Why, in this day and age, are we bombarded on a daily basis with advertisements for anti-aging products aimed almost exclusively at women?
We are constantly pressured to:
Look young. “Wow! It’s great that you’re 47, but only because you look 25 and you’re a stunning, hot model.”
- Be obsessed with anti-aging. Oh, apparently having young-looking skin and a perky, hot bum are “health concerns” now.
- Accept the erasure of all but youthful and “attractive” women throughout the media.
- Be filled with terror and panic if we look like real, unaltered human beings. God forbid we show our secret flaws that make us “less of a woman”.
I can’t chalk it up to just being an across-the-board obsession with youth, because it is women who are the constant target. Even genderless “anti-aging” and “look younger” Google Images searches bring up predominantly female images. Apparently, aging is a female battle to be fought and won.
It’s even more of a media smack in the solar plexus when these beautiful, young, idealized women are surrounded by a wide cross-section of male types and ages (as is all too often the case). Older or less “attractive” men are dotted liberally among any group of people depicted, yet the older or less “attractive” women are mysteriously missing. Don’t even get me started on horrifying ads like this.
While the message to women (in the West, at least) is becoming more and more one of “You can do anything you want in life”, the insidious Achilles heel is that we have to look young and beautiful while we’re doing it — which, to my mind at least, kind of cancels out the whole idea.
We keep falling for the twisted logic that youth and flawless beauty equal empowerment. More importantly, we are offered no alternative.
As far as I’m aware, I can still be CEO of a multi-national corporation and have stretch marks. I can change the world and have everything I desire while showing my age spots. I don’t think they affect the way I function… Do they?
This is all essentially invalidating and excluding the vast majority of women and the lives we’ve led. I have tried over and over to find a logical reason for it, and after pulling nearly all my (increasingly grey) hairs out with exasperation, I can’t find one.
All I can think of is that it must be the last dying vestiges of that good old prehistoric belief system (see all fairy tales) that women must look young and attractive in order to get noticed in the (straight) male-dominated world. I say this because I simply don’t believe that obsessing about looking younger is an inherently “female” behavior. Left to our own devices, do we love our female friends, colleagues, neighbors, mothers, or grandmothers any less if they dare to show their age or “flaws”? No, we probably love them more for it.
Let’s do our bit to speed things along a little by no longer buying into the women-must-look-young BS. It’s time to LOVE our skin and the way it changes as we go through life, LOVE our greying hair, our changing bodies, and all our “signs of aging” — because they are what truly empower us.
Elizabeth Dodd is a Human History Museum professional and part time artist from New Zealand. Over the years, her growing exasperation at the media’s uncontested obsession with womens’ appearance and youth has driven her to either self combust or start blogging. She chose the latter.