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Opinion: Does it really matter how women choose to age?

Mature Asian woman dressed in motorcycle attire smiling as she straps up her helmet

A long time ago I was one of the first fashion bloggers in Australia with my fashion website, AskBronny. 

I spent a decade writing about fashion and styling and encouraging women to love themselves no matter their shape or size – to dress for themselves and take notes from our fashion leaders, such as Audrey Hepburn and Coco Chanel. 

Fast forward to age 49, children, marriage, and running a small business, and it’s been a long time since I was a fashion blogger. 

But after seeing the ageism directed at the cast of the Sex and the City reboot, And Just Like That (ALTJ) I was incensed and posted my feelings about it to my Instagram account. I was even more shocked when hundreds of women from all over the world essentially said, “hear hear”. Turns out I’m not the only one sick of the ageism directed at women. 

Men apparently get sexy, whereas women just get old

I’ve had friends tell me they feel invisible, that “My time in the sun is done”. 

Surely when we reach middle age and we have learned so much about life, we should be hitting our prime? Indeed, as I entered my 40s I made a complete switch in my professional life and started a career as a writer-director and indie filmmaker, in an industry in which women in their 40s historically become completely invisible. 

Have I felt that invisibility in this industry? Sure. Have I also felt seen and been most excited to have reached an audience of millions with my own message? Absolutely. 

What has surprised me most about the ageism directed at the women on AJLT, is that it’s not only the people who were babies (or not even born) when Sex and the City first hit our screens, a lot of it is also coming from women who are middle-aged or older. 

Whatever happened to the sisterhood? The ageism is vile, offensive, and needs a massive check. This insecure projection just needs to stop. 

The Paulina effect

And it’s not just the female cast of AJLT who are subjected to ageism. It’s other brilliant and inspiring women as well. I’m a big fan of Paulina Porizkova, who was the face of Estee Lauder and spent decades from the tender age of 15 modelling and representing the beauty ideal. Now at 56, she is a pioneer of ageing your own way and has chosen not to intervene. She’s beautiful and will always be beautiful. 

As a woman now nearing 60, seeing Paulina put her wrinkles and grey hair out there as something to aspire to is refreshing and feels relatable. I too have chosen (in the words of my mother) to age gracefully, without intervention. 

However, even beautiful Paulina is not immune to ageism: “You focus way too much on yourself and your looks. At your age, you should be bathing in the love of your kids and your grandkids”. 

Paulina’s response: A naked picture of her glorious 56-year-old bod. A bod I’m guessing a lot of 20- year-olds would love to have. 

Source: Paulina Porizkova Instagram

The stunning Helena Christensen was labelled too old to wear a bustier a few years ago (in her 40s). 

Even Madonna is not immune as she ages in reverse in the public eye. Every new picture of Madonna brings a wave of comments (mainly from women), such as “Why?”. 

Posting a series of raunchy pictures on Instagram recently induced a hideous wave of ageism: “This was pushing boundaries at 30 but at 63, it’s just attention-seeking. It’s no longer relevant.” Or: “Act your age!!!!” 

Really? It’s worth noting this post drew 39,100 comments, which tells me Madonna is indeed still relevant and sure knows how to grab attention – which is what she has always been great at doing and why her career has endured well into her 60s. 

Why do women think they have a right to push their own insecurity onto her? These women seem to forget Madonna was a groundbreaker for how women were viewed in society. She inspired generations of women to do what they want, when they wanted, while breaking the shackles of what it means to be a successful woman. 

We have managed to build a myth that ageing for women is in some way bad, that you don’t want to look old at any time, and if you do, you need to immediately intervene. Sounds like marketing and commercialism to me. 

What gives anyone the right to tell anyone else how they can or should age? 

Sex and the City was seminal and, in many ways, the four women were the influencers of their time (along with Jennifer Aniston’s hair), before being an influencer was even a thing. I love seeing Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, and Cynthia Nixon embracing their wrinkles and grey hair. They look just as beautiful to me and just as relatable. 

Perhaps what we actually need is more women in their 50s on our TV screens, or behind the scenes telling stories. Like Big Brother Australia 2021, which brought us the brilliant Sarah Jane Adams, who at 65 is the oldest cast member in the show’s history

Let’s be honest – does it really matter how women choose to age? Ageing is a privilege and you would think after the millions of deaths over a two-year pandemic, people might realise that. 

Because time marches on neverending, for us all.

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Championing the voices of midlife women by nurturing connections and leading conversations around the midlife experience.

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