Last month there seemed to be a glut of posts about feeling invisible over 40. I’d never really thought about it until then, but when I did it left me feeling very depressed. Once I started to think about it, I found myself obsessing. Now my friends will all tell you that I have the lowest self-esteem. I don’t believe I’m in the slightest bit attractive. I’ve also put on quite a bit of weight since the birth of my last baby, and no matter how I try I can’t summon the motivation to shift it! So what I do feel, in short, is fat and ugly. Up until recently though, I didn’t think I felt invisible.
That changed when I started to really take more notice of things around me. As vain as it sounds, as I walked (or is that waddled?) to the school, I noticed that the younger Mums definitely drew more attention from passing vans and lorries full of men. And it wasn’t just young men either, it was older men. I started to watch my own husband, and at times he seemed almost compelled to look at the young girls with hips and bottoms that a 50p would struggle to cover. And yet these girls had no sophistication. With their massively drawn on eyebrows and their seventy billion shades to dark foundation, I wondered what the attraction was. So I asked him. After the denials of even looking, he eventually conceded that he didn’t know. That he didn’t find many of them attractive, he just looked. I asked other men in my friend circle who again all admitted to not knowing why they looked, they just couldn’t help it sometimes.
To be fair to the men though, I also noticed that people on the street, including other women, no longer acknowledged me in the way they once did. Very few people smiled, or said hello. I didn’t seem to draw attention from anyone in the way I once had. Admittedly, I do have a mean resting bitch face. Even when I tried to not fall into that expression, and kept myself open and friendly most people scurried on past. I do wonder how much of this is the change in our society though. That we often don’t live in the communities we were born into, and that essentially we are all strangers to each other. Which itself brings an inate distrust these days.
Then I started to look at the female contingent on the television. All the super hero ladies, sexy ladies, love interest ladies are portrayed by girls barely out of training pants. Even the more traditional Mum roles are being played by women who are not old enough to have grown up children. Those roles that are played by older women are traditionally the older stateswoman type roles. The roles that are expected to be played by frumpy middle-aged women. In 2016 the University of Southern California’s Annberg School for Communication and Journalism released a report that demonstrated wonderfully just how invisible women are in film and television. It analysed 414 films and tv shows that aired for a period spanning 2014 to 2015, and were produced by major American Networks such as CBS and Sony. The findings were quite astonishing.
Over that period it found that 80% of men played roles for characters that were aged in the forty plus bracket. If you shake that down to the writing rooms, then a whopping 89% of them are men. What about the people who come up the ideas for shows? 77%! And what about those who direct? Well I can tell you that only 3.4% of films in the period that this report covers were directed by women!! So let’s apply my opening paragraph to these findings, is it any wonder that women feel invisible? Would it be so bad if women sat in the top spots, in executive positions in these companies? Forget it, within Executive Management and Director level there were only 19% representation of women.
Previous articles that I’ve read hint at the fact women feel invisible because of the aging process. The anticipated loss of looks, feeling almost redundant because our children are grown up and don’t need us. The fact that it’s young women who are so often used to promote beauty products. The fact that we are still expected to conform to the jolly old nana stereotpye once we get to a certain age!
So really it’s no wonder women feel invisible, because we are subliminally being told we are invisibile. Ofcom states that on average, here in the UK, we spend 8 hours and 41 minutes on media devices. That’s 8 hours and 41 minutes we are bascially being told we are old, not attractive and not relevant. Even if an older woman does get any amount of media coverage it’s because she has the physique or looks of a women decades younger. Take Jennifer Anniston and our own Helen Mirren. They are lauded, and put on pedestals for not succumbing to aging and all the grotesque things that getting older brings! Of course I say that tongue in cheek, but Meryl Streep herself once said that in the year she turned 40, she was offered 3 roles. All were for witches. Another consideration is that the two actresses I’ve previously mentioned haven’t had children. It does make me wonder, if once we’ve had children we somehow become sullied. Incapable of being sexy or desirable. Kim Kardashian opted to have her third child by surrogate, apparently for health reasons. Although maybe she didn’t want to surrender her body and perceived attractiveness to the ravages of pregnancy once again. Most women can bounce back from two pregnancies but I can assure you, any more than that and your body is never quite the same again!
Tomorrow’s papers will be full of the young women who have attended the MET gala. They’ll either be adored or abhored for their choice of outfit. This years theme is “Heavenly Bodies” and although some of the hosts are in the ‘older category’ (Anna Wintour, Amal Clooney and Donatella Versace) it won’t be them we see all over the front pages.
In this day and age where we (rightly) accept people for all that they are, then it’s time we let go of our youth fixation. Beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and AGE. We should live in a time when both young and old are celebrated and given equal appreciation. Women don’t become the equivalent of quasi-modo, some women really blossom after a certain age. With the constraints of children loosened, women are able to take more time over themselves. So instead of looking like a frazzled thirty something, they blossom into fabulous forty somethings. Only with experience, less drama, finesse and knowledge. Surely women are much more deserving of the fine wine label than men!!
So come on world, woman up!!