exclude our male allies or we are no better than our oppressors – my best friend is a better feminist than I am and he’s just as affected by the negative aspects of our culture.

          • Morag

            What kind of nonsense is this?

      • Jess

        Thank you so much for this writing! As a 71 year old I have found that the question of invisibility has much to do with how I am feeling inside. If I am being my vibrant self (including how I feel like visibly presenting myself) many smiles pass between me and strangers. Most people, however, are so self absorbed themselves that they do not notice much anyway. It is my own responsibility to keep my inner self confident and happy. Love life!

        • Helen

          Thanks for the excellent uplifting reply!

          • Martha Cristy-Couch

            EXACTLY! This from a woman who insists that the honest truth of ones self is what must be shown. I am 76 years old. As women from older societies, indigenous cultures, are seen as wise elders. No shame of wrinkles and or other signs of aging bodies. One has to learn to ignore what others think of you. People who put their attention on outside appearances instead of treasuring the inside – miss more than they know. Too bad.

        • MaryAnn

          This is so true, thank you for mentioning that. The love of live, glow and vibrancy from within is so important no matter what your age.

        • Christine Hickinbottom

          I agree I am you.

        • rani

          Jess,you are so right. There is no young old or better. Love life ,live each day to the fullest ,male or female, We learn from all ages, and gender. If anyone feels put down move on ,no need to cry or feel bad.
          It is important to be mentally, physically and financially stable.

          I am 74 ,no one can belittle me.

    • Judith

      I was the baby of the family, born when my mother was 41. I spent a lot of time int he company of middle aged and aging women as a young girl. In my teens, I was described as “being mature for my age”, “an old soul” and “a girl with a head on her shoulders.” As an adult, my circle of friends was made of all ages, including women old enough to be my grandmothers. I agree 100 percent, with your advice for young women to befriend an elder.

    • Chaia

      In my 30’s I had friends in their 50’s and 60’s that were fun, smart women that I respected and admired.
      I didn’t have negative stereotypes of older women (except that when their eyesight started failing they suddenly thought that I was a wonderful housekeeper.) Now that I am in my late 60’s my group of friends contains women in their 30’s, the same age as my daughters. Perhaps I am to them what my older friends were to me. But I feel assured that if I live to a ripe old age, I will not have outlived all my friends.

    • so glad you said this.As a crone myself,a name i revere as it means crown, and as a long term feminist. Women as wise elders need to step into their own power. The baby boomers need to see they are free to lead to command to say whatever they feel like.
      There is not respect for elders in this culture anyways. The patriarchy is dying, its time is up but its cultural cancer is endemic. Education and awareness need to keep being instilled. There is also a huge number of women in the west who never had children as they reach advanced age who have undocumented lifestyles. They are the one who are freer in some ways to lead to give back.

      • I detest the term “crone”. I’m a woman, and the age I am, period. I’m no fucking crone.

      • I agree Tara Green. There are many women I know who chose not to have children and, now that they are older, I find that they have a lot of wisdom to contribute.

        I have no problem with the term crone. I think its negative connotations are largely down to the way language functions to undermine and devalue women. When Joni Mitchell re-recorded “Both Sides Now” with the London Philharmonic, she sang her song with all of the wisdom of the crone – the voice of a woman who has reached, through the accumulation of knowledge over time, utter mastery of her genius. It’s incredibly powerful.

    • An elder, perhaps, though not yet of pensionable age. But don’t you dare call me a “crone”. I’m not wise and asexual. I’m still a vital human being with the same feelings and desires as you. Fuck essentialist wiccan feminism and its arbitrary age divisions.

      • Alex

        The terms used in Paganism and Wicca are not an age division, they describe stages of experience. One can be a Crone at 50 or at 90, and be as vital and relevant as a Mother of 25 or a Maiden of 15. If anything, they relate to the cycle of fertility, but again, that dosn’t neccessarely mean childbearing but can mean spiritual fruitfulness as well. But most practitioners I know use them as a distinction of maturity and knowledge. And they are all valued and respected, anyway, because they all have an importent part in life. We don’t turn away our old, we turn towards them in order to learn and grow.

    • lagattamontral

      I agree with most of that, but don’t you dare call me a crone. I’m not at all a party to the Wiccan version of feminism.

  • NYSB

    I’m 23 and I’m listening.

    • Katie

      I’m 27 and reading.

      • Kathryn

        34 and reading

        • Lisa

          28 and listening. Three of my best friends are girls over 50 😉

          • shaz


        • Jade

          I’m 21 and listening

          • 23. Where do I find these courageous old crones to befriend?

          • derrington

            Were right here cackle cackle! 🙂

    • MotherBear84

      33 and learning

    • ptittle

      To you and your replying kin, thank you for saying so! I have/had pretty much given up on twenty-somethings … You give me hope. (Well, except that b/c of climate change, you probably won’t live past 50 or 60…)

  • Rchen

    I’m in the middle of my thirties. This seems plenty relevant and important to me. You are so right that women need to stick together if we really want to make progress, otherwise each generation has to relearn the lessons our foremothers could have taught us. Keep talking, writing, speaking out please. Some of us are definitely listening.

  • “You’ll catch your reflection and your breath at the same time and be abruptly reminded that your exterior no longer matches how you feel inside”

    You assume that all young women meet the beauty standard. Some of us have never had an exterior that matches how we feel inside. We’ve grown up ugly. For us aging means a loss of hope that we would ever achieve beauty or social approval.

    I wrote about feminism and ugliness at my blog. I’ve linked my name to the actual post if anybody wants to read it.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I think what she means it that women don’t ‘feel’ 50 or 60 or 70. My mother told me the same thing a few years ago — that what she sees in the mirror doesn’t reflect how she ‘feels’ inside and that her appearance surprises her. It isn’t about ‘ugly’ or ‘beautiful’, just youthful appearance. I believe.

      • Yes, I was just talking about age. I see gray hairs and wrinkles that weren’t there before, and that make a statement to other people about my place in society. Also, my headshot is now 4 years old. I need a new one now that my hair is getting gray! 🙂

        • Yes, I agree. While no fashion model (unless they need short, plumpish ones for shoots about ladies making pasta sauces) I’m certainly not unattractive. That isn’t the disconnect – it is that I feel young, and usually downright like a teenager.

          I let my hair grow grey a couple of years ago. Hesitation about doing that had nothing to do with attractiveness – I have thick, curly hair, and as with most brunettes, it is a beautiful grey. My fears had to do solely with perception of grey in the workforce. And although I’m also a freelancer, it is a serious issue in communications fields.

        • ptittle

          Use the one that expresses how you feel inside. (That’d be the 25-35-year-old one?) In the name of combatting body dysphoria and all that.

      • Missfit

        But what does feeling 50, 60 or 70 even means? My mother says the same thing, ‘I don’t feel 60, I feel young’. What does that mean? How are you supposed to feel/be at 60? Says who? (I guess the answer to the first question for women is ‘worthless/invisible’ and the answer to the second question is ‘men’).

        Maybe we should redefine what 60/old means then. I say to my mother whatever you feel like is what being 60 is. If you feel curious, adventurous, in love, than that is what 60 is/can be, no need to pretend you’re 20 inside. And what about having an exterior that does not match what you feel inside? I didn’t know that wrinkles and grey hair were supposed to match a specific interior. Or rather do they mean that their exterior does not match with how they would like it to look like? Unfortunately, that is the case for many women, of all ages.

        This article raises a very important point. I think that intergenerational sisterhood is a most crucial point if we want to break the cycle of our oppression. Unfortunately, with all their inclusiveness talk, I see that ageism gets a free pass and is often very present in many mainstream feminism discourses.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I’m not really sure. I assumed it meant that my mother felt the same on the inside but was viewed or treated differently? I remember her saying it felt kind of liberating to be ‘invisible’ though… Like she didn’t have to worry so much about what she looked like because she was no longer visible to society as young women are… I hope I’m not messing up her words/meanings, seeing as she is not I 🙂

          • Yes, that’s it. And also, that I feel however I feel at the age I am–like Missfit says–but that my external appearance, as perceived by society, does not fit with the internal feelings. I still feel like I’m in my early 20’s, yet I have a daughter that age, so it’s cognitive dissonance. I think this has to be fairly common.

          • derrington

            Trouble is, another way of saying invisible is irrelevant. Im fighting for justice for my daughter currently and the amount of people that treat me as if I have no rights at all, not even to basic politeness – makes me feel worthless in my more tired and dispirited moments.

        • “But what does feeling 50, 60 or 70 even mean?”

          Good question. I recall both my mother and my grandmother saying that their “feeling” did not match their age. I’m 50 and to tell the truth, I feel like a person who has lived for 50 years. It’s a good feeling. I know a lot more than I did when I was 35; I have confidence in my knowledge in a way I did not before; I don’t wish for exterior approval of my authority or my appearance in the way I did when I was younger. I like this feeling.

          I also think that M.K. Hajdin’s parallel between age-related erasure and appearance non-conformity erasure is relevant to the discussion. A friend of my mother’s who fit the parameters of “beauty” – tall, blond, blue-eyed, long-legged, high cheek bones, nice teeth and so on – and who received a great deal of “positive” male attention in her younger years has felt an acute loss as she aged. Some of us never had that visibility, and I think that the whole question of what real value that visibility may or may not hold is deeply meaningful for feminist analysis. It’s the supposed source of “empowerment” in discourses of third-wave feminism and to me it’s just a trojan horse for our undermining by the tropes and forces of patriarchy. It’s a mugs game.

        • catperson

          For me not feeling my age (51) has something to do with imposter syndrome – I don’t feel like I have life experience or work skills worth mentioning, any more than at ten or twenty or thirty years ago. I don’t feel particularly youthful (if I did, the knees and hips would soon remind me that nope, not the case). Nor do I want to feel as I did decades ago, I might add! My life is much better now.

          What does worry me about aging is poverty, the common fate for so very many older women. I am single, currently on a carer’s pension and looking after my mother, and highly unlikely ever to get another job when she passes over. Life alone on unemployment or the pension (I’m Australian) is a scary prospect.

        • ptittle

          Good points. ‘I don’t feel 60’ presumes some stereotype about 60-year-olds.

      • Yes, she was far away from beauty standards; which are a part of the problem she is discussing: beautiful/hot + YOUNG women have the stage given to them by patriarchy. Why would we all know about the Femen if not the extensive media coverage of their bare breast?

        She’s also saying that this system is splitting us together, like mysteriously landing in another world in middle age, with no contacts with the younger counterparts.

        • The guy behind Femen chose the conventionally attractive ones for those shoots.

      • I may be 62 on the outside, but I’m 28 in my head…..with a LOT more experience than when I actually was 28!
        it’s been a wild ride and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

    • dss

      but there is something in this blog post that smacks of white womanhood. I’ve felt fairly invisible my entire life–an experience punctuated, yes, by moments of feeling too visible–and I’ve worked out that it’s deeply related to being a WOC. People of color KNOW what “feeling invisible” means, their entire lives. Ralph Ellison didn’t name his book on living through racism in America The Invisible Man for nothing.

      • I am sensitive to your point and appreciate that you made it. However, when I think about things like street harassment, WOC experience as much or more of that when young as white women do. They are even more greatly sexualized. Then, with middle age, that stops. Blissfully, for me…less so for some of my friends. I think being an older WOC must be even more challenging than being an older white woman for the reasons you state. Intersectionality is so important. I could only write a personal post from my own experience, and I’m white, but I completely agree with what you are saying.

        • dss

          thank you for your reply, and you are right, no one can write from a perspective they don’t have. I was saying what I said less as a criticism of you than as a way to add to the conversation and maybe make it more relatable to other WOC or women who have felt invisible their whole lives.

          I said “punctuated by moments of feeling too visible” thinking exactly of street harrassment and similar things. but that is only a part of the experience of being a woc, and a deep sense of invisibility is another part of it. That’s all I was trying to get across.

          I’m sorry about how cross my comments were yesterday, I was not in the best mood and I should have made more effort to explain my points and be less harsh.

          • It’s ok! I wasn’t offended, and I appreciated what you added. 🙂

          • Lynne Gill

            So GOOD to read this section of the conversation. I was initially piqued when I read your comment (I am British white 63 year old woman. )Then I re-read and considered. And now have read Lori’s beautifully put statement and your reply. If only other commentaries and forums (fora????) were conducted in such a spirit of conciliation and consideration!

        • lagattamontral

          Women of colour aren’t just sexualised, they are fetishised, and often seen as “hos”. This is a factor in the MMIW tragedy. I remember how some creeps came on to Indigenous women relatives. Sheesh.

      • True, or being seen as “the help”. But people of colour can also be all too visible to racists, whether the latter are skinhead bashers or simply police or security guards suspicious of someone walking while black, shopping while Arab or simply existing while Native.

    • lee ryan

      You are telling us what many people forget ,thankyou for sharing your feelings so honestly, but I must say for me I find a persons personality, and spirit, how I actually see them, I have met some people who are nice to look at, but I feel that the people I see as most beautiful have always been the kind hearted, caring, honest, sharing people, down to earth, open minded souls who willingly share what knowledge they have managed to muster throughout there lives. I think the advertising industry has done woman little justice, helping to created a portion of shallow, misguided individuals witch seems to be a growing part of society that I feel the author above is also touching on in her own honest interpretation of her life, what is most superb is that dialogue like this is opened to us due to Lori Days article. Best wishes

    • ALR

      I thought the same thing when I read that. Thank you. Off to read your blog post now!

  • purple sage

    Thank you so much, Lori. This is wonderful and beautiful. I am 30 and I very much appreciate the wisdom of my older feminist sisters. Please keep speaking!

  • This: “I don’t know what the answer is, but I can tell you what it isn’t, at least for me. It isn’t to try to look or act younger. It isn’t to write blog posts about how hot/thin/beautiful/sexy middle-aged women are. They are, but wasting my written voice on championing shallow efforts at continued conformity to what is expected of women in a patriarchal society does not feel productive. It is an insidious capitulation. It entices women my age to trade away opportunities to weigh in on important matters for a chance to be among the “seen” again. I won’t play a game I despise, and that I did not create and cannot win.”

    It reminds me of why I don’t think the answer to the beauty ultimatum is simply assert that all women are beautiful. It only expands the range of women to be objectified and sexualized and it continues to conflate beauty with value. I believe beauty is an oppressive concept when applied to female human beings and that we need to get rid of it altogether.

    • I actually blogged about that very thing for HuffPost/50!! If you find me on HuffPo you’ll see it. It was a few months ago. I don’t want to spam this thread with the link. But I couldn’t agree more!!

      • Meghan Murphy

        Oh you can put it here don’t worry! (I just looked quickly but couldn’t figure out which one it was…)

    • gina

      YES! Nearing 50 and finally having beauty no longer being an issue, option, or goal causes me to reflect on my life and think how much more authentically I could have lived had I not been distracted between the ages of 13-45 by the relentless need to “improve” myself externally in pursuit of the beauty ideal. Yes, I did accomplish many non-beauty goals, including a doctorate in science, developing curriculum and teaching skills, marathons, etc…but the beauty thing was always there, distracting and limiting. Now I’m invisible, looks wise, and realizing how freeing it is to care not about looks, but on remaining physically strong, setting new athletic goals, continued intellectual development. My only “beauty” goal now is to have my looks not be an issue, negative or positive, in my life and interactions with people.

  • Kat Langworthy

    You stated, “I look like a typical 51-year-old, and it is just bizarre realizing that my appearance is something many young women dread.” What does a typical 51 yr old look like? I am 49, will turn 50 in January. People can’t believe that I am the age I am, the picture on my drivers license when others look at it baffles them, and I get accused of having a fake license…why would I fake being 49? My mentality is youth-filled, my appearance just as such, and my face shows laugh lines, but no wrinkles as well as smooth as a baby’s bottom. People say I look 35 or younger, I accept these people as intelligent and not just saying that to make me feel better. My mother turned 71 this past January, last year I threw her a surprise party for her 70th, she doesn’t look her age either, however cancer has changed her body and all the time she kept telling everyone how young I looked, holding my face in her hands. (I kept praying please do not be like Gram and pinch my cheeks). I do not wear makeup to make myself look like someone I am not, and many have said that I have a natural beauty, but I don’t believe I am beautiful. I loved your article. It is very empowering…and I will share with my friends and family. When I turn 51, will I have that typical look? I don’t know…does two years make a difference?

    • Your comment strikes me, as it captures exactly what Lori describes, the fear of aging and not looking as attractive and valuable to “intelligent” people.
      There is a lot of fear to loose your beauty as a passport to the world.

      What Lori means (maybe, if I got it) is that we need to reach a stage in social evolution where this would not MATTER. A stage where you would not need to try to convince on an anonymous forum that your appearance is youthful and your face is like a baby’s bottom.

    • mitzi

      How strange, I feel that I could have written those words at 49, five years ago now. At 54 I feel the gradual onset of invisibility like fog rolling in. I agree that it is not entirely a bad thing. It’s shocking to realize how much I let the attention of men define my self-worth now that I no longer turn heads or if I do, the younger men after a closer glance, will visibly dismiss me.

      When I was very young my mother said that she was glad she was never a ‘beauty’ because she didn’t have to suffer and lament the loss of that with age, as she felt her mother did and how she was predicting I would.

      The whole concept of age baffles me. How old do I feel? How does one behave at my age? I’m am trying to accept my gray hair in that I dye it purple or green instead of brown now. I also have stopped bursting into tears when I say how old I am, as I did when I was 50 and 51 to my shock and dismay. I hate that I internalized the American idealization of youth. I have always admired older women who wore their age proudly, without shame. If only I could learn to apply that to myself.
      I have friends that are much older than I and friends my daughters age, 27 and they both give me hope with their creativity and fierce feminism.

  • Emma

    Yes, aging is a feminist issue. And I fully support the larger arguments put forward here about younger women needing to listen to older women and the importance of disconnecting ‘beauty’ from being central to womanhood. But from my experience, the ‘invisibilising’ starts happening much earlier than 50s. And I tend to agree with MK Hajdin about how different it is for those who are not beautiful. I have a face/body/presence that people forget. I am very small, have had grey hair since my 20s (apart from times when I dyed it). I have never been cat-called. I went from being mistaken for a child to being ignored (invisible) during my twenties. I am completely used to it and don’t know any other way of being, so this and other articles about the shift women experience from being objectified to being invisible interest me, but I read them almost as an outsider. Also, the aging process happens quicker for some. You speak of looking in the mirror and not feeling like the exterior matches the interior. I have felt like this for the last few years and I’m only in my late 30s. The sun damage that white people get in the southern hemisphere means that for many, wrinkles and sun spots appear early and in great number. When I see my face in the mirror in the mornings sometimes I am absolutely stunned. And as a feminist I hate the fact that I feel disappointed with my appearance as I know that my increasing ‘ugliness’ is due to aging and not looking anything like the images plastered all over the public space. In theory I know that to age is to grow wise and better in many ways, but in practice I struggle against the patriarchal voice telling me my worth is dropping even further. Speaking of aging in the southern hemisphere, Germaine Greer has been talking about it recently too.

    • From your linked article:

      “I’m a liberation feminist, not an equality feminist. Equality is a profoundly conservative aim and it won’t achieve anything.”

      Germaine Greer

      Yes. This. Thank you.

  • dss

    it’s sad to me that this article comes out of the gates swinging at younger women…”I wonder if young women will read this? The irony is that they probably won’t”. You talk about all the bad things that young women and young feminists may think about older women as if its a given… it’s presumptuous, tbh, and also not very convincing to an audience of, you guessed it, largely “younger” (than, say, 50) feminists and women whose comments demonstrate that we don’t, on the whole, hate on or avoid or fear older women.

    I think the main link missing in this discussion is not about “ageism” per se (in my opinion a symptom, not cause of the oppression of older women) but about the PATRIARCHAL FAMILY, and the antagonistic and damaging roles/dynamics it has historically assigned to young women and older women (= moms and daughters). Until we address the brainwashing of the patriarchal family and its values into our brains/lives/cultures, we will never solve this.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I’m 35 and found this very ‘convincing’. Also, this is something I notice happening all the time in feminism (ageism from younger women) and it makes me incredibly angry. I’m so grateful Lori is addressing this issue and I do think women will listen. If they don’t, well, they’re choosing to perpetuate very sexist behaviour and it is to the detriment of the movement.

      • dsss

        fair enough, Meghan. I wish now that I hadn’t written the top paragraph, as it was not helpful and distracted from the second. I still stand behind the second and wish that people would respond to its points.

    • I’m sorry it felt like I came out swinging. I talked a lot about myself and what I was like as a younger woman, and how I feel ashamed of that. I do experience a lot of ageism from younger feminists. It’s not always that they disrespect me–a lot of time it’s that it’s like I’m not there, irrelevant. I think if you talked to a lot of women my age, you’d find that they experience the same thing. I don’t think it’s out of hate or fear, but our society (patriarchal) places so much value on young women’s appearance that that message is consumed constantly by women and girls through marketing and media. We are all greatly affected by this messaging, and it does contribute to ageism, especially towards women. How are we to solve it if we don’t discuss it? BTW, I’ve gotten so many amazing private messages and emails about this piece it has blown me away, and all of them (from young women as well as older) have said there is a real problem in how younger feminists tend to view older ones. Not all for sure! There are many wonderful exceptions! But it really does seem to be generally true.

      • dsss

        Thank you, Lori, and I apologize if I came off as unfair or as dismissing what you are saying. I’m not saying that many people don’t have unfair attitudes to older women or that we shouldn’t talk about this. I do think it’s good to talk about, and I’m glad that you are writing about it. I did feel that you came out swinging, but in retrospect I think it is just a tense topic that will often put people on the defensive, including me, clearly. But we do need to discuss it and try to do so in respectful ways.

        I wish now that I hadn’t written the top paragraph in my earlier comment, as it was not helpful and distracted from the second. I still stand behind the second paragraph about the patriarchal family and wish that people would respond to its points.

    • You are right. My parents were older; my mum was 42 when I was born and my dad at least 10 years older. This was not uncommon during the baby boom, as many people had waited to marry during the economic crisis and the war years.

      Going through the tumultuous late 60s and 1970s, there was a huge gulf between us and a wall of misunderstanding. We really didn’t like each other very much.

    • JR

      I have, in fact, increasingly seen flat out dismissal of all older feminists over the last several years by the “feminist under thirty” crowd, and I find it deeply disturbing. Younger women talk about feminist trailblazers with disgust and scorn, as if they never did anything right and they will do all of it better. You’d think the entire second wave was comprised of monsters, and many young feminists literally celebrate when these women die, as if it were a party at a witch burning. The problem goes much deeper than simple matters of appearance, although that is a major issue as well.

      The funny thing is, young women don’t even understand what ageism is. I have seen them actually believe it is a discrimination turned against them! They have so much heartbreak ahead of them as they find out the real truth – we could tell them, but from women over 40 they feel they have nothing to learn.

  • Barbara King

    Appreciate this blog and topic, thanks! I’m turning 57 in April and have been thinking a lot about growing older and how I’m feeling physically and mentally. Looking back, I remember times when I was questioning how I looked, sometimes feeling invisible and feeling insecure in my teens, twenties, thirties, and forties. I was so hard and judgmental on myself and so now that I’m 56, I’m continuing to ask what is really important? What are my values? What are the important questions we should be asking? For myself, it is not caring what other people think and this is a tough one for me. All of my life I have struggled to work on ignoring or speaking up about issues that bother me. As women in the world and in the USA, we are constantly bombarded with messages coming from all parts of our culture about women should look, and act. Awareness is key, but can be exhausting and I remember reading that humor is a feminist’s best response. Laughing at so much of the nonsense has been cathartic. The sexism is out there and at all phases of life! Surprisingly,recently where I worked, I had a man in his 50’s who made inappropriate remakes about my appearance. First it felt like he was being complimentary but then it was annoying and unwanted. So the sexism is out there and a women’s work is never done!
    Also I would like to add that I joined a Women’s Group when I was 30. The woman who lead the group was in her early 60’s, a social worker and taught assertiveness training and that was and is such a vital tool. It’s about standing up for yourself with out being aggressive by putting people down, or being passive and giving in. For me, having a group of women where we could express our experiences in a safe environment was empowering.
    A few more thoughts… My mother- in -law is 94 and has always been very concerned about how she looks and yet she values herself. Her mind is clear and in fact, her memory is better than mine! She has to walk with a walker but she goes to her gym almost every day and yesterday went to a water aerobics class!
    And finally, I have decided to let my hair go gray after coloring it for years. I was at a pilates class, lying on a machine when the director walked up to me, put her hand in hair and said, oh on, you’re not letting your hair go gray? I smiled and nodded, yes and she said that I should color it. She has an interesting red color and more power to her, but it ain’t me babe! I’m not sure if I’m going to like my hair but it’s what I’m doin’ for now.
    Life is too short, and yes the yucky sexism is sadly alive and out there. I like this blog and think it’s important to be supportive and keep talking and finding ways to empower women and end sexism.

    • dss

      wow, I can’t believe your pilates teacher came up to you and just told you how bad it is to have grey hair. How insulting, who would say that to someone?1 Wow. You must have reacted better than I would have, as I would have thrown a fit. Sounds like she touched your hair without asking, too. yikes.

      • lilibaiyu

        And needless to say, it says more about her and her own fears than it does about you. 🙂

    • “I was at a pilates class, lying on a machine when the director walked up to me, put her hand in hair and said, oh on, you’re not letting your hair go gray?”

      My first thought was “Ug. You need to find a better pilates studio” – knowing full well there probably is not one available to you that does not promote superficial appearance-based results from the work (as opposed to an approach to help the the client improve their capacity for functional and efficient movement. You know: just being HEALTHY).

      But what really stings about that woman’s comment is that it demonstrates the degree to which women enforce so-called “beauty” standards. I find that much harder on me emotionally than being ignored by men because I don’t shave or wear makeup. In fact, with guys it’s a great bullshit filter. But for some reason, I feel a much deeper anxiety when I’m around a group of women who buy into the overarching culture with regards to “beauty” practices. Any experience I’ve had with “exchanging beauty tips” (that thing that us ladies are supposed to do to “bond”) I feel a profound discomfort and dissonance. For the most part I have avoided that crap, but sometimes you get hit from out of nowhere, like what you described at the Pilates studio. (Honestly – it’s outrageous that she should be so ignorantly disrespectful to a client like that).

      When I walk through the make-up section at a large department store – those areas where some heavily made-up woman in heels is likely to offer you a “free make-up session”, I feel like I’m walking through a minefield.

      • Rhiannon

        I could have written this comment myself, 100% agree. When I walk through those department store aisles, I feel like I’m on another planet! I feel that way most of the time anyways, but there especially….

    • It is strange, as the main reason that I finally did decide to go grey was that I was sick of pouring chemicals onto my scalp. Perhaps say that to her if she mentions it again – she is supposed to be teaching you how to be more healthy and fit.

    • Kimmy

      Due to an allergy I finally had to stop coloring my hair back in 2011, when I was 44. The amount of negative feedback I got as I grew out my silver was absolutely amazing to me. I heard that I was letting myself go, that I was going to look old, stuff like that. My (now ex) stylist told me that I was going to have “ugly gray” and that I just needed to take Benadryl and deal with the allergy. HELLO, my lips puffed up to twice their normal size and anaphylactic shock was just a few more dye jobs away! It was tough for a while but then I realized that I was on my way to being truly authentic. I might not be the most gorgeous, but all of me is REAL… and ironically, after the horrid grow-out, looking like a calico cat, feeling frumpy… my hair looks AMAZING. I really do love it now… and the money I spent at the salon is now spent on other things I enjoy.

      Stay the course. Grow out your silver. There’s a lot of support online – google “Cafe Gray” for starters, it’s a group on Zetaboards – and embrace the process!

      • ptittle

        Okay so now I appreciate not having friends. Or a stylist. (My dog has NEVER commented about my gray.)

  • Heather Martin

    I was brought up to respect my elders so no conscious effort on my part needed, and have brought up my own children to do the same.

  • Ellesar

    Ageing has been great for me. One of the reasons I became a feminist at 13 was because of street harassment and the constant sexualisation of my, and other girls bodies. I am 50 soon and I have had what my mother calls ‘invisible woman syndrome’ for quite a few years now (she noticed it at 45, I would probably concur). I am SO PLEASED about this. Yes, I know it is because I have become ‘irrelevant’ to sexist men, but how can that possibly be a bad thing. The blight of sexual harassment was severe for me and I am still angry about it. But NOW I can actually walk down the street without feeling that I have been thrust naked into a shop window.

    I have been very good friends with women half my age. I know that mainstream society would have us at each others throats, jealous of … well whatever. I do not think that young feminists take much notice of that, and I value my inter-actions with younger women, feminist or not. They are going through such similar things to what I went through. I actually think it is worse for them due to the mainstreaming of porn and apparent acceptability of extremely disturbing harassment via the internet.

    • ugabna

      Interesting point of view, Ellesar. I think (or maybe just hope?) I am like you when I get to that point in my life because while being invisible as a person is terrible, being “invisible” to men, especially men on public transit and on the street sounds pretty freakin awesome.

      Unfortunately, the “invisibility” metaphor really doesn’t go very deep, as men may not “see” older women as dating material, but they do see all women of any age as potentially rape-able and dominate-able (I’d wager. Actually, I’d be interested to hear from older women if they experience worsening or lessened mansplaining, being bullied by men, talked over–or otherwise interpersonally dominated by men who are not their romantic partners– as they age).

      I find it a little disturbing that so many women here are saying “being invisible” as if it was equivalent to “not being seen as attractive”. On the other hand, we can’t control our emotional investments, and it is not any woman’s fault that she feels scared or upset by having one of the few sources of “power” (interpersonal, if not political or social) given to her by this society, suddenly taken from her. And for such a stupid reason as that she is getting older, to boot.

      • Derrington

        I am 52 and increasingly invisible to people, young and old, male and female. The mansplaining gets worse as you diminish in status, and is done by both males and younger females to boot. I dont think of it as invisibility but irrelevance as a human being – the fact that so many women do it whilst claiming to be feminist (those good old pro sexism ones) makes me fear for my daughters future where those women are presenting themselves as allies when in fact theyre part of the problem. If i hear one more person try and argue that hate speech and violence are empowering i will punch them myself and tell them i was doing it to boost their self esteem.

        • I agree. I get mansplaining from men who could be my son, and even from teenage boys who could (biologically) be my grandson. One said something very strange implying that I didn’t know anything about bicycles (I’ve been a cycling advocate for 40 years).

          Less street harassment is obviously a plus, but the dark side of such invisibility is finding oneself alone with little choice of finding companionship (I’m speaking here of heterosexual women, but of cours lesbians face other problems).

          • ptittle

            Yeah that’s all too common, isn’t it. Some young male thing said something to me once about driving a U-haul or something and I pointed out that I’d driven a van clear across the country before he was even born.

        • “The mansplaining gets worse as you diminish in status, and is done by both males and younger females to boot.” Absolutely.

  • Melanie

    When my grandmother was upwards of 80, she said to me, “I look in the mirror, and I can’t believe I’m this old!” Now, I am 52 and battling the incongruity of what I see in the mirror myself. What I see doesn’t feel like “me”, and being a divorced woman in the dating world at this age quite frankly sucks.

    • derrington

      God, I hear you! I spent a couple of years on line dating – it was like wading through shit. Take care of yourself out there. xx

      • Melanie

        Shortly after the divorce, I told a friend my age that I was creating an online dating profile. She said, “Be prepared: men our age are looking for women twenty years younger.” I think there is a lot of truth to that, but of course, I can’t know the degree to which is is true, because clearly I am not being contacted by that sort of man. On the flipside, however, I do get a shocking number of contacts from guys who are young enough to be my kid. Hmph. No, not interested in dating my son. sigh! Indeed, it can be a cesspool out there.

        • chesharicat

          I made a great connection with a guy who was half my age via an online dating site. We were involved for several months, until he went off to graduate school. He was far and away the single most feminist man I’ve ever known. I would not trade that experience for anything. Ageism is wrong no matter which direction it goes.

  • I am 72, nearing 73, and I understand every word. Sexual harassment for us in the ’60s and ’70s was just the norm. And yes, inside you never accept that others see you as “old.” Even the little aches and pains and slowness of some activities are shocking to the system… and yes, we do know a lot but younger people will have to re-invent the wheel rather than listen.

  • andeväsen

    It is difficult to access the wisdom of older generations of feminists for each successive generation. “Reinventing the wheel” is not merely a risk but has had to happen. Giving older feminists the space to talk to younger generations is needed. Learning from the past contextualises the debates of today, e.g. the Nordic model did not just randomly come into being in the late 1990s, but has roots which extend 100 years previous to this.

  • Leah

    I’m here as a younger woman (recently turned 25), and I just want to say that I hear you, and I’m happy to see this dialogue taking place. I hate that so many women I know have told me they spent their 30th birthday in tears when they should have been out celebrating. I want a future where I can command respect for what I’ve achieved in life, not ridicule for having too many wrinkles.

    • You are already wise. Thanks for giving this almost 73 year old woman hope for the future of younger women. I became a Feminist when I was 28, after reading Gloria Steinem, and several others, books. It cost me my marriage, among other things, but it was worth it. I am the CEO of our business and do many networking events where younger women entrepreneurs are present. I love interacting with them. Some act like I’m irrelevant because I’m “older”, but I just keep on doing what feels right. Sometimes they respond positively, sometimes, not. In any event, I am happy to be me and be present to what is. I’ve never dyed my hair, or worn makeup as I’ve never bought into the idea I had to be beautiful to be OK. This is a very valuable discussion, and I thank you all for your thoughtful responses.

  • lilibaiyu

    I liked and identified with this: “I don’t know what the answer is, but I can tell you what it isn’t, at least for me. It isn’t to try to look or act younger. It isn’t to write blog posts about how hot/thin/beautiful/sexy middle-aged women are. They are, but wasting my written voice on championing shallow efforts at continued conformity to what is expected of women in a patriarchal society does not feel productive. It is an insidious capitulation. It entices women my age to trade away opportunities to weigh in on important matters for a chance to be among the “seen” again. I won’t play a game I despise, and that I did not create and cannot win.”

    That’s how I feel too.

  • Paul Robinson

    I’m an older man (66), with two teenage daughters, one of whom is very much a feminist. I like to think of myself in the same way. Although I don’t have her breadth and depth of knowledge, I feel closely aligned, and recognise the need for true equality for all people. Our societies are missing out on a huge amount of wisdom by side-lining older women. Thank you for this insightful article.

  • Debra

    Thank you for this important conversation. Discourse like this should happen much more frequently.

    I think the key word here is ‘misogyny,’ for it is misogyny that is the root cause of everything we’re discussing. Women in our society are so hideously objectified … I wonder how any of us grew up with any real self-esteem.

    The reality of aging is that, at a certain age, we stop being objectified and simply, as Lori stated, become invisible. This is a form of subtle abuse at both ends of the age spectrum.

    It pains me that men who are well into their 50s, 60s, and beyond can date and marry young women and enjoy an “atta boy” attitude, while women who date younger men are degraded and insulted with the “cougar” brand, a term I eschew and find woefully offensive. It seems as though “age-appropriate” has suddenly became a mantra in my life – an unfamiliar and ill-defined concept that is shoved down my throat, despite my resistance and confusion.

    Not long ago a close friend who is my age publicly rebuked and shamed me for dating a younger man. This ageism attitude, it seems, permeates even our own sisterhood. Why should it matter to anyone if my partner is 40 or 70? The reality is, if I were a man, it wouldn’t.

    Perhaps I digress from the main point of the article, but I have noticed that, once a woman reaches a certain age, there’s a new set of rules we must play by. Play by them and one’s place in society will be diminished but still “accepted.” Refuse to play by them and be branded as a crazy old lady with 100 cats.

    It is not until we address the fundamental issue of misogyny that we will ever move beyond the stereotypical equation that youth + beauty = value.

    Lori, you’re someone I’d love to be friends with. Thank you for such an eloquent and important piece.

    Be blessed, all.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I don’t think there is the same context for women dating younger men as for men dating younger women. I remember having a conversation with a friend about the fact that I didn’t respect men who routinely dated much younger women and he pointed out that I’d dated someone nine years younger than I once. Now, to be honest, I’d never dated anyone significantly younger than me before and there was a power imbalance that, at the end of the day, was unattractive and made for a bad match. That said, for men it has long been relatively normal and accepted to date and marry much younger women because women are judged more superficially, by men, than men are by women. Many men don’t seem to be bother by the power imbalance (and, in fact, probably enjoy it). 20 somethings aren’t attractive to me mainly because they are often, for lack of a better explanation… not that interesting. Which is not to say they wouldn’t be interesting to me if I were also 20 something, but as a 35 year old, it wouldn’t work for me to be in an intimate relationship with someone who didn’t know themselves very well and weren’t comfortable in their own skin, and hadn’t really lived much, and that’s the reality for the vast majority of 20 year olds. This, too, was the reality of the younger man I dated a couple of years ago… He just wasn’t very interesting or confident. He didn’t know himself at all. Anyway, bladeblah. My point is that, while I think often there is a power imbalance due to age difference, regardless of gender, there is ALWAYS a power imbalance that is gendered and, because of the pattern (to the point that it is a tiresome cliche) of older men dating younger women, because they truly have no desire to be in a relationship with someone who is their equal, I don’t think that older women dating younger men has the same significance as the opposite situation.

  • Sarah

    I am 36, and I have been thinking about this a lot because I’m an educator who works with undergrads in a college environment. I have been dismayed to note that ageism is often considered acceptable even in forums that are designed to discuss women’s issues! For example, Last month I was sitting in on a sexual violence prevention training for first-year students, and I was disturbed to note that the 20-something presenter made several jokes about older people. At one point he even said that the idea of them having sex was “gross.” I suppose he was attempting to connect to the students through humor, but it was disturbing to see this lack of awareness in that kind of environment, where people should understand how various forms of oppression intersect and should know better.

    On a personal note, I remember being relieved when I turned 30 because I thought I would be taken more seriously as a human being than I had in my 20s! When I was younger, I always looked up to the older women that I knew in academia, but my sense was that they didn’t always like or support younger women the way we wanted them to. Many of my friends felt this way too. Don’t get me wrong, I have many older female friends who are wonderful, but in grad school and other professional settings, many of us were disappointed by the lack of respect we received from older women. Perhaps we make assumptions about each other? Horizontal oppression? I don’t know..,

    It seems like as a younger person, we struggle to be seen and respected as fully human, and that continues in different ways as we age. It would be nice if women of all ages could appreciate their common experiences and humanity and reach out to each other more. At 36, the thought of going from young and dehumanized to old and dehumanized seems pretty depressing and unfair. Talking about it is hopefully one step toward positive change.

    Anyway, I enjoyed your article. Thanks!

    • hou

      what I think is interesting is that “ageism” as a word can mean prejudice against older people OR against younger people. But many times, people ignore one and only talk about the other. I think it’s crucial to recognize that both happen, and that all of us will inhabit both positions. In this way it’s not at all like other forms of oppression.
      And it’s crucial to question oneself on why they are emphasizing one over the other, and to be aware of how we can feel a desire to “claim” it for only position we are at currently, even though we need to recognize the other position as well.

  • Pennec, Lynn

    I’m 49, soon to be 50. I do not feel like “a typical 50 year old woman”, don’t want to know what that is. I feel better than I ever have. I’m 5’11”, 138 lbs, blond, blue eyes, I don’t feel like I’m ready to “erase” myself from society, I do still get cat calls due (probably) to the long blond hair, which my 80 yr old mother thinks I should cut ” due to my age”). I pick up my 18 yr old daughter at the train station amongst her other boarding school cronies, and receive compliments (not to my face). All I can say, is that yes, this probably won’t last forever. A very attractive artist that I know (in her 80’s) told me how painful it was when nobody saw her anymore. I am just a person and will continue, not matter what age.

    • hou

      but, please, don’t equate “being seen” with “being seen as beautiful.”

  • Kelsey

    this seemed more of a cry for relevance than a feminist point of view. As a young woman I agree that ageism is real and unfair but I also think that it is starting to become less of an issue in our current society. Especially in the world of creativity. As for bigotry and misogyny later in life i would like for you to expand on that more. I wasn’t able to fully understand those emotions from the article. thanks

    • Meghan Murphy

      Why on earth should older women not demand relevancy??

      • ugabna

        But to be fair, Kelsey didn’t say that older women shouldn’t demand relevance. She simply stated her opinion that a demand for relevance on the part of older women isn’t a feminist viewpoint.

        I think that she came off like a jerk there, but I also think that what she said had a grain of truth, which is to say, the o.p. didn’t make it clear how this analysis of ageism is a feminist analysis. Rather, she told us how her analysis of feminism was anti-ageist.

        In other words, she didn’t tell us what the patriarchal function of ageism is.

        Now, that’s not necessarily a failure of any kind, since the o.p. presumably wrote the article she wanted to write, and she isn’t required to write the article Kelsey wants her to.

    • As a white person, I think people crying racism are just crying out for relevance. I think racism is less of an issue these days.I know that because I am white. I don’t fully understand what black people are complaining about, so there must not be any serious issues, and the burden is on them to make the issues clearer for me. (sarcasm)

      But seriously, please re-read your comment and reflect on it. Surely you did not mean it to come out that way.

      • hou

        I don’t think that is a good analogy. Racism exists to violently extract resources from black and brown people for the benefit of white people, who are in control of society. Ageism does not violently extract resources from the old (if anything it does so from the young), and young people are not in control of society (in fact on balance older people are). Ageism and racism are just not the same types of dynamics.

        Ageism is certainly a damaging, hateful, and toxic prejudice, but it isn’t oppression in the sense of violent resource extraction, and therefore imho should not be compared to racism in this way.

        If there is another way you can use racism to illuminate your point about ageism, I’m open to that, but simply substituting one term for the other is not accurate and suggests that they are equivalent. I’m not against comparing “oppressions” per se, but there are bad ways to do it. I hate to resort to saying that I am “offended” by such an analogy, but part of me is. That shouldn’t be what stops you, though, it should be (hopefully) my argument.

        • Derrington

          Did you get the point though? Arguing about whether ageism or racism is the worst oppression is missing the point. And wilful neglect of older people til they curl up and die, often alone and without family support as they have had their use to society and family ‘extracted’, is a pretty hideous life.

          • hou

            why was that the point? the comment by kelsey wasn’t engaging in “oppression olympics,” so why would the point of the response to her be that we shouldn’t play oppression olympics?

            And if you thought that I was arguing about which was “worse,” you are still wrong. I never suggested that one was “worse” merely that they are different and that the particular way the commenter comapred them was not helpful.

            I’m trying to understand where you are coming from, but it’s tough. Who said anything about “wilful neglect of older people til they curl up and die”?! No one but you, as far as I can tell.

            and what does it mean for someone to have “their family ‘extracted'”?

            I dont understand, but I feel like we are talking at cross purposes here.

          • Derrington said “they have had their use to society and family ‘extracted'”. She did not say “have “their family ‘extracted'””.

            Laur was simply making the point that when discussing ageism “speaking as a young person”, and suggesting that what has been described is “less of an issue” than it was and asking for more explanation from the marginalized speaker is a problematic pattern that shows up in other comparable discussions.

          • hou

            ok, i do understand thst sentence once you explained it, but can you not see how my confusion about it was genuine? it was an ambiguously written sentence, and I misinterpreted it. It happens, and it’s not evidence of ill will, it’s just a mistake.

          • I noted the mistake and pointed to the what was actually said and then I noted that we see this sort of misinterpretation and expectation that someone will take the time to explain to you what has already been explained is a pattern. No offence meant, but I kindly suggest you look for clarification on what confuses you before asking someone to take their time to show you want you can probably figure out on your own if you reread and/or do some research.

          • derrington

            Hou, there are some differences but there are some commonalities. You are looking at the differences whereas I can see the commonalities. Black people are looked down upon and used as a resource and aged people are looked down upon and used. Maybe you dont see that common theme, or dont agree with it, but that has as much to do with you as it does the author of the article or the author of any point you are replying to. I described a wilful neglect of older people til they curl up and die as that is what I witness here in the UK where nearly 50% of old people going into hospital come out malnourished or dehydrated due to neglect. I didnt say anyone else had said that, its my experience of the UK. If you dont understand someone’s point of view you can always ask them to explain rather than treating them as if they have no right to an opinion that isnt the same as yours.

          • hou

            how did I treat anyone as if they have no right to an opinion that isn’t the same as mine?

            I was arguing, yes, but arguments and analysis are a form of engagement. And engaging with something shows that you are at least taking it into consideration and grappling with it.

        • A small majority of older people, most of them male, most of them white, and all of them filthy rich exert much of the power in our society (along with a few younger people who meet the rest of those criteria).

          Age discrimination in employment is very serious. It is very hard to find work after 55, and now, the Feds have raised pensionable age to 67. So we should just curl up and die, I guess.

          • hou

            absolutely no one is suggesting that older people should “curl up and die.” And the majority of people here are anti-capitalists, so of course we are critical of a system that would make ANYBODY face death because of poverty or lack of work… I don’t understand who you are railing against, but your comment was in response to mine… but I don’t understand why. I want to be clear that neither I nor anyone else in this thread has suggested that older people don’t face descrimination or that they should “curl up and die.” Nobody.

          • Who are you addressing, hou? lagatta is responding to Derrington, not you. You are the only one who seems to be “railing” – at Lori Day, Derrington and lagatta à montréal . Why? Because they all seem to agree that ageism exists and ageing people, mostly women, are abused, disrespected and generally treated like inconvenient refuse? You said “I’m trying to understand where you are coming from” to Derrington, but I have to say I can grasp her and the others’ position quite easily. It’s why you are so [apparently] offended that I’m having a hard time understanding.

          • hou

            There’s something going on in this entire conversatoin that is making me frustrated. No one really disagrees that ageism exists and in a problem, and the one person who did, I tried to show how her comment was bad but had something in it that we could learn from.

            But I was seen as taking her side and being on that bad side, the side that is “against” older women or against the idea of ageism somehow. But I’m not. I merely wanted to discuss the details, but it feels to me like anyone who wants to do that here is shouted down in a way that very much stops analysis and basically says “you can’t get into details or analyze the specifics, if you don’t agree that ageism functions like every other oppression and that young people oppress old people the end then you better shut up.”

            It’s disheartening. It feels like a taboo or something, that we cannot discuss how ageism may be different than other oppressions without being accused of having nefarious intent or being some sort of bigot.

            That’s why I was frustrated. I think frustration is an ok thing, and I never got nasty. but everyone appeared to react very strongly and gang up nonetheless. Not totally sure why.

            And if it was clear that I made an honest mistake above and thought that lagatta was responding to me when she was responding to someone else, then why tear me apart for making that mistake? As if it was intended? It was a simple confusion in a series of nesting comments. it happens.

          • No one is shouting. You are the one expressing frustration and misreading other people’s posts. If you are going to take a position in contradiction to something at least take the time to confirm that what you are arguing against and getting frustrated about has actually been said. You have accused people of “railing” where I see no evidence of it. Now you claim you are being”shouted down” and I suggest that’s your own concoction, not something that has actually happened in this exchange.

            I have not been able to make sense of where you are coming from and I said so. That’s all. If you find your argument is not substantive, then maybe revisit it rather than accusing people of ad hominem attacks that are simply not there.

            Also look up “tone policing”

          • derrington

            If its your mistake, then the normal course of action is to apologise for your mistake rather than blame everyone else for letting your mistake pass.

  • Sharon Williams

    this article also applies to 40 somethings as well if you are a woman without kids or cannot have kids you pretty much are invisible as well.

    • Michelle

      As a mother who has felt invisible as a result of having kids, I wanted to reply to this. Although in some ways women are rewarded for having children, it is only partial. Women without kids may have to justify their decision not to have kids, but are not invisible from my point of view. As a mother of children, it is hard to have time to be visible: to network and socializing in the hours after childcare. As a graduate student, I am ‘written off’ as a serious student because I have children and have to prove myself in ways other students who show up to the beer-drinking socials and parties do not. Also, mothers are made invisible by motherhood in many ways. There is research which shows that the worse work discrimination happens when women are mothers: I guess that is a part of a more intensive scrutiny of working mothers than say the blokes who come in with a hangover and a sense that mothers should not be working (should not be visible in the workplace). I experienced this when I became pregnant at my workplace a decade ago: it was not a positive visibility at all–I was quite embarrassed and felt apologetic for deciding to have a baby and felt I had to prove myself again and again, that I was serious and good at my work. There is pressure to make ourselves invisible, to prioritize parenting, to spend every waking minute with the children–and not only pressure but financial strain if you have to pay for childcare or activities. And the constant jokes about moms and their figures: if you haven’t lost the weight in 2 days you are not a MILF, you are a failure and become invisible. Recently I’ve been seeing a resurgence of some old jokes about mom jeans — which are made fun of for being asexual because mothers have ‘ugly’ bodies. I guess I want to say that this idea that childless women have that women who have kids are being rewarded for it because it conforms to traditional expectations of them are wrong, expect in the case of very privileged women. Having kids is really really difficult today, particularly in an era when women are expected to ‘do it all’. I don’t think women can win, what ever choices they make. That’s the point of feminism I guess.

  • Mar Iguana

    Patriarchy’s worst nightmare is old crone wise women, who it has been burning at the stake, literally and figuratively, since its beginnings.

  • Olga Dentzien

    This gave me chills, and some hope. Let’s stick together.

  • Gail

    Incredible article! Bravo – well done!
    Precisely right on the mark.

  • lisa

    This was difficult for me to read, because it was all so true. I will be 52 in June. It is a staggering number to me. I am genuinely shocked often times when I look in the mirror, or worse, see a photo of myself. In my mind, I absolutely picture the “me” at age 28 or so. She was vibrant, rosy-cheeked, skinny, athletic and eager for all of life. When I don’t see that reflection in the mirror, but rather the beginnings of sagging skin around my mouth, lines around my eyes, a fullness in my face I don’t remember. I am a few pounds heavier than before, but I like to think I still look good in a bathing suit—even if the young men don’t notice me anymore.

    As for sexism and ageism in the workplace, well I experienced that from the start because I spent my career in the advertising world. I accidentally saw a male co-worker’s salary once, and it changed everything for me. I realized Those With A Penis ruled. I was outraged, though silently so. I progressively asked for, and got, more money, but always wondered if I were still paid less than my counterparts. As for ageism, I was phased out very early, In my 30s I saw it coming. Actually earlier, because I took some time to be home with my babies, and my return to the workplace was not received with open arms, but rather a sort of disdain from the male superiors. Now I was a MOM, not to be trusted with important work and positions. In my 40s I was rapidly aged out. In my 50s I cannot find work within my own chosen career. A couple of times I have tried working for managers who were half my age. I found I spent too much time biting my tongue. Now I am in grad school, retraining for a new career. Imagine. Starting over when I should be thinking about retirement years.

    Another interesting thing happens as you age. I got divorced in my 40s. i was still busy raising little kids, so wasn’t concerned with boyfriends, dating and such. Later when I started looking around, men my age were not interested in women our age. They liked younger women. Of course they did. Why not. So I have found myself single for 10 years, and seemingly it will be this way. I for one, miss the catcalls of my youth. I never imagined they would stop.

  • Annuana

    I’m 32 and listening… I really appreciated the no-nonsense feminist analysis that you brought to this topic.

    • we shouldn’t have to choose between catcalls and years of loneliness. We are not meat, nor are we asexual beings once past our “best before date”.

      • Morag

        ‘We are not meat, nor are we asexual beings once past our “best before date”.’

        Agreed. But, some women ARE asexual, NOT according to someone else’s definition of her perceived sexual desirability (an externally imposed designation on women’s bodies), but according to the woman’s own temperament and prerogatives.

        Plenty of men who are asexual and/or celibate are accorded full humanity, even praise, for rising “above the flesh” or some such. Men’s bodies are not reduced to meat-bags, and men are not judged by the perceived value of their flesh, whether they are sexual or not. They are valued as people who have bodies, not as bodies per se.

  • Bridget Reidy

    I didn’t read every comment, but I see I am not the only one who does not share this author’s ageism and would like her to understand other people’s experiences better. I am glad that she is understanding her ageism now, but her assumption that younger women can’t or don’t know about ageism or are equally flawed is part of her ageism. This is the defining characteristic of the leading edge of the baby boom, who first disdained their elders with phrases like “don’t trust anyone over thirty”, which they had to modify as the entered middle age with “forty is the new thirty”, and who even now are constantly finding or claiming to find new ways to “age”, so as not to have to admit that anyone before them ever aged well. Their ageism also goes the other direction. They often referred to people just five or ten years younger as “babies” when they entered the workforce, even after a decade of training involving on the job training, and just because they may have never imagined being this old, they assume that young people share their feeling about this and have only the same limited experience and outlook that they had at that age. This self centeredness is what earned them the designation “the me generation” just a few years after they had fought for a better world, presumably for all.
    Of course I over-generalize. But another example of this author’s lack of imagination to see the world through anyone else’s eyes but hers is in her speaking of sexual harassment as a universal experience. Allow me simply to say that being tall or large or fat or just plain ugly will give a young woman a different experience of the world, just as not being part of the biggest demographic will.

    • Laur

      “But another example of this author’s lack of imagination to see the world through anyone else’s eyes but hers is in her speaking of sexual harassment as a universal experience.”

      Research has shown over 90% of women in the U.S. to experience sexual harassment. The numbers very throughout the world, but there are places where the percentage is nearly 100. 🙁 I did my undergraduate thesis on street harassment. I repeatedly heard from older women that once I got to be a certain age, it wouldn’t be a problem. Which of course feeds into women’s need to please men and get sexual reinforcement for our looks.

      Of course you’re allowed your opinion and voice, but clearly a lot of women can relate to this article; look at all the positive responses!

      I am nearly out of my twenties and absolutely dreading ageing. My body is starting to change, which I loathe. It shouldn’t be like this, and it needn’t have to.

      I look forward to more articles related to ageing on FC. 🙂

    • You state that “being tall or large or fat or just plain ugly ” somehow precludes a woman from being sexually harassed. Seriously? I’d like to move to the planet you live on where sexual harassment is for the conventionally attractive only because it certainly is not the world that I live in.

      The article is about ageism in media and culture. Are you saying it’s not there and the author is projecting her own “reverse ageism” onto a non-prejudiced world (again: send the address – I’ll move in a heartbeat).

      She writes: “… if I condemn pornography as systemically damaging to women, it is my age that provokes my labeling as a prude and a pearl-clutcher. It cannot be that I base my opinion on studies and statistics and the understanding that feminism is a movement—one that supports the liberation of all women, not to be confused with individual women who choose to reduce their identities to the sexual uses and abuses of their bodies, calling that empowerment. My age sets me up for a kind of disdain only partially experienced by younger women with the same views.”

      This is the crux of the article. It points to a difference of value placed on women, NOT “younger women are doing this to us!”

      Your whole comment is a straw argument. Unless of course you really are from that planet where only so-called “beautiful” women are harassed and threatened and where young women are marginalized in favour of female seniors…

      • Bridget Reidy

        My only point was that we cannot combat any ism while stereotyping. Being surprised that you are growing older can only occur if extremely naive or in denial, the latter would have to be because of negative attitudes towards aging. It is also my personal experience that the leading edge of the baby boom exhibits the most ageism overall, which is certainly not surprising given the influence their sheer numbers had on the culture in general. But I am growing a little tired of their longstanding ageism, growing up in their shadow, and I am very disappointed that they have not done more towards achieving their adolescent ideals, like getting rid of isms. Again I over generalize, but not realizing you are growing older is a little silly when you think about it, but they still take themselves so darn seriously! I’m younger, not older, but have never had any difficulty accepting the inevitable human condition of aging and/or dying, or thought of myself or people my age as superior to other generations. It’s a kind of wisdom that comes with leaving adolescence.
        And I frankly don’t understand why some of these commentators are reading a feminist blog but referring to magazines of air-brushed models as part of their reality. It looks like feminism, like racism, has taken an even bigger step backwards than I’d realized
        As far as the rather unimportant point I made about not being sexually harassed, that is just my experience in multiple places I’ve lived in the US and Canada. So I’m a minority, maybe more so than I realized, but I am extremely tall- not long legged but big. I have to leave the continent to get cat calls or be treated as a sex object. I’d personally trade some of it in for a little bit of sexual harassment if it meant men, other than the rare over-confidant narcissists when I was young, taking an interest in me. I’ve heard young North American men these days are less insecure though.

        • Meghan Murphy

          “Being surprised that you are growing older can only occur if extremely naive or in denial, the latter would have to be because of negative attitudes towards aging.”

          Everyone knows they are getting older. That doesn’t preclude us from suddenly being like, oh, suddenly things are very different… Also, society has a “negative attitude” about aging (women, in particular). It isn’t us, as individuals, so much, that do (though of course, most people, to a certain degree, fear aging and death, I would think).

        • “My only point was that we cannot combat any ism while stereotyping”

          You conflate identifying a pattern of social behaviour with stereotyping. You cannot combat an “ism”, as you call it, without identifying collective behaviours that negatively impact identifiable groups of people. It’s ironic that you couple this with extensive pronouncements about people born between 1946 and 1964. That’s a hell of a lot of people you’re generalizing about while simultaneously condemning others for “stereotyping”.

          “I frankly don’t understand why some of these commentators are reading a feminist blog but referring to magazines of air-brushed models as part of their reality.”

          Again, the ubiquitous images are part of the world we live in. It’s part of reality.

          And no one has said they were “surprised” that they were getting older. That’s an unfair and disingenuous interpretation of what has been said. Some people have expressed a disconnect between how they feel and how they appear to themselves. Others have express surprise at an abrupt shift in how they are treated.

          You seem to be offended by the column as if someone had insulted you personally. None of your critiques make any sense in term of what is in the original post or the subsequent discussion.

          You also seem to be pretty confident that you have gleaned some wisdom about aging and about effectively advocating for social justice that no one else here seems to have grasped. I’m not sure I share your confidence in your particular insight, but I do wish you well with it.

          • Bridget Reidy

            Wisdom is not limited in this discussion. I agree with much of what I’ve read here, and have learned much, including from what you say. Are you also stereotyping without discernment?

          • Late to the party

            @Bridget Reidy — believe me, as a member of Generation X (on the leading edge), I know what you’re talking about. The attitudes you describe are real. Thank you for your comments, and please know that you are not alone in your experiences or your perspective.

    • Mar Iguana

      You have a bad case of boomerphobia, Bridget Reidy; you’ve got lots of company. You obviously have no clue as to what “…the defining characteristic of the leading edge of the baby boom” was.

      I’m a 67 y/o boomer and proud to be of the generation that brought about a social revolution that changed the world and still scares the living shit out of The Establishment, left with little more than a reactionary obsession to return “their” world to the stultifying buttoned-down conformity of the 50s (of the elders we disdained for damned good reason), when their supremacy was unquestioned and “others” knew their place.

      But, the men of the revolution were as self-centered as any other men, not fighting for a better world for all, but only for themselves, expecting women to remain in the same old subhuman roles they’d been confined to since the beginnings of patriarchy. Their revolution fizzled when the young women dubbed The Second Wave presumed to demand liberation as if they were human or something. The boys went “oops,” started gazing at their navels and literally turned into jerk offs with their porn and their Playboy materialism. It is the radical feminism of those boomer women that carries the torch of the revolution that will become the evolution. Or else.

  • Emmylou

    Thank you for this much needed discourse!

    My mother has been telling me she feels invisible for years. She’s 79 now. I see how some days she believe this, and other days she rallies against it and makes her own reality. She is brave and strong and mostly it is the latter I see in her.

    What is the solution? Long term, short term? This is one of my favorite discussions.

    I feel we are heading there. More voices are speaking out. I feel we need more women who are media producers. Just look what Ariana Huffington was able to do for a progressive thought platform. Jezebel and many other blogs are loud and clear and heard. There are mainstream television shows offering alternatives – Ellen, etc. These are important and they are changing perceptions.

    I find our younger sisters are very savvy. Young people in general have so much information at the fingertips today, they are a very informed and interested generation. Im am ever surprised at their thoughtful understanding of agism, racism and sexism. To me it seems clear that the revolution is no longer on the streets, it is in our minds and in our media our information.

    I think it is important that we expect our younger sisters to be understanding, open and savvy rather than the reverse, which is only alienating.

    Yes, sisterhood! And yes many of our brothers are actively supporting the liberation/feminist movemet too.

    Im a professor and I find that often young people think Feminism means anti-male. Which essentially alienates our brother-allies. I think that the perception that Feminism = ‘anti-male’ is one of the greatest weaknesses of the movement. Men are just as indoctrinated as we.

    On a personal note, I’m 40 and just starting to want to photoshop my face in photos. Im trying to resist that urge and love the way I am aging instead. It is a daily practice, shedding, shedding these internalized media-fed ideas of beauty. Yoga and meditation, exercise and being in nature are my remedies to help me rise above.

    What other remedies and solutions do you all find?

    Many blessings sisters and brothers on the path of liberation!

    • Susan

      I’ve been reading all the comments and suddenly had a memory surface. Back around 1983, I was living in a dorm at a private coed high school. The (male) dorm master had a man come and talk to us about the way women were sexualized in advertising. Girls listened very carefully, grades 9-12. I still remember him showing the pictures of women with their mouths opened and what that represented! As a result, I think it raised our awareness. I’ve always been a “little bit feminist”. I became a 24-year old engineer happy to knock down the sexist 50 year old males. I just loved doing it in a friendly way. So maybe this one idea to continue? Educate girls, but also show the boys, how women are objectified in today’s media. Boys and girls are eager to change the world! Let them be the wave.

      And not in response to your comment, but in general, related to the blog article and the replies made before me: I was surprised to hear my mother in law (who just turned 80 a couple of weeks ago) say recently how she didn’t “feel old”. So maybe old people actually don’t feel old at all! Which is a point someone raised earlier. But yes, I look in the mirror and see those sagging smile lines, stretch out the face, and wonder where did that taut skin go?! I rarely wear make up now. I have stopped shaving. I made a conscious observation last year that I do not like the way society defines what determines beauty. I want to make every person feel beautiful in his or her own natural skin. Can you imagine a world like that? Trimming hair anywhere is okay because sometimes it needs to be practical. But don’t tell me that I have to shave my legs or be considered “gross! I love my sexy armpit hair! It’s long and feminine. And it’s okay to be as feminine or masculine as you want to be.

      So how about it? Can we make a pact to influence the definitions of beauty held by the newest members of our tribe? I remind my daughters often that true beauty lies inside: how you treat other people. My girls are 5, I am 49.

  • Jess

    Young women are reading your article (and hearing) and loving it.

    Jess – 27

  • Dvorah

    I have not experienced any negative change in how I am treated now that I am just about to begin my 6th decade. As a woman who has experienced fat shaming and beauty discrimination all of my life, I find the world a bit kinder, now that I am old enough to not be expected to fit America’s appearance expectations for women. Men AND women no longer are disgusted or angered by the fact that I may not be as pleasing to the eye as they would like. No more nasty comments, diet advice, make-up advice, hair advice, fashion advice or degrading appearance comments!

    So as a larger, plainer woman, the age-ism I experience on the college campus where I work doesn’t add significantly to my burden of getting along as a woman in the world. Rather, I feel I am less invisible than I have been in the past… I’m an outspoken, cheerful, smart, capable, funny, caring woman who has never met society’s demand that I please people with a gorgeous face, hair and body. Now I’m all of that, but older!

  • Jennifer

    Love the article, but can’t ignore the irony of the ad on your website that says “70 year old Grandma looks 40,” complete with a link to a website for beautiful skin.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Ugh. Sorry. I’ve tried to opt out of all the potentially sexist ads with Blogher, but sometimes they pop up anyway… Will try to remedy. I keep thinking I should maybe just take the ads off the site entirely, it’s hardly a big money earner…

    • avx

      google AdBlock Plus

    • I’m not sure how that works but I think it also aggregates to searches in your own history. I get ads for sandals.

  • Irene Loughlin

    As a young woman I felt disempowered, lost and very ANGRY. I lived on a very low income and had a disability. There was no stability nor safety in my life. Some people thought I was beautiful. It didn’t decrease my suffering. I felt like I would die within my crappy conditions and no one would really give a shit. I didn’t receive assistance from older women except judgement. Little was known about mental illness or addiction in the 80s. Now being older means I have somewhere to live, someone who loves me, a job to do, and am not always living in extremely harsh conditions, constantly struggling and being retraumatized. Did anyone read the report that young people are the LONELIEST of all age groups in our society?
    Yet we treat them with contempt as if youth gives them some kind of natural ease and edge. It didn’t for me. Maybe for able bodied women from wealthy backgrounds. But for me and many of my friends it wasn’t like that. I was disassociated and was in pain a lot. I didn’t feel contempt for older women. I felt contempt for ALL older people, their lack of caring, their nice warm houses, cars to get around in throughout the brutal winters here, never going hungry, their ease of life. I understand the contempt and frustration of younger people. Now that I’m a teacher I really cut them some slack. If you had my job you’d see how heartbreaking it can be, the conditions that many young women live under and struggle with.
    I understand the work related issues which I’ve also gone through, the pressure and ageism that is perpetrated, and the external pressure that try to make me feel like I’ve lost relevance. But, I refuse to give into those pressures, as an artist I’ve always fought to define my own life anyways. I think the points you brought up are good but that there’s also another side to this dialogue. Are we helping younger women when we see them suffering and struggling?

    • Morag

      Your comment hit me right in the heart. I relate to a lot of it, and remember a lot of the same feelings of being lost, uncertain and unsafe. Yes, there is another side to this. Certain young women may be protected, but many aren’t, and older people often forget, or, if they are comfortable, they just don’t care. I think the social class system plays huge role. Thank you for this.

    • You bring up some very interesting points Irene. Thank you. I’m an artist too and when I was younger, I did not fit the conventional tropes of attractiveness, especially for performers. However, I did encounter a lot of older women who advised and supported me. I think I was very fortunate in that.

      As for the sort of freedom that Dvorah describes above, I feel that far more than I feel a sense of loss now that the male gaze no longer lingers on me to assess and find me useful or useless as the case may be. I do understand the sense of invisibility that many commenters here have articulated (something that is not the focus of the original article) and I do not feel it as a loss. I was always extremely uncomfortable with male attention even when it was supposedly “positive”.

      I suppose I now see this issue of one’s thoughts and feminist analysis not being taken seriously due to one’s age as very real, but I encourage us all to keep expressing them anyway. When I was younger I did not fit easily into any group of category socially or in terms of my work. It was lonely and I felt like I was not legitimate, not having a group to identify with easily. But having continued on my own path, I have my own body of work that is truly mine and of which I am proud. On a personal level I have never felt so assured as I do now. It has not been an easy journey.

      It’s too bad that these sorts of divisions between women that end up being perceived as intertwined with our politics (whether they really are a part of the analysis or not) increase the fissures between us. I do hope, as the author has stated, that we can move past the sort of individualism and the rigid dogma of identity politics to form stronger solidarity across the line of age, class, race, desire and so on.

  • I’m 49 next week and I’ve been experiencing the same sort of thing, this growing invisibility and perceived irrelevance. I have very long hair, blonde,(I can sit on it) and sometimes people say it’s not right to have that sort of hair in middle age. I do not understand why the length of my hair is of any interest or relevance. I do look younger than I am, but to teenagers and children, that ten or fifteen year *advantage* means little. It only means anything to adults or to someone older. I have gained confidence as I got older; at forty I began life modeling as a way of challenging my fears and found it a very empowering experience. Yesterday I went to the 90th birthday party of a marvelous woman I admire hugely and see her as a grande dame, but she’s always been a strong, out spoken woman. I must send her this article to see what she thinks.

  • avx

    btw: feminist work on ageing:

    Simone de Beauvoir’s testimony to her dismay at ‘society’s secret shame’ in The Coming of Age in 1970, Germaine Greer’s work on the postmenopausal woman, Susan Bordo’s work on the body, Lynne Segal’s recent reflection and analysis of the process of growing older.

  • Jared

    Guess it depends on your frame of reference. I’m 47 and have been a feminist since I was fourteen, so I’ve been aware of thee issues most of my life. Have also been surrounded by very strong baby boomer and other gen-x feminists my whole adult life. Oh, yes. I was warned about aging and visibility issues. You probably were too, but did not hear it. Sounds like you need some good women studies courses and a good DIVERSE feminist community around you. Invisibility is something all kinds of women are already familiar with: non-white women, disabled and/or chronically ill women, non-fem gay women. poor women, over-weight women…..You’re also going to experience loss of status and visibility if you work at home and if you’re an empty nester. Time to stop looking outside yourself for significations of your own worth.

    • vagabondi

      Dude says, let me tell you what’s what, little lady. I’m a real feminist. Maybe you should go back to school.

  • Susan

    I work in Hospice. One of the saddest parts of my job is to walk into the room of an elderly woman, sit and chat with her for a while and realize all the amazing things she did in her life – whether just raising a family, or being out in the work force, or actively engaged in military service – and then hearing them say how they feel unappreciated. That no one understands what they did or, worse yet, even cares anymore. I care. I encourage them to talk about their accomplishments and revel in them. Wrinkles are not the sum total of their lives; their gray and thinning hair does not define them as a person; and once they are reminded of this many of them are calmer about the place they are in now. I have volunteers that record their stories, recipes, favorite memories, in a life journal that we pass on to the families. I encourage them to talk about these things with their visitors, to remember who they were is not where they are now, but a vital part of the whole human community. Value is a hard thing to define for some people, but not for me. We all have value, we have those we loved and hated, those we wish we had been kinder to and those to whom we were all we could be whether appreciated or not. I remind my patients – both men and women, that their voice does matter. And it does. We all matter.

  • Laila Tarbah

    So grateful for this article…I am 55 pushing 60 soon and feel as if I’ve stepped through a looking glass into a bewildering world of invisibility. I enjoyed (and took for granted) decades of relative beauty and charisma and I was aware of the collective conditioning of aging women in our society. Somehow felt I wouldn’t let this happen to me! I was gonna to be a cool old lady and maintain my big open heart and not let the world’s superficiality affect me. Well, as the reality presses in that I am somehow no longer relevant, I feel my heart withdrawing and shrinking from sheer isolation. It really is such a loss to this world that older women are seen this way…we hold such treasures as time goes on, not less. I am in the business of end of life care and constantly see that our older population across the board is shunned. I so hope that we can shift this paradigm. Thank you again for writing such an articulate and uplifting article. I was also very moved by all the comments, especially the younger maidens listening and paying attention. With love to all my sisters, Laila

  • Miriam

    Thank you for this article. At 56, i have felt the invisibility, esp at law school, which i started when i was 40, and in the job market. When i in was in my 20s and 30s, i cldnt wait to be 40, 50, 60, the wise crone. But the reality of this patriarchal culture has made it very challenging. Finally feel on track. Now i sure wish we were marketed to for products other than reversing age. I earned every wrinkle, every gray hair and my goal is not to erase them, but to honor them and me. And besides chicos and eileen fisher (which I love but can rarely afford), where r our beautiful clothes that also honor us?!?!?

  • Yvonne Marjot

    I grew up in a family where we had the greatest respect for elders, and I have know many wise older women whose influence over me was strong. So to reach my fifties and find myself considered irrelevant by the rest of the world was a terrible shock. Of course, I was aware of other women complaining of such things. But like any immortal youth, I didn’t believe it would happen to me. As a society, we waste an enormous and very powerful resource by sidelining those who have the most to offer. I can’t understand how we – not just men, but all of us – can be so stupid.

  • I haven’t read many of the comments here, but it seems like some readers are taking exception to the suggestion of ageism among younger women toward older women. This line from Lori’s essay struck me: “To be an aging woman in America is to be constantly bombarded by imagery and media that distance your younger feminist sisters from you, because the idea of no longer resembling those youthful images of femininity and becoming invisible terrifies them.” It struck me because it’s something I notice every time I browse through magazines at my local bookstores. I grew up loving magazines and I used to subscribe to Shape, Elle, Vogue, as well as Ms. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found fewer and fewer “women’s” magazines that appeal to me, or even seem to want to appeal to me. It seems like once women arrive at their 6th decade, we’re no longer a demographic of interest.

    But what also appealed to me about this essay was one’s own sense of aging, of having that disconnect between the age we feel and the age we are (although I’m not sure there really is a disconnect since generally we’re living longer, healthier lives).

    For many years, I would occasionally experience that shock of “who’s that in the mirror?!” I used to have dark brown hair, but it grayed early and so for a long time, I dyed it. Eventually, I felt the dark hair just made me look older. And it was too expensive to keep up anyway. So I literally cut it all off and started over. And I haven’t looked back. Now I have long white-gray hair, with bangs no less, and I wear it proudly. In fact, I am so proud of my hair that I’ve started dye it again. But with pink, blue, and (lately) mint green streaks. My hair stylist and I joke that eventually I will have “rainbow” hair. I’m 57. I feel like 37. And when I look in the mirror now, the flash of pink, green, blue among the gray and white, always brings a smile to my face.

  • In truth women should not put down women, period. No matter our personal feelings re: porn, age, feminism, religion, education, life goals, whatever … women should be admired for their attempt. We are each blazing our own trail and more power to us. We should stop being our own worst enemies. Who says we have to tow the line?

  • Emmylou

    *Invisibility* is one of the best superpowers… ; )

    • ArgleBargle

      Indeed. I recently watched Billy Mills’ 10,000 meter win at the 1964 Olympics, a fantastic clip available on YouTube I highly recommend. Your post reminds me of a quote from his book, “…I asked for fame, so others would know me; I was given obscurity, that I might know myself.”
      There are others who have observed the same; it holds true in every case.

  • The whole concept of invisibility is interesting. When I was younger I couldn’t wait to be older to be taken seriously. Now at 51 I consider myself in my prime. I have opinions and I voice them. Today I am definitely not invisible. Yet while I have finally achieved my earlier goals, I feel betrayed because somewhere along the line the endgame changed. Now I have an older face, a plumper body and narrower circumstances to figure out my new priorities. I have to re-determine what is important. So the key question is (and it is mine to solve) … who is my audience?

  • Jennifer

    This article and comment thread is very good and points to a lot of conversations that all of us need to have… But many of those issues are not solely factors of age, and ageism (like any inequality and bigotry) can go both ways due to preconception, backlash, misunderstanding… Personally, I have always had many older friends and don’t see age as a factor of being determined invisible or irrelevant so much as not-conforming or not fitting into the expectation (or not taking other people’s crap) can have that effect. I feel I’ve spent much of my life being invisible (yes, despite how I dress) because I don’t interact with the world in a way that’s considered normal… As a child I was very much invisible, and as a young woman I had insults and other things thrown at me more than catcalls. Aging can be an equalizing factor for those who found power in youth & beauty, but for those who haven’t I doubt it matters so much. I admit I have never looked in the mirror and thought that my exterior didn’t match my interior due to age, but rather I’ve always felt that disconnect, even as a child. I have never been treated as particularly attractive by cultural standards, perhaps partly because I don’t often portray myself as such, desiring more to be androgynous or wishing that my femininity both didn’t come into question and didn’t matter at all… Remember – many of those women who would treat older women as inferior too often treat all other women as inferior, outcasting and ridiculing those that don’t “play by the rules” so to speak, younger & older… And they do so for all kinds of reasons, self-doubt, bitterness, disrespect of others and/or themselves, attention, their own inferiority and superiority complexes, being in a bad mood in that time and place, indoctrination, being overly concerned about others’ lives and perceived well-being, and so on. Most women (aside from those few who treat one another so rudely as those I just referenced) are so caught up in their own lives, in just trying to sink or swim and reacting to whatever roles are expected of them, that they cannot catch their breath long enough to connect with one another – sadly I don’t find this to be a factor of age so much as overburdening. In regards to misogyny, it seems to me that the more isolated we all are from one another (across age, race, socio-economic status, gender spectrum, etc.), the stronger the inequality remains.

    • Jennifer

      By the way, the Huffington Post article “Old Men and Plus-Sized Men Can Be Sexy Too. Said No One Ever” is spot on.

      • vagabondi

        Men aren’t required to be sexy. Men are the consumers of sexiness. Just like you don’t have to be delicious to eat dessert.

        • petrus

          Not true. as a man, I feel great pressure to be perceived as sexy. I draw a lot of my self-worth from whether I am perceived as attractive, and it causes me a lot of stress, so I don’t know where you are getting your information from.

          Hopefully you will not dismiss my experience as the defensive voice of the oppressor…

          • nuiolki

            YOU might, but men as a class don’t.

          • Morag

            petrus, we live in a culture where youth, fitness, charm and beauty are highly valued — valued above any other human qualities. Very few individuals escape being measured against these standards at some point in their lives. So, I don’t doubt that you want to be perceived as attractive, and that this causes you stress.

            Still, as nuiolki said, these standards and pressures are not applied equally to men as a class, and to women as a class. It’s night and day, actually. Men are still the consumers, and women are still the product.

          • petrus

            That might be true about men as a class, although I’m starting to doubt it…

            “As of 2013, men’s skin care alone was a $3.3 billion global industry.”


            it can’t just be me buying all those face creams!

            but I don’t represent men as an entire class of course, and I wasn’t pretending to. I was simply responding to vagabondi’s assertion that men aren’t required to be sexy, which I know to be not true.

  • Honey_b

    I had role models growing up (and still) of women who did their own thing as they aged. An aunt who never seemed to have an intimate relationship ( as far as anyone could tell) and lived independently; my mother, who, at 76, travels the world and is extremely involved in the life of our family, as well as living her own dreams. I look forward to what aging brings (to some degree, anyway.) Yes, society does its damage, but we do have agency in how we age. I was not taught to focus on what a victim I am as a woman. I’m privileged for sure, but for white women of means, we really have nothing to complain about. We get to make our own experience of aging.

    • Derrington

      Sorry, but your comment comes over as let them eat cake. And complaining of women adopting victim status when they havent got your means to ease their old age … Once again smacks smacks of the kind of privelege that brought about the french revolution … And the guillotine.

  • Jude the Obscure

    Have not read all 121 responses to your article, but I’d like to say that I, too, am very concerned about what seems the almost inevitable turning away of all gazes just when we become crones–the very sources of wisdom. I don’t think this was always the case or there would be no stories about wise women, or men, for that matter, and there would be no societies in which elders are respected for what they can offer to those younger than they.
    I’ve put in my own small two cents to help things by giving a seminar last year, which I hope to expand, on ancient elder tales, on lessons we elders can glean from world tales of bygone cultures, and how we might revitalize elder tales and, with a lot of work and solidarity, our rightful place in our own society.

  • Marnie

    I am 50 and I still get a lot of male attention. Not as much as when I was younger of course. I guess being invisible hasn’t hit me yet. I don’t know how I will handle it when that does happen. Will I feel great loss? Or will I feel a sense of liberation? What I do agree with is the Patriarchy needs to go away. The Goddess has been and is trying to re emerge.

  • I am a 15 year old girl living with my family for two years in India.
    Being a teenage girl is hard, even the most confident of girls have the inevitable days of questioning and self doubt. I read this article on one of those days.

    Living in India and seeing the still very existent female suppression has made me realize how very lucky I am to have been born a white American female. It has also made me realize that Western societies still have a long way to go before we can say that everyone is “equal”.

    One of the most important things I have learned from living in foreign cultures is to just stop and listen. In our modern super speed world where we have the answers at our fingertips I feel that we, the younger generation, often forget that it’s okay to take advice. Not even advice but to just listen! You guys have been doing and experiencing things for that much longer than us.

    Thank you for writing this article. Today I am experiencing something very different from what you are, but that doesn’t stop me from realising that you were once 15 too. You have been through what I am going through. Most importantly I realize that one day I will be 50. So why shouldn’t I listen to what you have to say? You are giving me a chance to look at my life from a different perspective. Thank you.

  • Pingback: the invisibility of age | No mo' flow()

  • Sherry

    I am sympathetic to your data, your anger, and your reasoning, but I’m not sure what you propose as an answer. I’d like to respectfully ask: What efforts are you making to connect with, and honor the wisdom of, women who are in their 20s/30s/40s?
    I’m currently 40, and I’m starting to be surprised when I look in the mirror…but I’ve noticed that even when I attempt to connect with women elders, it is quite difficult. I’ve been searching for healthy friendships with older and younger women, and I find it’s usually younger women who seem to want to connect. I’m not sure if it’s me, my profession/hobbies, or lifestage busy-ness, or something I’m unaware of, but I’m curious what you think. Is my experience singular?
    I suppose in the absence of your stating a solution, I’ve proposed my own…What are the cultural barriers between women of different generations forming powerful friendships?

    • Meghan Murphy

      I’m in my 30s and I work and ally with women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond… I don’t think negates the fact that there is some serious ageism happening among many younger feminists who dismiss and reject ‘second wavers’ on account of being ‘prudish’ or behind the times… I don’t think it negates the fact that society erases and ignores older women…

      • Sherry

        I’m not negating that society erases and ignores older women; I’m starting to experience this myself. I’m asking what some answers might be. Unless this blog was meant only to express her anger, I’m always looking for ways to bridge the divides among us. I’d like to honor the author’s feelings with meaningful dialogue about our response.
        Two recent experiences that illustrate where I’m at:
        At a roller derby promotional event, I had great conversations with a bunch of amazingly welcoming feminists in their 50s and 60s. But the most hurtful (and unfortunately memorable) exchange was when two feminists made a show of ignoring me, and said so that I could hear, “That’s not a REAL sport. Look at the way they dress.”
        A recent photo went up on Facebook of me in my derby gear, and some feminist, ex-students of mine in their 20s posted things like “You are my role model in all things,” and I wasn’t sure if she meant the tight silver skirt I wore or the muscles I’d worked hard to build…
        What I’m missing on these two poles is dialogue. I would LOVE to get in a critical conversation with a feminist in their 60s about – say – sexual expression and the female athlete; likewise, I’d love to do so with gals in their 20s. But both groups, honestly, seem bound by dogma without enough time or social cross-pollination to form the relationships that break down dogma.

  • Diane

    “No older woman ever demanded that I think about the fact that it would eventually happen to me. No one asked that I care about it, respond to it, and recognize the unfairness of what can sometimes feel like a one-way feminist street.” Probably you weren’t listening, and now that you’re “old” (which you are NOT) you expect others to listen to you. If I remember correctly, your generation didn’t trust anyone over 30 a few years back. Wait till you’re in your seventies. Deal with it.

    • Morag

      “If I remember correctly, your generation didn’t trust anyone over 30 a few years back. Wait till you’re in your seventies. Deal with it.”

      You don’t remember correctly. That was a slogan of the liberal/activist baby boomers. The author is only 49, probably a child of the early boomers, aka, Generation X.

      • Late to the party

        The older Gen Xers (late 40s and very early 50s now) are mostly children of the Silent Generation, who are older than the early boomers.

        • Baby Boom era runs from 1946 to 1964. The youngest boomers are all at least 50 now.

        • Morag

          Yes, you’re right. I do, however, seem to know a lot of mid-forties people (including myself) whose parents are Boomers — Boomers who obviously started having kids when they were young.

          What I find frustrating, because I see it time and again, is the ageist insult against late 40s-50s anti-porn-type feminists, that we’re irrelevant because we are old second wavers. No, we’re not. (Never mind, for a minute, that the second wave is NOT irrelevant.) What’s so dumb about this insult is that we weren’t even there participating in all this. We were babies or kids; we came of age during the backlash; we learned about the women’s liberation movement second-hand, when the whole “sex-positive” third wave was underway.

          It’s a problem with math, and, I think, with language and stereotypes. It’s almost as if when “middle-aged” was made synonymous with “old hippie” the stereotyped construction got stuck in wrinkle in time. I see this a lot, not just in clashes between radical and third-wave feminists, but in popular culture in general — e.g., flashbacks in time for middle-aged characters are often made “psychedelic.” It’s just a lazy, summer-of-love trope, but it seems to have a real effect of bending younger people’s perceptions of time.

      • I’m actually 51, born in 1963 at the tail end of the baby boom.

  • jennie

    This article brings forward ideas that I have dealt with for many years. I have never feared getting older, but being weak, irrelevant, unattractive and foolish has always terrified me. My own vision does not invariably link these things with age, but I see that society does. I have been fortunate enough to work with elderly people for over a decade now, and this has taught me many, many things; and inspired me greatly.

  • JustagirlinNYC

    I agree with the majority of this article, with one glaring exception: most young feminists are feminist in the first place because they understand the injustices of ageism that women in particular face, and they hope to live in better circumstances for their final 1/3rd of life (of course, in addition to many other reasons!) Everyone ages, everyone knows that. We see the injustice of it, and want better than that.
    I’m 25, and live in NY, and have had many conversations with close friends about the absurdity of our fear of aging (despite our inability to completely shake it, we try and at least call it out!). The author may be talking about a certain subset of girls, but I would argue that it’s just as gross a generalization of youth as calling our aged sisters prudes for protesting porn.

    We all recognize the problematic nature of it, and its the fault of the culture we live in. You can bet any young woman with half a mind does not fear aging, as much as she fears the society within which age is not given the respect it deserves. She knows that pure, real wisdom that comes with age isn’t inherently valued in a consumer culture. Right now, they’d rather be looking at my boobs. I’m fighting for the day when the accumulation of my years means they’d rather listen to my thoughts.

    We’re all in this together, and we all have the same interests. Not all young women are out of tune with that basic fact.

  • Cricket

    I agree with everything. I just wanted to share my personal experience as a 30-something woman:

    You’re right. I don’t look forward to getting “older.” But only in the sense that it means I have less time tomorrow to do the things I love than I did yesterday.

    I was, however, lucky enough to have a GLORIOUS example of what life can be for a “senior” woman in my Grandmother. She was Catholic, widowed when I was about 4 years old, and a survivor of breast cancer in her late 60s. She lived life every day, spending time with her “lady-friends”, going to AARP/Widow-Widower Club meetings and parties, taking care of us grandchildren whenever needed, becoming a confidante and support for my mother (her daughter-in-law) as my parents’ marriage began to crumble (and eventually broke all together.) She found Love again almost 20 years after my Grandfather died, and though they were utterly dedicated to one another (despite the scorn of some of her children), financial punishments prevented them from getting married officially. She unabashedly dressed in bright-colored blazers (with and without sequins), combined with more demure turtlenecks and slacks. She was the first person to let me practice henna body art on when I discovered it and became obsessed. I can count on 1 hand the number of times I saw her in anything other than heels. She was a second mother to me, and I learned from her that growing “old” doesn’t have to mean growing slow, or silent, or boring, or invisible.

    I think that if the young women of the world were to have such shining examples of what aging with beauty, grace, and LIFE looks like, we all would have a much brighter future.

  • Let’s elect Hillary Clinton president of the US. She’ll turn 70 while in office and still be MORE than relevant.

    • ArgleBargle

      No, let’s not. Just because she is a female doesn’t mean rally around.

      While Bill did the deed and is the real creep, Hillary had no problem assisting with pushing Monica under the bus. She and most of the mainstream feminists around in the late 1990s are forever linked with the sorry spectacle of shaming and blaming a 21 year old girl for what her boss, the President, 20+ years older, serial creeper, did.

      I’d prefer Elizabeth Warren, but that’s not going to happen this time round at least.

      • Rchen

        Elizabeth Warren would be my choice too!

      • Anne

        It’s fine to vote for Bernie and to love E.W., but the fact that you mention HRC’s personal life as your first reason (and apparently only reason) for not voting for her is inherently anti-feminist. It’s typical of our culture to judge women based on their role within their marriage–that is, based on their relationship to a man.

        By all means, oppose her platform. But your focus on her personal life means that you are now the one who is pushing a woman under the bus.

  • Corinne

    I’m 25 and I’ve been waiting for someone to write this. Hoping to God this kind of consciousness actually existed. I have no female mentors in my life. My mother is in the mindset of a 12 year old, and every older woman I meet is either threatened by me, or I make them uncomfortable because I reach out. It’s hard. I feel alone. And I can’t imagine how alone I will feel when I’m older. It’s only getting worse…

    • derrington

      You’re not alone here … read, speak out, listen, share – think there’s a whole heap of women here that will listen to you and grab your hand to help you through whatever stage you’re going through …

    • Cangle

      Corinne, please keep reaching out, and I hope that these helpful mentors and loving friends are right now approaching you or you them. Derrington is right there are women right here in FC.

      “Healing Into Life” by Stephen Levine, those kinds of books helped me when I had sorrows and was alone.

  • Thank you for this very thoughtful and accurate description of the process of aging for many of us living in the West. I wrote a related piece on my blog last year, mourning the time spent trapped in the ‘view from outside’ where every day unconsciously I was absorbing judgements about the female body, all the while ignoring the view from within.
    As we grow older there is indeed the danger of trying to cling to our youth, out of fear of becoming invisible. And the reverse is also that we believe that aging means becoming nice old ladies and we curb our vitality and power for fear of that combination of misogyny and ageism you describe. Both need to be resisted.

  • la sonn

    I agree — I don’t see ínvisibility as having to do with not being attractive. It has to do with relevance — and sometimes relevance can mean something as simple as being gullible and easy sexual prey. If you are attractive and intelligent, especially in a fraternity house, you could easily be invisible if you look like you are n’t going to drink yourself stupid or are going to make conscious, responsible choices. An attractive 18 year old woman who is this way could be invisible to these types of boys. A more sexually willing older (aging) woman would be more visible to these boys than that 18 yr old. Many times in society, people who are aware and conscious are invisible to the mainstream.

  • I just turned 26, and I’ve always been of the mind that middle-aged women are the best champions for feminism given their wisdom and experience and the fact that they’re out of the woods, reproductively speaking. I love older women, and count many, including my mother, as some of my closest friends and mentors. Older women who do not buy the patriarchal expectation that we remain nubile as long as possible are a force to be reckoned with and their presence stirs fear in the hearts of the oppressor. This is why they are so often belittled, often more than young women. An army of still-strong middle-aged women who do not give a fuck about capitulating to the system they did not create is terrifying to men. They fear you.

  • A great article! I grew up privileged with beloved grandmothers who were so wise and beautiful with age. They assured me that once past menopause, a woman becomes more herself. We see so many young people as characters in movies and on television because old, wise people don’t get themselves in as much trouble and only trouble is interesting fiction. That’s why mom is often dead in Fairy Tales. The problem comes when we leave all the telling of Fairy Tales to men. Then we see mostly women who are no more than their beauty or their childbearing potential.There are too few modern day Fairy God Mothers. So women of all ages, tell your tales, respect each other,support each other, and keep in mind that being invisible can be a super power. If anything, once the catcalls stop, you get to know yourself on your own terms and through your own eyes. Listen to the grandmothers.

  • Felix-Marie Badeau

    My thoughts:

    I happened upon a crone one day.
    Petite and grey.
    She stood at a bus stop clutching her handbag
    Looking for all the world like a helpless little old lady.

    A young man stood beside her
    To wait for the bus.
    When he got too close
    She brayed like a donkey.
    And smirked just a little.
    This is a true story.

    So I examined this crone.
    Skin and bone.
    From her feet to her crown
    And then back again.
    And I started to notice.
    I started to notice.

    Her legs were sturdy.
    Her core cylindrical.
    Her arms seemed light as air.
    Her hands were bony.
    And wrinkled.
    And stony.

    But her face.
    Her FACE!
    Abounding with aged grace.
    It drew you in if you looked.
    Really looked.
    I saw power there
    And a smile that said
    “You’ll see.
    You’ll be me.”

    I was so young
    Those thirty years back.
    Entitled and youthful.
    But let me be truthful
    There’s another part to this story.

    I am now a crone.
    Complete in my power.
    Those vertical lines around my mouth
    Are not prison bars.
    They expand when I smile.
    When I tell you some truth
    About the beauty and folly of youth.

    I have whiskers now too!
    What do you think of that?
    No matter.
    You’ll see.
    You’ll be me.

    My eyes are damn keen
    Though they don’t see well.
    My grey hair has a mind of its own.
    My legs are incredibly sturdy still
    Though they might look like skin and bone.
    These are my parts and my power.
    I have such great power!

    I have a gift.
    I’ll share it with you
    If you promise to pass it along.
    Being a crone is a most desirable state.
    I have never before been this strong.
    It’s kind of a shame that the youth have to wait.
    And wait.
    And wait.

    But then in the blink of an eye….

  • Melissa

    Thank you for the thought-provoking read. I am 35 and have started thinking about the topic of aging a lot lately.

  • Victoria

    I’m 31. I’ve noticed over the past few years that when people ask my age, they always apologise, pointing out how rude they understand it to be, to ask a woman her age. I respond by saying that I’m entirely comfortable with telling people my age, because I disagree with the implication of this so-called rudeness – that older women are somehow bad. When challenged in that way, most people agree that it’s stupid that we place so much emphasis on youth. I don’t know how much I’ll change, but I’ll keep at it.

  • Daniela

    34 and listening.

  • Thank you for writing this. I do think about it. I’m 38 with two young children. It’s interesting to me that the divide is still there btw males and females no matter where we are on the continuum of life. I really do feel we do all need to band together to change our global culture. It doesn’t feel right and I feel at the same time how much better I have it in my part of Australia than many women have it elsewhere. I really feel for women on a global scale but don’t really know what to do about it. I think it’s important though and I haven’t ever thought about becoming invisible but now that you point that out – I can see that very clearly.

  • Rockheadedmama

    My experience has been that after 55 I was no longer employable. Somehow, I was both “too experienced” and “not recent enough”. There is a great deal of ageism that does not allow women to work in office jobs after 55. I have watched friend after friend lose their jobs between 55 and 60 and never be able to find more work. I was forced to apply for my Social Security 19 months early in order to just barely live on my $679 a month benefit. (I worked for a school, a community college, a police dept. taking up about 12 years of my working years that all did not pay into Social Security – because conservatives claimed that would be “double dipping”. I also took off 6 years to have 4 children.) There is no benefit to then having to raise those 4 children by myself, on low wages. Women MUST learn how to get the power to get equal benefits, equal pay and equal rights. We MUST have an ERA.

    • Meghan Murphy

      My parents both went back to university as adults and so had similar challenges when applying for work after they finished their degrees — overqualified for everything and also too ‘old’ for the jobs they were applying for. You’re expected to start careers when you’re younger.

  • Hannah

    Hi! 🙂 I’m 21 years old and not from western region.I felt I have no important thing to say but this blog really gave me a clearer picture of struggles of women, I’m just starting learning how women were on 60s to 90s and in present, because also with my mother as she gradually open herself. Because of it, I loving her more, seeing her bravery, courage, love and strengths . what my feelings is her feelings too. we are in the same boat. How could I empower my mother? I asked her sometimes what she wants do to or her dream or wish, anything that she likes. She said I just want is you to fulfill your dreams (that makes my heart melts). but how except on that thing.. How? maybe answers from same age as her knows it because they (you) have also sons and daughters. Thank you so much.

  • Rhiannon

    My therapist once told me that when men stop noticing you, that’s when you have to worry and do something about it. This has never sat well with me. I’m elated they don’t notice anymore!

  • Pingback: Older women as characters | catherine haustein()

  • Madeline

    Thank you. I’m 25, but I’m one of those people who has always looked older. I looked 18 when I was 14 (which brought a whole host of other side-effects), and so on. I’ve worked as a teacher and a graduate student, and I become increasingly weary of the humble brags of female colleagues, lamenting that they look young. Sometimes, there is a real grievance expressed, but many times it is not the case. When did it become an accomplishment just to look young? I always inevitably end up feeling less-than in these cases, despite a rich and fulfilling life and robust and wonderful support network of friends and family who populate that life. Even as I type this it reads like petty jealousy, which is a reflection of the trend itself.

    • Sarah

      You raise a good point about the impact we can have on other women and girls when we complain (sincerely or not, as the case may be) about ourselves. As I was growing up, my mom complained nonstop about her body size. As someone who had inherited her body type generally, this made me feel terribly insecure. It wasn’t until years after I left home that I was able to change the way I saw myself. Even now, at 36, it takes effort t times.

      Now she does the same thing in front of her 6-year old granddaughter. I have tried discussing this with her and encourage her not to complain about her appearance in front of her grandchild, but she doesn’t fully get it. She doesn’t mean any harm, of course. She loves all of us and thinks we are beautiful, but she still fails to realize how her own self-perception and constant discussions about her body impact those around her. She cannot grasp what her complaints about herself have to do with us, her lovely kids and grandkids! That being said, she is much better than my grandmother, who is hopelessly obsessed with appearances and was likely the root of many of my mom’s problems with herself.

      Also, when it comes to age, I agree that you shouldn’t have to feel like your life is any less beautiful because you look older or younger than your years. Men aren’t brainwashed to obsess on this stuff! There’s more to life than whether we look 25 or 35. It’s truly sad that any of us would ever be taught anything different.

  • I agree with you in part and disagree with you in part. I have been overweight for most of my life, so I have been ignored or made fun of for most of my life. I have dieted before and lost the weight, but found it hard to take on the “male” attention I suddenly received, often from men I worked with who I did not think even knew my name. I eventually put the weight back on. In my late fifties I was ready to take the weight back off and leave it off, perhaps because I knew that I would not be objectified due to my age? I’m not sure. On the other hand, I have still been hit on, curiously enough, by men much younger than me (I am 61). Now I am ready for it.

    Being a part of the “Boomer” generation, I get the sense that people still want our opinion too. I get survey requests all the time. I contribute to certain areas that are of interest to me in the community where I live, and I have a voice there.

    Throughout my professional career, I have mentored students, many of them women. I think that is the greatest gift anyone can give to someone else. Your time. Where I think some women can be cruel to others, speaking as a former “fatty” is women who make fun of the way other women look. We should not put each other down, no matter what our age. We need to stick together.

  • Dandelion

    I’m 57 years old and was a very active radical feminist at the tail end of the Second Wave, and I’ve noticed this disdain for older feminists from younger feminists, and while I think part of it is ageism, I think part of it is that they’ve bought into backlash narrative that began to be promulgated in the 1980s. It cracks me up to hear Second Wavers described as prudish, since they were anything but that, and all you have to do is go into a library and read the many feminist magazines published at the time to see that. We didn’t want to be used for sex the way we were used for coffee-making, but that didn’t at all mean we were in any way “sex-negative.” Women were experimenting sexually in all kinds of ways. Most feminists of that time also worked with a solid critique of capitalism and racism — but the backlash narrative would have you believe that all the feminists of the 1970s wanted to become Fortune 500 CEOs.. That’s so not true. I belonged to a women’s collective in Southern California that was active in the streets and at the legislative level for abortion rights; when one of our members’ exes stopped child support paymeets, we leafletted his workplace until the payments resumed; we campaigned hard against the Briggs Initiative that would have prohibited lesbians and gays from teaching in the public schools and against Prop. 13 because it would decimate public education; we were active in the streets and at civic meetings against LAPD after they shot and killed an elderly black woman holding a paring knife, and we worked with the Older Women’s League for pension reform because at that time older women were the largest demographic living in poverty. Some of us were active in getting medical aid to Nicaragua during the wars there. We had disagreements about prostitution, but we raised funds for COYOTE’s efforts to make the streets safer for sex-workers as well as the attempts by exotic dancers to unionize. We were a racially and ethnically diverse group of women, experimenting sexually and supporting women-owned businesses, women’s lending banks, women’s clinics and housing, and women’s churches — and we were not unique; there were groups like ours all over the country, and the evidence for that is in a whole wealth of small feminist magazines and newspapers in the libraries. Backlash, combined with the Reagan recession and its decimation of farm life and small business, killed what had been a blossoming swath of women’s alternative communities and businesses, and those have never surfaced again. So much was lost, and it kills me to run into the historical revisionism that erases those efforts and that loss.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Yes! Thank you Dandelion!

    • Stefanie

      Beautifully articulated and so very true.

  • I’m a young aspiring writers. One of the mentors I follow shared this on her page, so I thought I’d give it a read. Incredible! I’m only 15, and I find the inspiring. I really felt fully engaged and learned a ton.

  • Mandy

    Thank you for the inspiring post. As a 23 year old though, I do feel all the anxieties about aging, and I kind of wish I didn’t. I’m worried about the parts of me that I love, like my sense of humor, will still “work for me” when I’m older.

    But one thing I am doing to make me less afraid, (and I think it’s working!) is looking at older women, and making myself see them as beautiful, even if that’s not how I was trained to. (And if you think that’s too hard, see American Beauty: trash bag scene). Now, I think I’m going to actively look for older women who are “relevant,” especially in areas I care about, like politics and comedy.

  • When I was young, I loved older women. I loved spending time with my grandmother and my mother. As a teen, my mom told me she would understand if I didn’t want to be seen at the mall with her, but I didn’t care. My mom was an amazing woman. I was never embarrassed to be seen with her.

    Now I’m 46. Older than my mom when she died. I wish she’d live to be old. In part for her own sake of having more life, but also to show me how it can be done. Also, I had breast cancer two years ago. There’s nothing like having your breasts cut out to give you another perspective on womanliness. My body feels older than I think it should.

    And I’m already familiar with invisibility. Some young women at work barely acknowledge me. I don’t interest them. This is not true of all. I’ve young woman friends and older woman friends, but I see some people look through me.

    Anyway, lovely piece. Thanks for writing.

    • Derrington

      I lost my mum at the age of 29. There was so much more i had to learn. Ive always looked up and respected older women if they had knowledge to impart and i feel worried that young women dont value this resource any more for both our sakes – them and us. Big hug and well done for getting through cancer – no wonder your body feels older than it should but it has served you well – it got you through – give it a hug from me

  • Precisely why I believe I have entered the Chic Panther age of being.

  • Margie

    Eventually we all get older. I’m 67 but I feel young because I try to stay active. I remember when I had a lot of anxieties about my changing body from pregnancies and aging. My husband was always there to boost my confidence so I was very lucky I had someone. I really learned over the years it’s not really important at all what you look like but how you feel. In my late 40’s I felt more insecure about my husband maybe not really thinking I was “hot” than looking young. Of course he did but it was a feeling I had maybe because of menopause and the fact that he was in his prime while I was sagging more than ever haha. When I finally realized he didn’t really care too much about what he or I looked like it felt like a relief and I think life has been better and I think we look great!

    • Rachel

      This is a little bit crude, so please don’t watch it if you are sensitive to swearing! But if you are interested in three sassy Middle Aged women poking fun at the media and patriarchy in regards to women then check out this video. Of course, it is humour and doesn’t address the more serious and very real side of women becoming more invisible as they age. But it gives me a little bit of a kick when I’m feeling down and worried about my future. It makes me want to go out, find some great women to kick some serious life butt with and just go out and create some waves, and have as much fun as possible. Google – last f**kable day – Tina fey, Julia luis Dreyfus and Patricia Arquette.

  • Pingback: Madonna’s ‘sexuality’ should be more advanced than a 20-year-old’s » Feminist Current()

  • Suzette Sommer

    I am 64 and truly enjoying my current age and do not feel the least bit invisible to other women OR men, of any age. Nor do I feel less heard, less acknowledged or less influential than decades ago.

    If a person is confident, engaged in life, and interested in others – (I am trying hard to imagine what it is that keeps me going vs women who fade out-) life stays vital.

    If a person is plagued with ill health and cannot participate freely, that is a big source of isolation. Lack of funds can also be very isolating. But simply due to looks or age? Not.

    Maintaining and gaining friends of all age groups makes a big difference. Keeping up with what is new, with technology, current events, new terminology – Not to pretend to be younger than one is – but simply to be up to date – makes a big difference because it allows us to relate to and communicate with all age groups.

    I see too many women who exist in a bubble of life long friends- all their own age – doing the same things they have always done – not extending their reach in new ways – and they do become more and more isolated and less and less visible and influential. Especially after they retire from careers.

    I see other women who are adventurous no matter how many years go by – and they are open to new experiences, people, new thoughts, new projects.

    Keep your life expanding and you will remain fresh and interesting to others – of all ages.

    When I was 40, I was befriended by a fascinating 80 year old woman (yes, I have had some great role models!)

    She advised me to go out of my way to make younger friends.. She said if one does not, your circle of friends shrinks over the years as people get sick and die.

    She said if one is lucky enough to be well and active, we need to have people to do things with – people who CAN do things with us.

    I followed her advice and it is paying off. I feel valued, appreciated and sought after.

    In fact, right now I feel I am entering into the most creative phase of my life. Quite a nice surprise!

    • Mar Iguana

      You, individually, have not experienced any of the downsides of aging mentioned in this article (assuming you actually read it) apparently. Good for you.

      The rest of us old women experiencing the erasing of our existence must be living wrong. That most old women are living in poverty, unable to find jobs, resented and shunned at work for denying young people jobs (if they do miraculously get hired) for being so inconsiderate as to not catch the next ice flow out to sea or go for a one way walk into a forest to relieve society from the burden we cause since we no longer have anything of use to men, etc., etc., etc., is our own damned fault right?.

      Somehow, your comment is not unlike the female corporate executive telling women all they have to do is lean in, The happy hooker swearing she has only had great and empowering experiences choosing to get paid to allow men to rape them, the women who have bought into the cult of identity individualism as opposed to community.

      Well, got to go. I have to get busy with my own boot straps so I can kick start expanding my life and get all fresh and interesting to others of all ages. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

    • marv

      Suzette Sommer, the following book authored by Barbara Ehrenreich is a valuable conscious raising read: Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America (2009). In the United Kingdom this book is called Smile Or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World 9 January 2010 Guardian/UK It’s disruptive and true.

      It can be found in many local libraries.

      • Morag

        Good book, and good recommendation, marv!

        I didn’t know the UK title was Smile or Die. Love it. But the American title is also great, with “bright-sided” being a play on “blind-sided.” When you’re feeling lowly, disenfranchised, poor, etc., that is, indeed, what enforced positive thinking feels like. Like a slap on the face or a punch to the gut. It’s insult to injury.

    • derrington

      That’s your individual experience, but the fact that so many women complain of becoming invisible after child bearing years have passed smacks of a larger problem. In the UK, older women have a severe problem with pension discrimination, work discrimination and family discrimination down to gender. To sideline other people’s experience as somehow the fault of them as individuals is a little like hearing ‘let them eat cake’ or the tobacco industry telling lung cancer sufferers that they just had bad genes.

  • Rachel

    I absolutely love this! I am in my late 20s and it has dawned on me more and more just how fast ‘old age’ is approaching. And being a woman, how much more my already low value is rapidly decreasing even more. On one hand I fight with myself and tear myself apart for not making the most of the last of my ‘beauty’ because by now, the end is near. But after calming down, and really thinking about it, I realise that even when I was younger and ‘beautiful’, I wasn’t really happy! The patriarchy had taught me that my beauty was my main source of value, and the ever changing ideal of beauty was something I should chase. It taught me to be jealous of my other ‘beautiful’ and young competitors. That I should constantly be on the look and listen out for wolf whistles and ogles from men. Any day that I happened to receive less, was a clear sign that my beauty and worth had decreased and meant I should diet and change my hair and makeup. And having spent a large part of my 20s in violent relationships I often worry that I’ve wasted my ‘best years’ on men who didn’t appreciate my declining physical beauty. The fear that I’m going to be a middle aged and older woman possibly with no man by my side scares the life out of me at times, because with my main value as a woman disappearing I’m suddenly more worthless unless I have a man. It makes me realise that I also never thought I would age when I was younger…and I’m still considered ‘young’ now, though on the very brink. I’ve noticed that the younger women I know now make jokes about my age, and at first I was offended but now realise I was also like them once and I slightly pity them because they don’t realise the time will come for them too. I refuse to be caught up with the jealousy I’ve been taught, and I aim to mentor them through their years whilst also looking towards women older than me, to learn my value and challenge my ideas around ageing. Even now, I’ve noticed that my views on the porn industry and the media fall on deaf ears and get attributed to my jealousy of younger women. The fact is, even when I wAs younger I didn’t like porn. But as told by the patriarchy I kept my mouth closed and dealt with the negative feelings and lump in my throat everytime I felt my partner being pulled away and sharing something that was supposed to be special to me, with every naked women on screen. But by the time I’ve acknowledged that my pain was real and it was ok to have those views, my voice has been reduced even more. It’s a real shame! I do really hope more women, young and old, can band together and lift each other up.

    • I was asking an anthropologist about this and he pointed out that not all societies put an emphasis on female beauty but that it seems to go hand in hand with intense agriculture and societies where the means of production are concentrated. So my suggestion is to fight back in your own way–grow a garden or do something to put production into your own hands.

  • Hugh Mann

    Getting older and invisible is not restricted to women, our society has lost respect in general to those of greater age, experience, knowledge and maturity in every way, a loss to all. This is mostly a North American created way of looking at things and has been working its way since at least the second world war. We have to school our young to respect people of all ages. I think the easiest is always to lead by example, spending time with family of all ages was my parent’s example. Doing things with them and engaging where ever we are with people,not just our own age group. We divide off too easily.

    • Sharon Cohen Jones

      And here we go. “But what about the men?” Thanks for mansplaining this.

      • Winifred Ryan

        Interesting to come down here into comments because I was going to suggest that men notice ageism as well, but that it is different because the physicality/sexuality/beauty of women is such a dominant aspect in our lives. Male age defined cohorts of mine are seeing similar limitations on job hunting and progression now, with concerns of care for their youngsters (late childbearing for them). I can both sympathize and empathize with this aspect of their lives.

        I notice that I get more recognition by men now due to weight loss and taking more care of my appearance and it peeves me. When younger I was treated more as a “beast of burden” or at best “one of the boys.” I’ve stopped trying to work so hard in physical sciences, so I can do this. So even in my older age I’m getting recognized as female in the ways that you didn’t like when younger, and of course by mediocre men. On that level men in general don’t get a pass.

        Unfortunately this is exacerbated by our current political situation. May this change soon.

    • Anne

      Yes, ageism is not restricted to women. But this article is about how ageism affects women in the feminist movement. When you divert it to ageism in general, you miss the point.

      Read it again. Try to imagine yourself as an aging feminist woman whose voice is now being disregarded by younger feminist women. Now do some research into how ageism affects women vs. men. You can start with actors vs. actresses (peak earnings of the former is age 54, of the latter–age 34).

      Now, try entering the conversation again without changing the subject.

    • giddypony

      Men however don’t face the condensation and being seen simply as a sexual being that women do. So while it is true that we need to respect people of all ages, women have a different journey. As you age you just aren’t being listened to in a different way.

  • Andi Magenheimer

    Reading this as a 31 year old who’s been getting carded lately, it sounds like you were pretty bad at being aware of issues faced by older women when you were my age. I’m sure you’re right about that being the case among younger women today as well, but I immensely dislike the exhaustive disdain and “poor me (now)” tone. Of course I know I’m going to age and I’m conscious of it all the time, and call people out on ageist remarks or behaviours ALL. The. Time. I think you’re assuming a lot.

    • Rachel Roth

      Reading this as someone who recently turned 32 and gets carded perhaps half the time, I find this article extremely relevant and timely. I became acutely aware of my own aging exterior 3.5 years ago, when I took notice of being called “Ma’am” – at 28!. That moment profoundly impacted me, triggering an obsession with skincare. Quite a few dollars later, I am never called “ma’am”, and generally not assumed to be older than I am.

      I frequently ask myself why, at an age still widely regarded as “young adulthood”, I have resorted to such measures to retain some semblance of “youth”. The answer comes easily enough: For the sake of self-confidence. I wish to be seen in public without facing the disdain or disgust of people who would label me “no longer hot”, “past her prime”, or a “has been”. I long for the acceptance of others — to be visible; audible; able to share what wisdom I’ve acquired without being thought “out of it”.

      Then I realise that the perspective discussed above hints at deeply messed-up societal biases. Why should we need to look youthful or classically “beautiful” in order to be heard? I understand that we are biologically hard-wired to respond to youth and beauty, as they are signs of fertility and health (or “genetic fitness”). However, we are human beings — we are sentient and sapient creatures. I would hope that a species which has accomplished as much as ours might be capable of overcoming our more cruel and savage instincts.

      Women of different ages have just as much to share, and as much to contribute, as women of different races, religions, and sexual orientations. Let’s listen, share, and learn! 🙂

    • Anne

      I didn’t read this at all as a “poor me” post. It’s politically aware and wise. That you’ve reacted with defensive disdain is telling, and actually exemplifies what this article is about.

      • Celeste Rose Hammond

        Correct. One of those younger Women that is trying to avoid identifying with age and older people.

    • Cleogrrl

      Hers is the language of truth woven with lamentation and some grief, emphatically not “poor me”. Learning to parse nuance and paradox is one of the many great gifts of aging.

      • Celeste Rose Hammond

        well said.

    • giddypony

      Wondering why, if this is so, you felt the need to remind us all of how young you appear with your reference to being carded.

      • Celeste Rose Hammond

        I agree.

    • Celeste Rose Hammond

      Funny, I didn’t read into the authors narrative that she was saying,”Poor me.” I rather felt she was feeling surpised by the attitudes towards her as she has aged. I didn’t ever feel when reading her article that she was asking for sympathy, but rather stating what she was experiening. I also was carded at 31, I’m now 79 and people think I’m 60, its just genes. No Matter, I’m now just recently identifying with her. You are still too young yet, I guess. Just live alittle long and it’ll be come apparrent.

  • GeorgeMokray

    As a member of the penis-owning gender, I have no standing but I learned a lot from Ursula K LeGuin’s short essay on The Space Crone;f=23;t=2089;st=0

  • Randall Brownlee

    I love this. I’m often frustrated by the ageism of feminists of my generation (I’m 27), and the lashing back against some of the wisdom of women who’ve been fighting for equality much longer than we have. As someone who grew up surrounded by amazing female role models of middle age or beyond, it never ceases to astound me that some people my age can have so little respect for the perspective of people who have the experience BOTH of being young and of being no longer young. It’s not like I never disagree with women I respect who are older, but I find the dismissive attitude so commonly held towards our mother’s and grandmother’s generation to be, frankly, one of the most telling signs of immaturity that a peer can show me.

    • Celeste Rose Hammond

      Good for you. You are a thughtful and sensitive person.

  • Tir

    Wow, this was a thoughtful, rewarding piece. I am so glad I read it as it really makes me think about how to live my life well, away from culture’s expectations and norms. I’m already learning that my worth and my quality of life is determined by what I allow in my brain. Lori, this was a wonderful treatise to honor ourselves as women.

  • kara

    YEAH !!!!

  • Unree

    A year after your comment, Dan Rather is still alive and well.

  • SnarkOff

    I’m 50, you’re absolutely right, and this is so depressing.

  • jcdevildog

    I found my first gray hair when I was 19: colored it for years, and now (I’m in my 70s) I’ve stopped & discovered it looks “frosted” rather than “old”–at least to me. I come from a family that ages pretty slowly physically, aside from hair color: I attribute the slow aging to my “African heritage”, which (per my daughter, who’s into genealogy) apparently consists of one individual from the mid-18th to 19th century–but it’s a good conversation opener (or conversation stopper for some).

    My immediate family was three-generational, with my grandmother presiding as matriarch and a majority of females, so the idea of men as superior never had a chance to take root in me. (My family also has some Quaker background, which tends to reinforce gender equality.) I remember in high school that my teacher made a remark about my possibly letting my boyfriend (we were co-valedictorians) beat me at something academic: I was surprised and offended–I’m not especially competitive, but neither am I one to hide any lights I may have under a basket.

    I currently live in a small community where most of the population is older, African-American or both, and I find that most people I meet are happy to interact with anyone who’s friendly and willing to help out with issues. I’ve been here for a few years & support/volunteer for the Democratic party, environmental groups, and local/area libraries, which are about as much as I can handle in person–plus being politically active online. I suspect that living in a small town makes it easier to be seen as an individual–or maybe I’m just more “individual” than the average.

    For me, menopause was entirely positive: no real “symptoms”, except that I no longer feel an insistence to have sex–I can if I want to, but it’s no longer at (or anywhere near) the top of my agenda, for which I am grateful. My general attitude toward aging is that getting old is no picnic, but it beats hell out of the alternative.

    • Maria Gatti

      I have more African heritage than that; my maternal grandfather was of Obama’s hue. So I’m about 1/8th Black, called an “octaroon” according to old racist terminology. But I wouldn’t claim to be a Black person as I don’t experience that particular discrimination, though I definitely have an African kink in my hair.

  • doclmd

    Wow. I thought the author was my age, 72. I can distinctly remember feeling powerful at 52. Men I hired to do repair work beyond my basic skills no longer patronized me, calling me ‘sweetheart’ or some other Southernism that was supposed to be a compliment and a put down simultaneously. When one guy told me I didn’t want some garage floor product because “it’s too expensive”, instead of feeling impotent rage, I laughed in his face and said “how do you know how much money I have?” He started acting like I was a real customer.
    Yes, we women need to tip off the next generation. After reading this, I’m going to have a talk with my 36 year old daughter.

    • Celeste Rose Hammond

      I think the times have changed in the last 20 years, And at 51 now-a-days alot of men are just so into themselves and superficial, that if your not 26 anymore they don’t even want to be nice, the attitude of you are not useable anymore. Its a Trump thing too.

  • sam tansley

    I agree.. I had a wonderful, feminist mother.. supportive in every way.. and I’m 72

    • Celeste Rose Hammond

      Me too, I’m 79

  • Karen Rose

    You have so much wisdom already!!

    • Briar

      Thank you so much for saying so! I don’t often feel that way, but I know that wisdom is there in everyone. I’m coming to realise that for wisdom to materialise in coherent communicative form it needs to be supported with a deeper sense of confidence and intuition, that what you know is true. But there is often no easy explanation for where this confidence and intuition comes from, because it pertains to our infinite interconnectedness with everything, every time and everyone. So I think that those who trust in that confidence and intuition can finally tap into their wisdom.

  • elainehayes

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!!!! I am also 51, and I’ve slowly started to notice how a few of my coworkers treat me. Not unkindly, but perhaps irrelevant? I am the oldest at my workplace (public library) but I don’t feel 51 is old at all. It’s a strange circumstance, and not one you think about at all when you’re in your 30s. Your article make me lift my chin and square my shoulders. I AM relevant.

  • Cherryaa

    Welcome, Lori! It’s okay, you know. Different, but okay. The ‘invisibility’ is quite enjoyable and, on the occasions where you need to be visible, you now have the fuck-off confidence to wear & be loud. Unlike you, I did study older women during my ‘popular’ years. Like us all, I had plans for how I would age. Like too many and like Candace below, life bashed me hard & repeatedly so I aged faster and more wearily than I’d intended. And it’s still okay. Wisdom is a great thing – you’re just getting yours. I feel you haven’t quite yet discovered the superb lack of concern for cultural norms that is the gift of a culture that doesn’t bother normalizing people like us 😉 You will! Have fun. Be loud. Love from a 62 year old.

  • Cherryaa

    Yes, Christina! This is so true. We’re only now discovering the astounding degree to which medical science has ignored female physiology – with older females, ignorance is joined by devaluation. It is a BATTLE to get any healthcare provider to consult you as a person instead of as a faceless, amorphous piece of ‘old women’.

    Luckily we are very good at battling 😉

  • Cherryaa

    Some piece of research was published yesterday, showing the majority of political activism (the type requiring more than a tweet) was accomplished by older women. And that the older we are, the more we activate.

    We deserve to be proud of ourselves and each other.

  • VengaYa

    Just saw the movie “The Last Word”, and now my day is capped off with this excellent article. Thank you!

  • Travlingypsy

    As I am reading this article I kept coming back to my years being treated by doctors. It doesn’t matter what age you are when it comes to medicine. No one listened to me as a child with a very inappropriate urologist that I saw for 13 yrs. Who incidentally never fixed the problem. Then when I had cancer at 35 there was only 1 doc who listened to me. The other 5 or 6 were so egotistical and some abusive that when I found my 2nd lump in my other breast I refused to go back to them. I found my own way to cure myself then and with ovarian cancer a few years later. I have not gone back but instead built a practice around the things that I used when deciding to heal myself. Ya gotta be yourself….even down to cancer. I knew there had to be a better way other than pain and humiliation. Turns out I was right.

    There is a reason I wrote that. We cannot, any of us, conform to the social whims of conforming ettiquite. I am 65 now and I refuse to not feel my sensuality. I wear the clothes I like…regardless of the age appropriateness. When I walk into a room I hold my own. I fill myself with love and let that generate out of me. I think of myself as timeless. The genetics of my body leaves part of me looking my age, whatever that means. I have ageless wisdom, how to heal without medicine. That is relevant at any age. I am relevant at any age. At 45 I bought a truck made it a camper and lived in it as I traveled around the country, Central America, Canada and Alaska. I worked on a fishing boat at 48 throwing around 10,000 lbs of ice for fish to rest in. I did it alone and never once thought I shouldn’t, nor was I scared.

    I think one of our problems in growing is that we listen to other people. We look to others to guide us. No one else knows what we need or want, only we know that. Listening to myself has always worked for me. At one point I stopped reading everyone else’s words. I needed to find ME. So much can be said about this. To find yourself you can only and must look inside. Period. No one else has your uniqueness. How could they possibly know what your way of livingmis. We are saturated with The Right Way. It doesn’t exist. Only your way exists.

    I can feel the disconnect from other younger people and it saddens me. I look in the mirror and I see this older face and thinning hair. I went through menopause at 36 because the çhemo made me sterile. I’ve been loosing hair for 30 years, that bothers me more than anything…but F it. I am timeless and so are you. Maybe I’ll tattoo hair on my head if I loose it all.

    For the woman who talked about needing someone to love you….I also realized what a draw back relationships can be. I have friends and I learned how to tap into the primal love that creates. I have, as do we all, access to all that LOVE 24/7. We do not need a man to love us. Honestly, 5 men to date off and on for intimacy or for companionship would be ideal. We have to make our own rules. I live alone and I travel alone and I love it.

    I spent time in Panama a few years back and the island I was on was mostly run by women. Every woman I met was 20 to 30 years older than their husband or boyfriend. Chiquita Banana Co was their main employer and moved their headquarters off the island, all the men left. The woman own the businesses. They took over because they had to. When talking to the local bar owner I heard a phrase that “if he doesn’t work out you just move to the next one”. It was fascinating being pursed by men in their 20’s while I was in my late 40’s. We cannot obey the rules. They only hold you back. They are built on fear, not adventure and creativity.

    My pet peeve, in my field, is that with the advent of New Age thinking most younger people think they know everything about healing. They speak the vernacular of this age, taking on the verbiage of the industry. Words change so quickly it seems, without much thinking about it. That is youth tho. I did it too. One can not be a master of anything in 5 years. It takes years of practice to do that.

    I love being older. The BS stops. You walk away easier. Have deeper, more spiritual connections and awareness. Can appreciate what is important about life. You stop chasing the next thing and settle into yourself. You do have to workout more consistently so get in a practice now and keep it going. It was shocking to me how the strength I had with minimal effort started to fade. If I miss anything it is that. But I am better at everything else in my life. My practice is amazing…the work I do now is the best I’ve ever done. And now I am the knowledgeable one. I am sought out for having spent 30 years listening, practicing, seeking, doing very esoteric and profound healing work.

    Don’t think of life as an end game. It isn’t. I never understood the drive to retire. Do things you are crazy about and let life be organic, authentic. The world needs each one of us. We all matter. And trust yourself. Big deal….have to do that. I found that there is a part of us that does know what is next even if one step forward. Trust that!

    I appreciate all women and men of all ages. The hardest part is being around people who don’t but then you have to fill yourself with LOVE and stand there beaming….we are all timeless. When u get that, life is very different.

    As one of my teachers has said, “you belong here. Take your place. Just take it. Don’t ever ask to be part of something…you already are. And stop being so nice”. I think women thinking they have to be nice is a huge mistake. Instead BE powerful. When u do that everything falls into place. Own yourself….if we give ourselves away we are empty. Strive for failure because then you’ll try everything and won’t hold yourself back. I believe that women of a certain age from at least 50 on are the best kept secret in the world. We have to get that. It passes people off but that is the nature of being yourself, holding onto your ineffable value. If they get angry about you standing in for you….so be it. Maybe you are the one to teach them something.

    I also learned it doesn’t pay to think too much. Analyzing life is painful and exhausting. Meditate daily…a quiet mind makes you invincible. Spent time listening. Women are amazing!!!! I appreciate men but older women are much more interesting. Men like to talk about themselves. Healthy women are much more well rounded. We can do both.

  • Lorna Poyer

    At 62 I went to my first protest—the women’s rally in Lansing Michigan. I am angry at what America has become in the past few months, but also scared that it was like this all along, but many of us were not aware that we still lived in a small-minded, hate-filled, good ole boys world. Since then I have become an activist, writing and calling our legislators and attending town hall meetings. I have had a private practice doing counseling for thirteen years. I am paid the same as a male therapist, so I haven’t had to put up with the wage discrepancy, although I certainly remember that. Being self employed allows me many freedoms, but also difficulties, as a single woman. I feel burned out often from listening to other’s problems. However, the reality is that I will have to work longer in order to retire. Outside of work I sometimes feel “invisible”–an aging woman whose eyes are drooping instead of sparkling, and whose middle is expanding! But, I am happy to still be here and still accumulating wisdom from other women!

  • Michelle

    Hey Lori, I’m 23, and I was happy to stumble upon your article. It brings me great sadness to see how my mom struggles with her body image, her age, and what it means to be attractive (or not). I feel very aware of what my attractiveness gives me in terms of social power and respect. Through reflection of other’s opinions of me I’ve come to think of myself as a moderately attractive female, but it wasn’t until later in high school that this became true. I remember growing up an being teased about my appearance, and only in the past year or two I can honestly feel relatively comfortable in my body. I know people treat me differently because of how I look, and I fear the loss of this willingness to hear me or respect me, to be lost as I age. Thank you for being brave and strong, and standing up as a role model for women like me.

  • Stella St Clair

    Turning 60 this May and realizing that the more “invisible” I become, the more clearly I can see. I can hold tenderness for my younger self and all her struggles to be whatever it was I thought I was supposed to be. And I can now remained amused, amazed and utterly grateful for the opportunity, at last, to just BE myself in the world. I have worked and sweated and bled through Maiden-Mother years and now I can claim the crown of Crone with excitement and delight I never imagined would be possible. Aging while female has been the biggest surprise of my life! Who knew it would be so cool???

  • Shari Girardeau

    SO needed this right now, thank you! Menopause smacked me so hard the last couple of months after flirting with me for years, and it is hard work finding self worth sometimes.

    • Celeste Rose Hammond

      Don’t look for self worth outsdide of Yourself, its inside of you, and shows up when you are doing something worthy for others or for yourself.

  • Briar

    Yes! I am half Greek Cypriot and half Kiwi (New Zealand). In Greek culture, the older women have a lot of pride in their appearance, knowledge, wisdom, and confidence. My grandmother in Cyprus is a classic matriarchal figure and not once have I heard her complain about being older. She always talks of other older women around her as being beautiful too. I love her lighthearted spirit! I grew up in New Zealand however and the culture here is a lot more anxious when it comes to getting older for women. It shows in the way my grandmother here hates photos being taken of her, and my mother, even though she’s gorgeous, clearly thinks of herself as ‘old’ and unable to wear what she wants. But, that being said, they are incredibly strong women in other ways, and I still think they are both beautiful inside and out anyway, even if they don’t believe me! And you are so right. We need to claim our power and Divinity.
    Thank you so much for your response!

  • Celeste Rose Hammond

    Bravo! So glad you are keeping you chin up. It isn’t easy, But I highly respect you taking the Accupuncture Courses. My Husband studied and went to 7 years of Medical school in 3.5 years to become a DC Doctor of Chiropractic. and decided instead of working on People, to work on Animals. He been with a Vet here in Pasadena, CA. for 13 years now, and loves his work. Not alot of Money, but we get by okay. He has fringe Benefits of lots of slobbery kisses. They also have an Acupunturist there, Hydro Therapy etc. Better late than never, and its something you will really enjoy. I use to see one, but lately have not, my business has been somewhat slow since the Inaugration. I’m 79 , my husband is 52. Like I said I’ve always looked 10 to 20 years younger and felt that way too, but now in the last year, I notice that I also have become a bit invisible human being, but no worry, its others problems not mine. Its bit difficult , lately when we had family get togehters, with some younger women joining the group, they would not so much include me in their talks and I felt suddenly left out, altho one of them with kids of her own seemed to gravitate towards me with repect for what I had to say. It was nice., so its not a complete loss, once the others got to know me, they don’t mind sharing themselves so much. It depends on people themselves. You get what you give, but sometimes people don’t want to take, and its their loss.

    • candace

      thanks Celeste…best to you

  • Celeste Rose Hammond

    Hi Briar, I like your spirit and your attitude, but you do have some things that you will learn as time marches on. I’m now 79 and when I was your age, I couldn’t wait to be 40, cause in 1964, I’d see these older women, who didn’t give a shit about what any one else thought about them, but as it turned out, I really sort of Lived my life like that anyway, and those were good years in the 60’s and 70’s and most of us had that attitude. Its not our worst nightmare, being devalued by Trump type men who are just think women are only important if they are young and pretty and can be used, because after all its the good guys that count, the ones that do not mistreat or disrespect women, but its not just men either, some women do have a tendency to want to avoid older women. (fear?) I always like you, valued age, and repected wisdom, and so had older and younger women friends, but thats was then and I’m not so sure people are like that as much now. People now, seems hell bent on superficality, greed, and whether or not someone is useful to them or not. Luckily( because people sare superficial) most of my life I have always looked about 20 years younger than my age. Recently a 54 year old white man who didn’t like my opinion was verbally attacking me and called me a 60 year old Bitch. (its always, a slut or a Bitch) but he was shocked when I told him I was almost 80. My husband is 52, my son is 52, People use to think I was his girlfriend, probablky because I did look young, but he was also balding but thats all superficial, but you begin to see that you are treated according to your age or usefulness. Lately to men and women thinking I am now 60, are treating me differntly. because of ageism. It is REAL, it is true, it seems the weaker old ladies get, the worse they are treated by a large amount of the public. and it is a little scary sometimes. I do not look frumpy, I’m not asking for sympathy, because I still won’t take shit from Men or anyone for that matter. I’ve empowered myself I have 3 online business’s, am my own boss, 2 Vintsge store on Ebay and Etsy, I am an Artist, and have my own art store, I keep quite busy and have a full life. BUT…it catches up with us all, and I’m not going to lie to you or pretend, that at this stage, its all down hill for me.Ha! I may laugh, But I mean it. I’m now a realist. Most of my life, I was Peter Pan and was never going to get old, I loved the film “Orlando,”with Tilda Swinton where she lives 400 years or more. But we don’t… and along with age also comes frailness (I think thats the what you are sensing in older women that passby you) Frailty, illness, etc. As Grandpa Simpson Says,”Old age ain’t for Sissys.” Ha!
    Briar, I wish you love and health and happiness, and as Bob Dylan sings,”May you stay forever young!”

  • Celeste Rose Hammond

    Good for you

  • Celeste Rose Hammond

    So Sorry about your Mother, but its true, I’m 79 and Been healthy most sll of my life, but at 65 found I had an anuerysm, which I’ve kept watch on and now yearly get a check-up, and find Doctors really have a problem listening…They are all very sweet and nice, but sometime they get sidetracked and just don’t hear you, its a real problem.

  • Kathleen Lowrey

    I am very late to this party, and I am definitely a greying head nodding along (46). One thing that makes me hesitate a bit about asking for more solidarity from young women is one of the things we *know* for sure is there is so much demand, already, for their attention from men. So while it sucks to be the ignored mommy (can you just clean it up while no one notices you?), I’m hesitant as the ignored mommy to issue demands to younger women that *they* in particular must be the ones to notice me and all the other ignored older women. Because we know that they are getting bombarded by “pay attention to ME pay attention to ME” demands from men of all ages, and they are sort of socialized to be like, “okay, yes, okay, I’m attentive” so if older women pile on and say “to be a good feminist you must also pay attention to ME” it’s sort of: using their socialization against them. And of course this, like so much else, is such a classic family dynamic under patriarchy: the adult son never calls, the husband is dismissive, the adult daughter becomes the sounding-board and lone ally.

    if I’m going to be an ignored older woman anyway I can completely live with playing that role for younger women and being supportive of situations where they can pay attention to themselves. As an older feminist, I think we need to think about how to make sure our demands are directed at the patriarchy, not at other women and particularly not at younger women.

    • Fiona1933

      Its younger women who are being the handmaidens and throwing away as fast as they can everything second-wavers built. They act like the Khmer Rouge. They are the ones combing through people’s comments and getting them fired. You know, they are just like the early Christian women around the church fathers, undoing the very early equality and ensuring Christianity would be a force for male oppression. It was the women who carried the word of the men and who policed other women until they were crushed…they were the fanatics and these young feminists are the same: handmaidens. i feel they hate feminism because what they really want is to display themselves prettily and have men pay for them…hence their talk of being sex workers.

  • Josie Phelan

    Good article and thanks for writing it .. If you ever get the chance to go to a real native american gathering, not just a pow-wow where there’s competitive dancing, .. but something more ceremonial / peaceful and not at all commercial .. then you’ll experience a whole other culture towards the elders, (me), and it’s Beautiful! really really really beautiful. There’s a respect Taught to the younger ones for the elders, for their wisdom, for whatever they’ve done to help the younger ones grow. It’s So different from american ‘culture’. I realize other countries also honor their elders, but I’ve only personally experienced it at some of these native gatherings. Thank goodness for this conscious way of respect. It’s tough growing old without it! p.s. I am not of native blood, and never experienced one of these gatherings ’til I was in my late 50’s..

    • Fiona1933

      Yes, I live in Hong Kong and its a different world. Chinese men look at you totally differently when you are older, than the Western ones. I see Western males who used to openly turn their head and watch me, whether I wanted it or not, now glance at me…and its like they say: Man I need to compete with? No. Woman I want to fuck? No. and that that. But Chinese men see a person, you feel it. Its like everything for the Western male is about sex. They do say Chinese men have lower testosterone. And the older women here…older people…they know how to do old. They see this as the time to have fun…it helps they dont wreck their health in their twenties. And as they wind down, they turn to calligraphy, Buddhism…may even become a Buddhist nun or monk. Here, the old are venerated: ‘a treasure in the house’ as the saying goes. I think it also helps that in youth, the girls arent practically naked and obsessed with being ‘bikini ready’ and all that…if beauty only looks one way then of course you’ll will dread losing it…the girls here are a lot more about their grades and their sports…its interesting how the male and female body language is just the same. I wouldnt like to age in the US.

  • Nora G

    Right on, sister! I’m a little further along this road than you are, and the thing that happened with me was that one day, a few years after I noticed that I had become invisible, it completely ceased to matter. Now I live my life the way I want to, value my women friends more than ever, and feel happier and more validated and LESS erased than I ever have in my life. I feel like my friends and I are becoming powerful, wise crones as we age into our 60’s.

  • Meghan Murphy

    A penis is a male sexual organ. “Young feminist fans” are hopefully aware of this.

    • Bazilisk

      You’re being disingenuous if you’re pretending that you’re unaware of the pro-transgender opinions of young feminists.

      • Meghan Murphy

        You are being disingenuous in pretending that penises are female.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Would you prefer I delete your comment? I can, if you like.

    • Bazilisk

      Hmm. Nah, me mentioning that that many young feminists agree that gender is more complicated than what you learn in middle school health class, is not me lying. That opinion’s popularity itself is a fact There does seem to be a generational split between older feminists who go by that old school definition of gender, and younger ones who see it more as a biologically and sociologically complex social construct.
      The author of this post is expressing some really important points about feeling ignored by young feminists, but then she uses language that would automatically look like a red flag to a lot of young feminists who are pro-trans rights, equating penises with social masculinity as though it was a 1:1 relationship. That’s just plain not the most popular view among a big swath of young feminists right now, so maybe there are actual ideological splits between her and the young feminists she is feeling isolated from.

      The porn thing as well, that also seems to be a hugely generational divisor of opinion. Most of the pro-sex-worker/ pro-porn-actress/ pro-indie-porn activists I’ve come across are young.

      Young feminists might be ignoring her because of ageism, and that really is wrong. But it seems that there are also deep ideological divides.

      By the way, I’m not here to fight about definitions of gender with you. Let’s not rehash chromosome fights. If you can’t see how I’m talking about popularity of opinions among age groups, or you just want to fight about the content of the opinions, I’m disinterested.

      • Meghan Murphy

        A generational gap? You don’t know many radical feminists, do you…

        Gender is the sexist stereotypes imposed on people at birth, based on their sex. It exists to reinforce the hierarchy that exists in patriarchy. So, no. We won’t be arguing about it, seeing as I already understand what it is.

        You, as a man, are simply and clearly trying to both derail the conversation and create divides among women. Don’t.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Can you define ‘woman,’ Bazilisk?

  • Keri Herford

    I agree and disagree at the same time. I’m not saying that you are wrong, I’m saying I don’t feel this way. I live amongst a group of people who respect age, wisdom, gray hair. I’m 46 1/2 & I don’t feel as bad about it as I thought I would. I see wrinkles, crepey skin and gray hair on myself with wonder. Not bad wonder, just sort of the same way I watched my body change when I was pregnant. I’m amazed at what this body is doing. I’ve never been a feminist,either, I don’t think. I’ve seen prejudice heaped upon every living creatures regardless of gender, color, or size. This life, in this world, is not fair to anyone…ever. Not to men, women, children, animals or nature. To stand up in support and defense of 1 is to be prejudiced towards others. We are ALL connected, to each other, to nature, to this planet.

    • Grayson Morris

      There are hierarchies of power that privilege some people and oppress others. Ask a black person if the world is more “fair” for white people. Ask a trans person if the world is catered to cis people. Ask a girl if it’s fair that men feel free to ogle and grope her.

    • True Disbeliever

      LOL. I wouldn’t feel bad about being 46 1/2 either.

  • Linda Cook

    I have to disagree with this idea. At 67, I remember all the work we did in the sixties and seventies, the marches, the protests. The burning bras and the all the crap we had to put up with. As for me, I feel pain for every little inch we have lost over the last 5 or 10 years. I feel somewhat betrayed by the younger generation for not picking up the fight when it was their turn. You have no idea what is was like to be a treenager in the sixties; before Roe v. Wade, when college educated women in professional jobs got paid as much as McDonald’s workers. And got the same respect. I could go on, but it is still very painful to remember. We didn’t let you down, you let us down.

    • susannunes

      Feminists didn’t burn bras. Why does this fiction continue to be peddled? I, like you, was around then. What happened was some bras were thrown into a garbage can at a 1968 Miss America protest. That is it.

    • Alison Rixon

      I think young women have fallen for a big con job – girl power just looks like the sexualisation of young women that has been going on for centuries. Not much power if your face is scarred and you are overweight or in some other way fail to fit the image of a prepubescent girl (see the article on this site about paedophile culture). All they seem to want is to “claim their sexuality”. It’d be really radical if they wanted to claim their right to have their sexuality ignored and their intellect noticed a bit more! Neoliberal feminism and the cult of projecting your brand is not feminism at all.

  • Morag999

    Any distinguishing you’ve seen here between “adult female” and “woman” is a direct result of the manipulative games transgenderists play and their assaults on language. But they mean the same. The same. Everybody knows what a woman is. Everybody knows what a girl is. Girls and women are female people.

  • Meghan Murphy

    I don’t believe you. But even if true, no, that would make no difference to me. You are being disingenuous and trolling.

    • Evelyn Case

      we are humans damn it

  • susannunes

    Doesn’t work if you are kicked to the curb because of age discrimination. I did all the saving stuff, and it didn’t prevent me from plunging into poverty thanks to being illegally fired nine years ago. I am still trying to pick up the pieces, but I will never be able to completely retire.

  • Morag999

    “I’m a cisgender woman … ”

    So, you identify with female subordination to males, then?

  • Fiona1933

    But wow, all that stuff you must know! And come on, you could be under chemical attack in ?Syria. As for the men, well, I went back to the UK last year and found a lot of people had ended up alone. All the women, being able to keep a decent house for themselves, were fine. The men…one had killed himself, another had died of a heart attack, another found on a lice-filled couch covered in blood he’d spewed up…drinking…my friend who was telling me this admitted that when his wife goes away each year, after two weeks the house in a wreck and he has quadrupled his drinking. All because they never learned housework. It was beneath them. I have one male friend doing ok. Guess what. He keeps a good house. I wouldnt envy the men. They have their own crosses to bear. They like to make out they can go off with younger women when they like but what rubbish.

    A climber and an archaeologist..I am full of envy for what you’ve experienced. Used to climb myself, didnt keep it up. And qigong too, good stuff. Come on. Dont compare yourself bitterly to men just dig what you have in your mind. Wasnt it better than being a Stepford Wife..have you seen how often those happy families implode?

    • candace

      I think you missed the point, at the mercy of men viewing women, as lesser in academia, for instance i made $900 a month to teach at a university as adjunct, no medical, no dental, and I was expendable. You don’t make enough to collect unemployment. On and off, it didn’t matter that I lost my home. I had a dream just like everyone else but the separation is an opportunity. Women are not offered the opportunity, the means to pay for decent housing, to see doctors, because the men that run the departments have ideas that there is a man at home paying the mortgage taking care of them. So as Lori wrote above, when the women are objectified such as being the secretary, the assistant, the young smart woman to support the man, her opportunity as a 50 year old does not exist. And you can extrapolate that to the dating world, is there such thing as a woman dating at 50? 54? How many men have checked out by that time? The ones that are still climbing are younger and you are too old. The pool is small…. seems strange. So this is why women get content to be alone, with their girlfriends, and I have now arrived at this time that I only saw from the distance years ago and ….

  • Joanie Kirk ND

    Thank you for this article. I appreciate the thoroughness and sensitivity with which you convey this phenomenon we all face or are engaged in.
    At nearly 62, recently widowed (is that the correct term for lesbians who have lost their life partners?), living a homestead lifestyle in very rural Alaska, the past year, has been an eye opener. There are things I can no longer do that I was able to do 2 years ago or had a partner to lift the other end! I am learning the grace of asking for and accepting help. And amazingly, when I ask people say yes!
    I have never dyed my hair, been gray for decades and now experience that glistening white/everysoslighly silver that my mom wore proudly 2 decades ago. It serves as a right of passage. I go to hold the door for someone and others come from behind and relieve me, they feel good, I feel good. I reach, it is handed to me. Huh!
    I still enjoy my autonomy of living on the land and continue to do many of the chores AND cherish the extra set of hands of my 30yo handyman who can do the job in minutes instead of hours.
    Though there are plenty of experiences of mysogeny I witness day to day, and look forward to the day when we all CAN and DO will as ONE. Till then I applaud the players that understand how to care for and about one another without labeling each other as “other” but as ‘just like me.

  • Joanie Kirk ND

    Bravo! To life!

  • Brilliant! I am with you, Lori!

  • Oche BM

    Ageism is a type of oppression that is not talked about. It is accepted as normal. ‘You don’t look your age!’ is taken as a compliment. Thanks for this article and writing about the intersection of age and gender oppression. We need to look at this intersection now more than ever with a growing older population.

    • Omglikewowlol

      Seriously! Why can’t people just say “You look great!” and leave out the age part?

  • Ceallaigh Meehan

    This article is talking what females (people with vaginas) go through as they age. There is nothing wrong with discussing one group of people without discussing others. It does not mean that she is ignorant about or disregarding them.

  • Annette Romano

    Madonna is 59 going on 60. She got plenty of shit– from men, but from some women, too –for her speech accepting her award – because this issue you articulate so beautifully is a rampant problem. I was catcalled from the age of 12, so it’s a blessed relief to have that finally cease. (I’m Madonna’s age.) I still feel the pressure to be perpetually beautiful, but it has lessened and the challenge I give myself is to translate that pressure into staying HEALTHY.

  • True Disbeliever

    I wanted to be a spy/courtesan about 55 years ago.

    You get over it!

  • Weasie Works

    I will be 69 this year, and I’ve never felt better about myself or more liberated than I am now. I am no longer worried about my children or even my grandchildren, who are mostly all adults.
    I no longer have a 9 to 5 job and I can go to bed and wake up any time I like.
    I have never dyed my hair or gone through any form of plastic surgery, or attempted to look younger than I am. Why try to fool yourself when you look in the mirror? You know your age and you can never change that.
    I’m a little overweight and I don’t care. I do care about my health and eat mostly organics and try not to eat too much junk. None of us knows how long we’ll live, so take care of what counts – your insides – so that you’ll feel the best you can for however long you’ve got.
    Keep active mentally and have lots of hobbies, ones that use your brain and ones that bring you a feeling of accomplishment or joy. Play games and have fun.
    This isn’t an old woman’s advice, this is common sense speaking.
    Don’t worry about growing old, worry about not growing old.

  • quoddywatcher

    People say you’re not old to me. Damnit, I’m going to be 80,and yes that is old,so don’t tell me I’m not old. I’m not senile and know I’m old.

    And it’s OK

  • annrpharrison

    Thanks so much for this! I recall when I was in graduate school earning a MA in women’s studies, immersed in academic and activist feminism that I casually noticed one day that I had done virtually no research, reading, or thinking about the lives of older women. It did even occur to me that this could be because I feared my own ageing. These thoughts changed nothing for me at the time, but now at 64 I always remember that brief moment of acknowledgement. The only caveat to my full throated agreement with this entire piece is your inclusion of “women of all gender expressions” in your call for feminist solidarity. I take your meaning, but must say that including trans-identified men into the fold will bring nothing but wolves in sheep’s clothing into the dynamic and derail the movement for woman’s liberation and true empowerment.

  • Dr. Tracy Kleber, DC

    Can you explain further?

  • Dr. Tracy Kleber, DC

    Can you explain this further? I really want to hear what you think, as I’m trying not to be fearful of age.

  • Dr. Tracy Kleber, DC


  • Tina Davies

    Ahahahahahahah! Love Love Love this and YOU!

  • Omglikewowlol

    I feel that it’s incorrect to say that older men are less abusive. It’s that younger women are targeted more.

  • Omglikewowlol

    I’m glad people are starting to write about this. I run a community program for older people. My program is, unfortunately, underutilized. The issue isn’t that there aren’t enough seniors living in the area, it’s that the ones who do live nearby have this “idea” of what a senior center is. They think it’s a space for very elderly, very frail, senile old people. I don’t have a single client attending my center that fits such a description. The vast majority of my clients are people who are very active. When I do get new clients, they are shocked to see how lively my regulars are. It is shocking to see how ageism internalizes from a very young age. I had one client tell me that she was hesitant to join because she didn’t “want to be around old people.” I’m 35, and I can’t WAIT to join a senior center when I’m older! People have this foolish idea that once you are “over the hill” your life is over. It’s disgusting to think of a population of people as already dead or unworthy of love/value. I’ve hosted weddings at other sites I’ve worked in for couples over 75. One of these weddings was for a couple who met onsite! This past winter a couple in their 80’s got engaged at one of my partner sites. Life, love, happiness, etc.; these things don’t stop because you hit a certain birthday! Once we begin to accept and embrace age, perhaps programs like mine wouldn’t be so underfunded and underutilized.

  • Omglikewowlol

    If you attended my senior center even once you’d retract that statement. <3

  • Milli

    Thank you for wonderful article. I am in my thirties but I feel great difference between myself and my-younger-self. And I´m glad I´m older. My hair started getting grey and I love it. You look younger is not compliment for me. I like to look my age. I enjoy having wrinkles because they mean experiences and – yes, I went through experiences I would rather not have but deny it (even only with lifting cream) is useless for me. I have scars from fights but I am pretty good fighter :-). I try to do my best.
    It´s almost tragic that middle-aged and old women rarely play the roles of mentors today. People thinking about grandmas as about sweet and caring ladies but come on – they are old warriors. Older activists, women who were looking for their place in eras even more (or less subtle) sexist, they have to talk about their experiences.

  • Winifred Ryan

    Candace, put bluntly the academic old boy system thoroughly sucks! Saw it myself, and now refuse to play the game. Your story and mine are highly similar except that I was born in a New England mill town and I got my Ph.D. in marine science (I do have a M.A. in anthro and worked for 6 to 8 years in archaeology, so yup, know that crew). The reason there are fewer women professors is that there are fewer women professors – the guys don’t want to mentor women by and large. So much better to be out of it at this point in your life.

    Personally menopause is a wonderful time for me. No more additional monthly pain, no additional monthly stress when I feel as though someone has scrubbed up and down my back nerves (and sometimes inside my skull) with sand paper or a wire brush, no more worry about “oh, my God I’ve had sex I could be pregnant! ” no more monthly migraines, with loss of normal vision and balance problems. It’s only been about 4 years, but it’s been a wonderful 4 years. And by the way, I’ve fought to lose weight. It’s so worth it to be past having the monthly cycles.

    Grey hair, crap, that’s what hair color is for! Worrying about a thicker middle? Buy spanx or buy flowy clothes. Screw the old figure/old you. The new you is the new you. Let it develop and grow.

    Best wishes

  • Tamzin Whelan

    Thank you for this! Great article and appreciated. I am currently doing a project to discover the stories of Colombian women over the age of 50 and I am constantly so inspired by the women that I speak to. Their stories and photos are at in case anyone’s interested! 🙂

  • Kathy Klausing Zimmerman

    I have read that the human brain is fully mature at 25 and most of us retain a 30 yr. old mindset regardless of advancing age. I am knocking on 68’s door, and I have become invisible. And for the most part, irrelevant in my opinions and knowledge. Sadly, I too feel like my brain is wired to 30 and experience shock at standing in front of a mirror or seeing myself in pictures. However, there is the rare occasion where my wisdom and experience is sought by someone younger, and that is a very pleasant feeling. I no longer give unsolicited advice or warnings, I just watch the drama unfold and pursue my art. Art doesn’t care about my age, it just is. Thank the Goddess for that!

  • Martha Aldrich Mitchell

    Years ago when I was very young, an article in The Ladies Home Journal asked a group of women how they viewed themselves in old age. One of them replied that she planned to be a very interesting old woman. I have kept her in my memory box for years. I managed to travel, rented rooms to foreign students, have subscriptions (Gifts from granddaughters) to The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books. I keep my world as open as possible, still drive at 87 and have a manuscript about coming out at 72 about to be sent to publishers in London. . . So far no luck in US, but have realized I tend to read
    British authors!

    • Bridgett Allen Kurtz

      Martha, you are my new role model! I’m 58 and stumbling a bit in trying to feel great in this newly sagging skin. Good look with your book!

  • Cassandra

    Preach! Young women do read this! I may only be 27, but I am not outside of the narrative that age removes our place in society. This group and many other sources have taught me of the power of older women. My mother and my grandmother, while radically different than me, show me who I can become, and the safety in their changing bodies shows me that I shouldn’t be afraid when I see a gray hair or a sagging bit of skin. To have been deprived of seeing their bodies, of seeing the way they age, would have deprived me of a tool I desperately need to fend off this cultural ageism. I know what an aging body really looks like, and (Even though I am hispanic and my mother and grandmother are white) I have a guide to how my body may change over time.

    Every crone that comes into my life (muggle or non) serves as an empowered voice that can only happen through the gift of age. As the Bible says “Gray hair is a crown upon the head”. Age scares me. I am terrified of how it may change my body, but at least I am prepared. At least I am not alone. We young ones hear the voice, crave the wisdom of the crone, because we value the struggle that it takes to still be alive and empowered.

    In Inga Muscio’s book “Cunt: A Declaration of Independence”, she talks about the dire need our society has to listen to this voice and to not relegate it to the outskirts of society.

    “A grandmother who has raised her children and/or other people’s children is the perfect person to be in national office. Grandmothers have their life experiences to help them make sage judgments, they generally have more compassion than everyone else, and if the white men in power assassinate one grandma, the will not only have hell to pay for offing and old woman, but there are plenty more where she came from.

    Grandmothers also have the time to focus. No one has to worry about someone having to breastfeed during the State of the Union Address. And since the sexuality of elderly people is completely ignored in this culture, grandmothers won’t have their energies tasked with sex scandals.

    We are in dire need of a grandmother-based government.”

    While that quote does single out grandmothers (and I believe as I think the author does that wisdom is not conferred because of child-rearing) I believe the point is still so strong. Young women need old women, society needs old women, we all could benefit from more voices of the crone and not less.

    I may be a time witch, but I know where I stand at 27. It’s a far cry from the wisdom more years could offer! Young women SHOULD care about this issue because it is our fate, as age affects us all. More articles like this!

  • Heather Nic An Fhleisdeir

    Your point was the authors point. Did you miss that part?

  • Sarah

    No one is denying that invisibility comes from other factors- but not everyone will experience those. Every woman (barring a tragedy) WILL experience aging, however. This is not about looks as much as it is about the fact that older women are at least subconsciously placed into a category of less intellectual and social relevance.

  • Natalie Joy

    Hi Lorraine. If you don’t mind me asking. What did you study? Were you working while you were studying?

  • Kala Philo

    Lori makes some good points. But no one has to stay invisible in today’s world. Buying into and worrying about how we are perceived robs us of the most powerful years of our lives. At, we are building a community of midlife women embracing change, focusing on what we can do, on the exploring outside our comfort zone, on the exciting potential of life’s second shift! Mainstream messaging only holds power to the degree we let it. Who cares? There are much more interesting paths to explore, starting with your inner amazing inner journey.

  • Bonnie L

    Like you, I don’t mind my age – it’s the physical limitations that are difficult to accept. But I really don’t like it when clerks (& they’re the only ones) call me “young lady.” It’s so patronizing. Do they think I’m going to be flattered?

  • Jo Roseborough

    Lori has some great points. I would just like to say to men that older women find older men equally unappealing. Men, have you looked in the mirror lately? When I was in my 40’s and 50’s, I dated men 10 years or more younger than me. They found me attractive. I don’t find men my age – 68- attractive. So, there we have a standoff. You don’t like our wrinkles. We don’t like your pot bellies and balding heads. Especially your pot bellies. Have you looked in the mirror lately? I suggest you do before you judge another older woman.

  • pam

    I am 51 year old, overweight, average looking female. I have never felt ‘invisible’. The only thing different about me today vs my 20s is that yes, I am older and yes, I am overweight. I fully acknowledge that there are disparities between the genders. But if we are to achieve full equality, women must find the middle road between being a victim and ignoring misogyny.
    I carry myself with confidence, am confident with who I am and do not allow myself to ‘be invisible’. Instead, I remain curious. I interact with many people of all ages. You are only invisible if you allow yourself to be.
    Yes, it is true that I will probably never hear a catcall again. This is not missed. However, I will also never be invisible.

    • Sue

      Exactly. I am turning 70, soon, and do not feel invisible. Like you, Pam, I interact with people of all ages, make eye contact with and smile at people of all ages, like you say, you are only invisible if you allow yourself to be.

  • Dona DiCarlo

    Ah, don’t be afraid at all just take good care of your skin . Are you a redhead? I am super careful you will never get a tan be proud of that’ ‘redheads do what blonds dream of’ ANYWAY I moved to CA for a super job in my area of passion Autistic Children RN I worked in research unit so exciting FOLLOW YOUR PASSION then Kubler.Ross lectured at UCLA on mind of dying child so I did that in ICU married a killer whale trainer.lived in Europe for a long time at divorce 36 I went full time days to Otis Parsons BFA MFAin LA became Sculptor/Jeweler still make still sell.Original feminist, hippie, woodstock, janice, rolling stones, queen everybody still listen to new music I live I Venice , California where no-one sees age but I am 70 and I decided not to think of it. I get up and do it..That is me four years ago

  • redjeans

    I’m almost 70. I can say that proudly and without fear. I look on all people — regardless of age, sex, color, sexual persuasion, social standing, culture, or power — as equals. I apologize for nothing. I’m entering “that age” when I will be considered a crone. That, to me, is a title of power and wisdom, and I’m looking forward to that time. I too, in my younger days, felt insecure. Like so many things in my life, my “catcall” days are past. I’ve been there, done that — on to bigger and better and deeper things. I don’t bemoan the fact that I can’t dance all night and get up in the morning to go to work. Been there. Don’t have to go to work any more! HA! Can’t ride a horse (bad hips). But I have a horse-related business and teach about horse safety. I can’t work as a bus driver (aged out), but I haul a 30 ft. travel trailer around the country, going where I want. And on it goes. Why mourn over lost things when there are so many more adventures to consider? I’m definitely not invisible! Not, because of lost youthful beauty, but because I smile at and talk to everyone I meet. I always stand up for myself, but have found I don’t care a lot about superficial things. The most beautiful and attractive women in my life have all been “outside the box” in that they weren’t pretty, sexy, rich, voluptuous. But their beauty shined out of their eyes and through their smiles.

    • lmontgom

      I, too, am relishing life as 79. I refuse to be invisible, ignored when I want to speak, apologize for foul deeds I didn’t commit. I moved to Mexico and am surrounded by beautiful people including many indigenous families and cultures from which I can learn. I don’t disagree with the author’s perspective, and what just happened in the US Senate when three female senators were left out of discussion of health care reinforces the difficulty most women have gaining traction when important things are discussed. I think being a smart, powerful woman stirred sexism among estadounidenses just as Obama’s election stirred racism. But we older women can help lead the way by providing perspective and bridging generations.

  • Liora51

    At 65 I’m fat, pretty and routinely assumed to be in my early 40’s-

    Because I have been culturally fat all my life, age is a piece of cake. And the FREEDOM!

  • lavergnolle

    I’m wondering if the fact of not having children could be a criteria for not realising I’m a different generation from younger people (from 30 onwards) ? I’m 48 now and feel I’m going through a second adolescent crisis, it’s pretty horrible but principally because of society’s terrible behaviour towards women and feeling that things are getting worse – not better.

    • Emily

      I think there is quite a bit of truth to that. I’m 47 and have no children of my own, although I am fortunate to have two step daughters and five step grand children living in another state. I think there is absolutely a difference in people who have not raised children and those who have. My belief is that watching your children get older on a daily basis; from infant to toddler to elementary school to teen to college, etc. ‘measures’ time in a way we just didn’t experience first hand.

  • Geri Rizzo

    51? The beginning of the best years of my life! Invisible? I never feel that way. My family listens and respects me and so far, now 67, I am thankful for every day I wake up. I can still sing, play my flute, write, try new things, and who cares about validation from others anyway? True beauty comes from within and shines out of our eyes and soul. Geez, be grateful and positive. I’m in pain with fibromyalgia more than not but it’s amazing what a smile will bring.

  • Wonderful article, thank you. I decided to start my own platform women 40+ because all the ones I found made being over forty was that you wore a knitted cardigan sitting on a porch drinking tea talking about your latest health issue. Nothing wrong with doing all that, but it didn’t resonate with me. I’m 54, I feel more alive in my life than ever, I’ve got more purpose and I realise that being anti-age is fruitless, it’s about being pro-age, pro-living. I agree, how do you tell a young women any words of wisdom because their mind cannot understand, I believe all you can do is BE the change, display self-acceptance and confidence because you have it, model that life over 40,50,60 etc is a beautiful precious part of being human. This is when we learn who we REALLY are, where we are not afraid of others or ourselves. I know in the early days of civilisation we held respect and dignity for our elders and that value created successful societies because we had empathy, kindness and community. The strength I have now far outweighs the invincible attitude I had when I was 20, I would never change those years whatever the mistakes I’ve made, they are part of me, each wrinkle and shape on my body and faces expresses that journey and I count each day as a blessing I am living.

  • Dona DiCarlo

    where are you from because it is a southern thing No one usually does it anywhere else so it feels strange thats all

  • Terri Davison

    Well spoken!

    I somehow find myself to be 58…how quickly the years pass…and am downright angry at the way society views women of my generation.

  • Leda Meredith

    Thank you for this eloquent expression of something I experience every day.

  • Tevna Tayler

    I feel much more respected and visible now at 50 than I did when I was younger. And, I feel more powerful, and confident and valuable. The “invisible” that you mention, related to less attention to my body from random men, is a GLORIOUS thing to me and makes me feel more visible as a PERSON now instead of as a collection of body parts.

  • Betty Eyer

    The internet brings this out in people. Someone else puts out an opinion on an article like this and they may get no responses or they will get responses criticizing or agreeing with their point of view. All too often, I get responses telling me to shut up because I am old, or I must have Alzheimers or I’m a hag who can’t even remember sex, etc. I feel this article a lot.

  • Stefanie Grieser

    “I wonder if young women will read this?” – Wanted to let you know that I am in my late twenties and read this. Thank you for sharing. Growing old is an accomplishment we should be proud of. Think of the life lessons and the experience. And love this line and final message, “Let’s stick together. Let’s make a conscious effort to stop putting down older women to set oneself apart from them and from an inevitable form of bigotry that cannot presently be escaped.”

  • mingming

    i turned 61 today and yes I am healthy and fit and feel very vibrant but the incessant attempt of patriarchal society to make older women feel worthless annoys the living hell out of me. seems to me there is an all out effort to force women to feel invisible and as if they have nothing to offer. I have by my side the love of my life who is 19 years younger than me and his maturity and love continues to amaze me to this day. I understand that the soul has no age but man it took a lot of convincing for me to slay these old dictates society wants to feed us. As we age, we can be sexy and vibrant. We are more than containers for babies. We are all going to age if we are lucky and I for one am going to enjoy the hell out of it. Today I am blessed to be here and have the support and love of my women friends and well as men friends.

  • Omglikewowlol

    I just saw this. Programs like mine were originally designed to provide a low income meal for retired folks living on a fixed income and as a way to combat isolation. The purpose of a senior center isn’t really to segregate since many of our programs offer inter-generational services. In addition to the low cost meal (which is a serious need for some folks) programs now offer evidence based programming to older folks that focuses on healthy aging. We shouldn’t fear nor feel abhorred by the aging process but we should acknowledge that the aging process does happen and have services in place for those who need it. You aren’t obligated to join one but they’re awesome and super fun. 🙂 The largest site I worked for in the past had exercise programs 5 days a week in the mornings and dance parties 3 days a week in the afternoons; they served 80 people for breakfast and over 150 for lunch daily. They also host a dance party and serve about 100 every Saturday. We hosted two weddings there. <3 My current program is a bit smaller. As the director I can say that most of the folks who come in are active retired folks who desire exercise classes, educational programs, arts, day trips, etc. But in my case, the group is too small and the city is looking to divest. 🙁

  • betty boop

    63 here, my motto is “I never give up” . I don’t dress old, nor do I dress like I want to be 16 again. I wear makeup, won’t let my hair go grey or let myself go. I’m still the same size I was 30 years ago and still workout and proud of it. Age starts in the brain, if you want to be depressed, look half dead or that you just gave up and don’t care-that is how you will appear to others. I am fighting it kickin’ and screaming, I get in my sports car and blast my music and to hell with the rest of them.