ageism is not a female word

I have taken umbrage. Dianne Keaton has a movie about to be released, and the Australian Women’s Weekly (January 2011) published an interview with her, a syndicated piece by Johanna  Schneller, that includes a photograph insert about women who have still “got it” – after the age of 50!

 Annette Bening was one of the examples they used as a glamorous woman who “just keep on getting better with age”. Annette Bening and I are the same age – 52. And though I haven’t asked Annette directly, surprisingly we don’t do lunch, I am sure that she would agree with me; 52 is not old. It is middle aged, yes. Old? I beg your pardon, but, hell no!

A magazine that brands itself as being for women, and to promote positive images to allow such stereotyping is beyond comprehension. A 52 year old woman in Australia has another 15 years in the workforce, as the expectation is that she will work until the age of 67 now. The average woman in Australia can expect to live some 84 years, so how the hell does 52 qualify anywhere near old?

At the age of 50 I went back to university, full time, to undertake a degree in education. I embarked upon a career in teaching at the age of 52. This year, as I turn 53 I am blending my old career, librarian, with my new career as teacher to become the leader of a resource/library centre. I have yet to reach the peak of my career. Daughter1’s mother in law is 67. In 2011, she will be teaching a whole semester at high school, then embarking on a world trip with a friend, a woman who is over 80!

For a respected publication to whittle the worth of a woman down to looking good after 50, as though it is a norm to be a desiccated, inactive woman is pathetic. What is sadder still is that the editorial team even considered that 50 was old and felt the need to insert photos of Bening, Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Angelica Huston, and their ages into an article about Diane Keaton’s life is insulting to not only their achievements and talents, but also to all women, young or old.

 I would have thought that the need for such fluff pieces had long passed. When will women cease being their own perpetrators of inequality?

23 thoughts on “ageism is not a female word

    • It annoys me when we laud someone for achieving something when they are older. Why wouldn’t they? Is success only for the young? I don’t read many popular magazines anymore as I grew tired of their shallow consumerism. The media might create stereotypes to make it easier to tell their stories but that doesn’t mean it is right.
      Yes, indeed, ptoooi!


  1. [tig]

    I keep hearing this said about age FORTY. Maybe it’s because that’ll be my next bday (sensitive? Just a tetch).

    I find it shocking because I know women in their 70s who get around more than I.


    • I’ll share a secret with you. Turning 50 was one of the best things that ever happened to me – it is so liberating. I can be whatever I want to be, I don’t have to play roles or fit into a pigeon hole of someone else’s making. I can be whoever I please. It is a wonderful time, so don’t worry about 40 – a mere moment on the continum. Good things are coming your way. Forty is a time of confidence and you are just working it all out. What a great stage of life – enjoy!


  2. I agree FD. It is liberating to be our age. I turned 53 this year and became a mom again and am about to embark on a new career myself. I went back to school last year and enjoyed every minute of it. I still wear young peoples styles and listen to young people’s music. I have more young friends than I do friends my age. I don’t consider myself old at all. I do tend to be a wee bit slower these days but only because I am more cautious, something that has come with the wisdom of being this age. I wouldn’t trade anything about being the age I am now for being younger and I am certainly offended by being considered old. We are not older, we are just much wiser.


    • Yes, wiser and quality, high quality! I move more slowly too, but for the same reason – wisdom borne of experience, and knowing that one really doesn’t have to rush from moment to moment. I know who and what I am, now.


    • I am surprised that there wasn’t a wheelie walker under the tree for you this year! And to think that you have full time employment and travel the world, often solo – you must be considered a walking miracle by some! LOL!


  3. Yeah, it’s funny when younger people talk about older people like they were expected to roll over and die as soon as they hit a certain age. They always seem shocked and amazed when find out people still function normally, and in some cases do greater things at a later age. Tells you how clueless the editors of that magazine are. Being a full time student at 43, I still get the occasional “really!”, when I tell them how old I am. I keep thinking to myself Jeez, I’m only 40? Then I find out they are only 17, so I chalk it up to them just being dumb kids, and I feel better.


    • Well at 50 I was the same age as some of their parents. At the beginning of the year I was treated like an alien by the students in a rather condescending way, but by the end of the year I was just one of them, and friends with most. And of course when desserted by their own friends they were more than willing to seek me out for company – a port in the storm.


  4. I’m older than ALL of you! I’m turning 55 in February! wOOt!!

    AND, I totally agree that it’s a really fun time to be alive! I say what I want to who I want. I have learned so much. Confidence, self assurance, a lot of patience, a lot of understanding about people (also, along with that the inability to ever understand some people!).
    But it’s all ok.
    The vast majority of the time Life is good.


    • Most of the time it is good, but we know that there will be a time when things really suck. However, we had the resilience to continue through unlike the “young ones” who flee home, flee overseas, change jobs, change partners, anything but face up to the tough times. And we are comfortable in our skins, “old” as it may be!


  5. I can’t speak from personal experience about this, I’m 23. But I have these stupid moments of panic where I think I’m getting old and running out of time. The fact that you completely changed the direction of your career at 50 is SO inspiring.
    And my mum is 54, and she is most certainly NOT old.


  6. I graduated from college at 58 and worked 3-1/2 years as a reporter/photographer/editor. My boss was a sexist…but once he saw that I could do the job, he asked that I start a weekly newspaper. I did it all, while also being advocate for my now nearly 102 year old mom, (which is why I quit two years ago).
    Mom didn’t tell anyone her age until she was 94 because people “put you in a box once they hear your age.” I also have friends of all ages. One I met when she was 20 and I was 54, when we both started college at the same time. We talk each week about our respective writing projects, life, family, etc.
    You go girls. BTW I love Diane Keaton because she has wrinkles she doesn’t try to hide.


    • I think we are more the norm than those silly journalists think! They need a good shake, if not a hit with a stick!I adore Diane Keaton for that reason too. Nothing worse than those ghastly hollywood actress’ with plastic faces.
      You by the way, are an inspiration too!


  7. When I was in college last year, there was a lady in my accounting class who was 70 years old. She had been laid off from the cabinet factory she had worked at for the last 30 years and so went back to school in order to keep her unemployment going. I was stunned by her presence there every day. I don’t know why she didn’t just retire and take her social security but she didn’t. I wasn’t about to be the one to question what she was doing there. In my eyes, God had placed her there to remind me that I had no excuse to not be there every day myself. You are so right that we can do anything we want to do. Maybe we should send a letter to the editor and include this post along with it’s comments. lol


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