Ageism, (the sly ‘ism’ we’ve ALL been conditioned to accept) Is Inherently Sexist

Happy New Year!

Now, with that out of the the way I’ll try to make this short and tart because I’m kind of both and I have a deadline.

This morning, smart cookie and Ageism crusader Ashton Applewhite, author of the This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism (go read it NOW), flagged an article by Jacynth, the founder of The Bias Cut Shopping With Attitude – Where Ageism Is Never In Style. Love that tag line, don’t you? Anyhow, I  like to think my nose is pretty good at rooting up articles on women and ageism, but I missed Jacynth’s l’il gem from last July.

Maybe it’s all the Star Trek I watched growing up (Star Trek is a very multicultural TV series that tried to be inclusive and stamp out ‘isms,’ ICYMI), or maybe i’m merely über naive and idealistic, but it’s 2020 and I am über annoyed that we’re still not embracing diversity and equity in society. Nope, nope, nope. We’re still wrestling with racism, xenophobia, sexism, and ageism.

You know I’ve spent a long time talking about ageism in film, genre fiction, and the publishing industry, especially the romance fiction industry (and we know how things are, and have been, in Romancelandia). Ageism is particularly heavy-handed in romance fiction where men are ‘silver foxes’ who get their own trope, while women of the same silvery age are hags, grannies, evil stepmothers, cougars, raging lunatics, old — or invisible. Stereotypes of age and sexist ageism are so rampant in romance fiction you’d think someone would have pointed this or out done a study of it.

Oh, wait. I did.

Go look if you want to. The links to my academic works are up on the menu under Other Writing. The results of my studies weren’t startling, didn’t tell women over the age of 40 something they didn’t already know, but the study did support how a bias operates in the romance fiction industry. And if you didn’t know, ageism, like so many other ‘ism’ biases, doesn’t care about race, culture, gender (more on that in a moment), sexual identity, disabilities. Women of all colours and ethnicities get the fuzzy end of the ageist lollipop — but did you know ageism hits woman of colour even harder?

I am in no way suggesting that ageism does not have an impact on men. It does. In the workforce, men are passed over for promotions in favour of someone younger, they are viewed as dinosaurs with outdated ideas, however, as Jacynth she notes,

“the difficulties these [white] men face may seem to them more pronounced because they haven’t experienced other prejudices in their life.”

Interestingly, the impact of a man experiencing ageism for the first time might work as a tool to open the eyes of old white guys entrenched in sexist practices, or –and here’s where my idealism creeps in– open their eyes to all the other biased practices they’ve never noticed. Pointing out and challenging biases might function better if one has actually experienced the brunt of a bias. Nothing opens one’s eyes quite like ridicule or exclusion.

As I said, I’m keeping this sweet because I’m trying to finish writing True to Your Service, the final book in my trilogy about the middle-aged female butler and slightly younger spy who loves her (Hey, look! A book cover!), and dammit, they get a happy ever after, just like their younger counterparts, just as, I am hoping, silver fox James Bond does in the upcoming No Time to Die — except, in the film trailer, the woman Bond seems to be living his life with is half his age and really should have been Monica Bellucci’s underused, age-appropriate character from SPECTRE.

Yes, I’m still pissed off about that.

 

Jacynth. (2019). The Bias Cut. Ageism, Is Inherently Sexist- This is Why. 12 July.

 

Women of a ‘Certain Age’ Should Move to France

Previously on the “Mature” Content Stockpile, I’ve posted a number of links on ‘fashion and the older woman.’ Here’s another: Twiggy shows the fashion world the true beauty of older women from Barbara Scully in the 28 January 2015 Irish ExaminerScully features actress and iconic 60s glamourpuss Twiggy, the new face of L’Oreal.  The most interesting item in the article is the mention of France and how the French regard vivelafrancewomen over 40: “France, where older women have always been appreciated for their innate beauty, regardless of their age and whatever ravages it may have wrought on their faces.”

Curiously, Diana Holmes (2006) makes note of what I’ll call the ‘French Difference.’  In her book Romance and readership in twentieth-century France: love stories, Holmes indicates that in Harlequin-France produced romance novels the heroines are often in their forties, that is, the French Harlequin romance heroines are of a more mature age than American or UK romance heroines.

Further evidence of the ‘French Difference’ comes from Carpenter, Nathanson and Kim (2006) and their article Sex after 40? Gender, and sexual partnering in midlife. The trio observe that cross-cultural studies on ageing and sexism suggest older women in France lose less sexual desirability than their counterparts in the USA and Great Britain.

Finally, we come to Rose Weitz (2010) Changing the scripts: Mid-life women’s sexuality in contemporary U.S. film. Sexuality and Culture (14), 17-32, which investigates the ways that the middle-aged female body is often displayed on the film screen for laughs, rather than as an object of desire — except of course in France.  Weitz observed that French women of a certain age (at least in cinema) are allowed to be shown having, and enjoying, sex.

To this I say, Vive la France!

 

Carpenter, L., Nathanson, C. A., & Kim, Y.J. (2006).  Sex after 40? Gender, and sexual partnering in midlife. Journal of Aging Studies (20), 93-106.

Holmes, D (2006) Romance and readership in Twentieth-Century France: Love stories. (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Weitz. R., (2010). Changing the scripts: Mid-life women’s sexuality in contemporary U.S. film. Sexuality and Culture (14), 17-32.