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Posts Tagged ‘Naomi Wolf’

Hanging in a place of prominence in every house I’ve lived in for the past 30-something years is a photo of Roy Rogers in his prime upon which is the legend:

Stinkpot,
You old horse.
Roy

Not a personally autographed souvenir from a cowboy hero, but rather a snarky Christmas gift emblazoned with amusing family references by my brother in a quintessentially Hanks way I’ve treasured ever since the morning I unwrapped the thing and got a good laugh.

It was my father who dubbed me both “Stinkpot” and “Old Horse” … and the two often went together … when I was a little kid and since neither moniker was meant to sting I’ve no resentments or emotional scars, just the appreciation for humor that runs in my blood.

Why am I sharing this today? Well … I was pecking around for a post title, came up with this one and thought an explanation might be a good lead when addressing the issues of aging women. (So I’m considering this contribution a twofer … )

It’s this from the Washington Post written by Naomi Wolf, a writer whose work I’ve followed and appreciated for yonks and whose thoughts on women resonate.

Her topic in the Post is “The Aging Myth”, and I’m liking what I read.

I had thought that getting older would be harder. The common cultural script tells us that women lose value as they age and that men will trade in their counterparts for younger versions (because, of course, that would be trading up). Middle-aged women are supposed to face the loss of their youthful selves with grief and anguish.

I look around at the magnetic and dynamic women my own age, I look at my own life, and instead that script seems more like a convenient fiction — designed, as so many aspects of “the beauty myth” are, to make women feel less powerful; in this case, just when their power, magnetism and sexuality are at their height.

I’m not claiming that “at their height” thing personally, and although there are aspects of aging I’m not exactly chuffed with I’m far from anguished, as are the women I know.

Interestingly, Wolf compares today’s messages with those cranked out by ad agencies, marketing folks and others with a vested interested in fostering self-image damage of the past and finds the present-day situation even worse for women:

When my book was published in 1991, I noted that a burgeoning epidemic of eating disorders was engulfing what should have been the feistiest, most confident generation of women ever. The field of cosmetic surgery, especially breast implant procedures, was booming. Pornography was chipping away at young women’s sexual self-esteem just as insult-ridden advertisements for anti-aging creams were shaping the way women thought about the experience of getting older. The way we looked determined our value to society.

Since then, many of the issues I warned about have, indeed, gotten worse. The body size of fashion models and starlets has dropped still further; fashion ads showcase women who look as if they should be hospitalized. The technologies of cosmetic surgery have become so commonplace that there are communities in which women with unreconstructed faces are seen as bucking the norm. Breast surgery is almost universal in pornography, and pornography is almost universal in the sexual coming-of-age of both young women and young men; those images now have greater impact than they did when I wrote the book.

The good news, however, is that we’re not buyin’ it, or at least not in the wholesale ways we once went like sheep to the slaughter. She calls it a “substantial subset” and sites a study that reports about 30% as “change agents” … women “who are defining beauty for themselves”.

How this translates to both men and young women is a question, but I have to wonder if it’s one we need bother asking.

If I look like a crone to a twenty-something chickie-pooh should I feel somehow less-than? In actuality, I’m more-than and if she chooses not to notice the accumulation of wisdom and wit she still might catch the reflection that is herself in time.

If my age makes me invisible to a man whose vision is limited to the firm and perky is there some mandate stating I must react with self-flagellation with a sack of insecurities and regrets over what I no longer have at my disposal?

There is only one alternative to aging and that involves a deep hole and a box, so beating myself up over the rings of my tree … even if they add a bit of girth … seems a waste of time and an endeavor meant only to add to frown lines.

Ms. Wolf goes into some detail on the advantages of aging, and I don’t disagree:

On the street, young women are told: Give me some. Older women hear: I love your eyes. That is not a bad trade.

Since I hear that quite often, I’ll settle for being how old I am … until I’m older.

Here’s lookin’ at you, Kid …

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