Women have always wanted to look good — Cleopatra took baths in milk and Roman women spent many hours in saunas to moisturize their skin. All women want to look beautiful and young. But today, being young is something that people worship and signs of aging are something to be ashamed of. Getting rid of wrinkles, dying their silver hair, and hiding drooping necks and arms underneath clothing are all more common than ever before. But why has natural aging in the female body become so taboo?
Bright Side has figured out who’s to blame for women being so scared of aging. As it turns out, hating your imperfections is very profitable for many companies today.
It’s natural for us to reject the idea of getting older.
Aging is an intrinsic part of our lives. And it seems to be the saddest part. We’re scared of aging because it’s accompanied by disease and helplessness, the body becomes flabby, and the memory turns unreliable.
Scientists say that we’re trained to dislike aging by evolution. Evolution made us able to determine by smell if someone is able to have children. From nature’s point of view, a person who can’t make children is useless.
However, aging is a bigger danger for women than men. Aside from health issues, women are supposed to “age with grace”. This means that a woman over 40 years old has to hide her grey hair and wrinkles and keep her body in shape. And there are hundreds of other “must-dos” which are often mutually exclusive: if you don’t do botox injections, you don’t care about yourself, and if you do, you look like a plastic doll.
Aging is scary, and if you’re a woman, it’s also embarrassing. The modern cult of youth prohibits us to look our age. Even Hollywood stars such as Gillian Anderson are criticized by some people: viewers aren’t willing to accept one’s natural appearance.
Of course, regular women have tougher lives: we’re used to thinking that life is over once you’re older than 30. Even fashion magazines recommend young women to start using anti-aging beauty products at the age of 20 and battle wrinkles long before they even appear. From a very young age, girls are sure that old age is something unpleasant and off-putting. But the fear of aging doesn’t appear on its own. There are specific people and situations that are to blame for making women afraid of aging.
You have to buy anti-wrinkle cremes and undergo anti-aging procedures.
The entire beauty industry is earning money on women’s desire to look young:
- 62% of women aged 35-54 use anti-aging creams.
- 28,000 cosmetic procedures are performed in Great Britain every year (lifting, botox injections, and more).
According to the most conservative estimates, the profits these companies earn for selling “youth” is $200 billion. Anti-wrinkle creams, syringes, hair dyes, and other similar products make these manufacturers millionaires. Corporations only support the myth that aging is hideous and unnatural. If you stop believing this, who is going to buy hundreds of bottles and tubes of this kind of stuff?
However, it’s worth noting that scientists still don’t know why we get older. Biologists have figured out the mechanism of aging but the human body is a far more complicated thing. Doctors and geneticists only suppose that wrinkles can appear because of sunlight, the influence of free radicals, and the depletion of stem cells. But nothing is certain.
Creams and procedures with amazing components like fish caviar and liposome may help but they also may end up being completely useless. There’s no such thing as an elixir for eternal life, but the “market on youth” definitely exists. The entire industry is working on making you believe that this is true: smooth skin + a great butt + (fill in your own answer) = happiness.
At the age of 40, women become “invisible” to employers.
Some people say that life only starts at the age of 40, but definitely not career-wise. Women are scared of becoming redundant and they have reason to feel this way.
- Women already earn less money than men and after the age of 40, there’s no hope that their salary will increase. At this age, women hit a glass ceiling: there’s no room left for development. It is completely the other way around for men: with age, they are valued more at work and in society.
Women experience 2 negative effects at once. The first one is ageism which is discrimination against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. The second effect is sexism. In other words, it’s hard to be a woman in the business world. There are 2 reasons for this.
- Discrimination has a negative effect on one’s health. Women aged 50 or older told researchers that they have depressive thoughts more than 30% of their working time. In the end, they develop somatic illnesses.
- Social scientists claim that problems with ageism in women start with the question, “Who is going to stay at home and raise the children?” Most of the time, women do this and lose several years of their careers. Women don’t take parental leave because they’re afraid of missing out on something important at work.
Is it all men’s fault?
Last year, the photo of Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis went viral online. It was a “before and after” photo. People online criticized the actress’s appearance because she looked far older than her movie costar.
In the English language, there’s a saying, “Men age like wine and women age like milk.” Despite the popularity of feminist ideas and emancipation, women still don’t have the right to age the way they want to.
Society sets somewhat of a “shelf life” for women and the clock is always ticking. When the value of a person is determined by their ability to produce offspring, it’s a problem. And psychologists claim that the reason why women have a negative attitude toward their own age is not caused by men but from women themselves:
“The fear of aging is the fear of a woman to be on her own because women are nothing on their own. They can’t provide for themselves, they can’t entertain themselves, they can’t be happy on their own, they don’t have friends or family who would like to be with them because they are interesting people and not because they are women. They feel like they are just products on the market where women offer and men choose.”
Fears and insecurities are the biggest reasons why women reject the idea of aging. Maybe if we loved ourselves just a bit more, then people around us would treat us differently! A great example of such behavior can be seen in the singer, Celine Dion. At the age of 50, Dion is once again a fashion icon who doesn’t hide her wrinkles and wears any clothing she wants. She looks very natural, even today.
Magazines, ads, and Hollywood make us afraid of our own age.
Magazines and Hollywood glamour only make matters worse. Actresses and models look as if they’re frozen at the ages of 30-40 and they stop aging. This industry also has very harsh unwritten rules.
“Plastic surgery used to be a thing where older people would try to go into this dream world of being 28 years old again. But now, in Hollywood, even people at 28 are having work done. Society has made us believe you should look like an 18-year-old model all your life. But I figure I might as well just be what I am.”
It’s easy to understand the celebrity mentality: an attractive face and body earn money. In their case, the cult of youth is a commercial necessity. According to directors, old age cannot be attractive and people are more likely to go and see a movie that has young actors in it. But it can’t be like this forever.
But times are changing and the percentage of the elderly population is quickly growing. For example, in Japan, it’s 30% now and in Italy, it’s 20%. So, more and more active people of middle age and even old age are popping up around the world. Today, it’s not trendy to hide your wrinkles — in fact, it’s the opposite! Middle-aged people are becoming main characters in movies and commercials.
Just 10-15 years ago, nobody would have thought that a woman over the age of 60 could become the main character of an action film. In 2019, Terminator: Dark Fate is going to be released and Linda Hamilton is going to return to the franchise. At 63 years old, Hamilton will face off against Skynet.
Perhaps audiences are growing tired of looking at angel-like women with beautiful bodies and just want to see real people. Or maybe marketers and directors have finally realized that adult people are the ones who can afford to actually see the films. In any case, today, there is no reason to be ashamed of your real age.
Bonus: We have good news and bad news.
First, the bad news: Middle-aged people feel the most unhappy. The most depressive time of our lives is between the ages of 35 and 50. And women are much more unhappy than men. Aside from being middle-aged, women have loads of problems like uncertainty about the future, career difficulties, and taking care of children and older relatives.
Women have to play several social roles which makes them feel emotional discomfort (like sadness and exhaustion, according to scientists).
But here’s the good news: as we get older, we become happier. And this is all thanks to neuroplasticity. This is the ability of the human brain to change with experience and adapt to different circumstances.
It means that the things that used to seem terrible (like teenage problems) don’t appear to be as bad. So according to British scientists, after the age of 50, the level of happiness increases and peaks by the time we’re 70.
Are you scared of your age or do you just not care about it?