They say “A women's greatest asset is her beauty.” All our lives, we’ve been taught that being beautiful and breathtaking is the key to a happy, fulfilling life. From marriage, work and everything in between, pretty privilege is real.
Each era has its beauty standards, from long foreheads being attractive, and beauty moles being in vogue to heroin chic and BBLs. but one thing remains constant across time, youth is beauty, and if you don’t have youth, you lose your beauty. It seems like women will never win the age war. As society keeps giving us mixed messages about how to age, on the one hand, society, and marketers emphasize the importance of youth, being pretty and vibrant. However, on the other hand, if we work so hard to maintain youth, we are deemed delusional, and it’s time to accept being old. To stay still and be quiet.
How did we end up here? How did we all accept that it’s ok to give unrealistic standards when it comes to beauty and how to live a life?
A series of complicated questions but we’ll do our best to deconstruct every contradiction and message we’ve received and why we shouldn’t let wrinkles or age limit us from living life to the fullest.
Groomed to be ‘Groomed’
We were taught from the beginning of puberty how to be a lady. How to act, dress, and look. And after entering adolescence, we were groomed to look perfect constantly. We were bombarded by many ads that encouraged us to be young, act lively, and stay beautiful.
There was no room for imperfection or realism. It’s no surprise that most of us grew up incredibly self-aware about our appearance so much so that it feels like a burden and becomes a part of our identity. We overbuy products that will make our skin glow and prevent wrinkles without taking a moment to think if it is necessary.
Pressure to stay young has been booming but it’s not a new phenomenon. However, in recent years, millennials are into getting Botox and fillers, even though they are still young.
And that’s not just us stating our mind, we have the means to back it up.
In February 2020, the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) released a survey covering statistics and trends in aesthetics. It showed that 64% of members stated they had seen a dramatic increase in patients under the age of 30 requesting facial cosmetic surgery or injectable treatments.
Image by cookie_studio on Freepik
While the survey didn’t specify which gender outweighed the other, the pressure to constantly look young is always addressed to women.
Men have wrinkles, and grey hair and live their lives but women who embrace their age are deemed ugly.
Mixed Messages to Women from Advertising, Media, and Society
When we look at how old women are portrayed in media, ads, and society, we can detect the backward messages and representation of what women can and cannot do when they reach a certain age.
Let’s look back at how older women are being represented.
The Old Hag, The Helpless Victim, and the Self-Righteous
Most of the trope listed above doesn’t even cover the complete list of how older women are being shown.
They are either older women made as monstrous hags that are no longer able to produce life, the epitome of death and decay, judgemental older women who think highly of themselves or are too meek and helpless people who are constantly in need of protection and routine assistance from others.
Rarely do we see a proper representation of the complexity of being an older woman. There are some shows that worked to show how older women can still be strong, funny, and independent whose age does not define them. On the contrary, they fight their way to get to do what they want.
Examples be like Grace and Frankie or the Golden Girls.
However, these positive examples are not often seen, as older women are put in a box, unlike their male counterparts who are thriving and having fun regardless of their age.
Speaking of double standards.
Society’s Endless Shame Cycle of Women Aging
How many times have you seen a post or a video dedicated to older men being desirable? Tons!!!
They are seen are the epitome of “Aging like Fine Wine” or “The Older the Violin, the Sweeter the Music”
They are not pressured to stay youthful or are advertised to use skin care as much as women. Men aging is seen as them being more handsome, and sophisticated, and got their lives together. Women, on the other hand, they are not winning at all.
If women decide to embrace their wrinkles, gray hair, and live their life to the fullest, and not care about menopause, they are stepping their boundaries and that respected older women must be posh, quiet, and more mature. Women are encouraged to stay in their lane and just be.
If women decide to go under the knife, dye their hair, and act young, they are seen as trying too hard and it’s so disgusting to not act their age.
Bottom line: whatever a woman does, it will be judged and scrutinized.
A New Wave of Destigmatization?
Despite the constant pressure women face, the new generation and some media seem to be letting go of the old misogynist and sexist way women are seen.
Recently, Martha Stewart graced the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of 81, and she is living her best life. Middle age to older actresses like Cate Blanchett, Viola Davis, Meryl Streep, and Jane Fonda are leading movies and TV.
If we speak on a national level, Egyptian stars like Yousra is The leading actress every Ramadan and her age isn’t a factor in the storyline.
Nadia El Genedy is constantly looking youthful, having fun, and living the way she wants to. Social media were obsessed with how sportive and full of life she is.
We need to change the way we think and how we approach older women.
They are still capable of doing whatever they want, wrinkl