Coming Of Age: Do You Look Your Age?
Coming Of Age: Do You Look Your Age?
September 20, 2023
You’ve likely heard it yourself or said it (or thought it) about someone else: “Wow, you look great…for your age.” Intended as a compliment, the phrase also suggests a preconceived (and ageist) notion of what someone that age (whatever that is) is supposed to look like. But is there some universal visual scale against which we should all be compared as we reach a specific age? As unique and different individuals, shouldn’t we look however we look at the age we’re at?
This has been the subject of an active- and activist- campaign launched on social media by The Bias Cut, a British clothing store that not only sells great clothes for women of all ages but has also dedicated time and resources to fighting ageism against older women through its campaign, Ageism is Never in Style. This past summer, the campaign launched a social media effort using the hashtag “#ILookMy Age”, and invited women from around the globe to post on social media, using that hashtag, to develop a huge and diverse roster of older women of all shapes, sizes and looks. The goal was to champion various visual representations of aging from women around the world, as a counter to ageist tropes about what older women are supposed to- or presumed to- look like. As they say, the campaign has gone viral, as millions of women have proudly posted images and videos of themselves, proclaiming their current ages and demonstrating that women can feel positive and confident no matter their age or image. The campaign also collaborated with the Centre for Ageing Better to create an updated photo collection of modern women that can be used in marketing and advertising to more accurately reflect what real women look like today. To better see what’s been posted online for this campaign, take a look at Instagram posts from the campaign here.
In spite of this campaign, there is still ongoing and regular commentary about “older” women who, due to either cosmetic procedures or social media filters, appear not to “look their age.” Admittedly, with celebrities regularly posting images in which not a wrinkle or line appears, it’s hard to know what a 60, 70, or 80-year-old person should look like today. And, in fact, there does seem to be some discrepancy between what older adults look like today and images of adults the same age from decades earlier. In fact, there’s been a recent effort underway online to explain why images from television shows of decades gone by show adults presumably in their later years when today’s celebrities of the same age look so much younger. As an example: consider The Golden Girls. On that show, Bea Arthur, playing a retired woman living with several other divorced or widowed gals in Florida, was in real life 53 at the start of the show. Do you know who’s 53 today? Among today’s 53-year-olds are Melania Trump and Gwen Stefani. There’s some sense of dissonance between images from previous decades and those of today. And while it’s true that people today have benefited from better diets, less hazardous behavior (like smoking), and better skin care, it’s also true that our perspectives of what constitutes an older person have changed (especially as we ourselves get older). In fact, in a recent provocative article, one writer suggests we are entering the age of “hot” older people- that is older people who are sexually attractive into their later years. While that may be a sign of “progress” in terms of imagery associated with aging, the real progress will come when all of us, no matter our age or image, can feel positive and confident as we enter our later years- and that society will revise its image of what life can be (and look like) as we all grow older.