It's Time To Confront Our Fear Of The Aging Female Face

Illustration for article titled Its Time To Confront Our Fear Of The Aging Female Face

Actress Harriet Walter has curated an exhibit at London's National Theater called "Infinite Variety," which celebrates something we seldom see in magazines or advertising: "the beauty of the aging female face."

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As Janice Turner asks in The Times Of London, "Are we so used to airbrushed celebrity glamor that we can no longer see the beauty of an older woman?" Well, yes. Turner notes:

Madonna has forged a career out of smashing taboos about female power and sexuality, but is not willing to take on the final challenge. To stand up, with her trademark insouciance and say: "Yeah, women age, so what. Here I am!"

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And:

Today it is acceptable to admit you are 50, but not to look it.

In college, I took a course in Goddesses, where I learned that eons ago, in Western cultures, older women were revered for their wisdom and power; they often knew of herbal remedies and potions that could cure. Christianity and the patriarchy made it so that only men (priests) had the power; old women were witches, crones — no longer desirable and ripe for neglect and mocking. But that was then. This is now. And between women like Betty White, Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Barbara Walters and Vivienne Westwood, isn't it about time we realized that old does not mean dead, boring, undesirable or useless? Why are we (that includes you, your Madgesty) so afraid to wear our wrinkles with pride?

Losing The Beauty Of An Older Woman [Times Of London]
Infinite Variety [National Theater]
Infinite Variety [Wimbeldon College Of Art]

[Image of Phyllida Law from Infinite Variety by Georgia Oetker.]

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DISCUSSION

mitzidupree-old
mitzidupree

I need this.

I'm 22, and scared of aging. Not because it means I'm getting closer to death or anything like that, but because I won't be hot anymore. I have a certain kind of privilege right now in that I am conventionally attractive, and with that comes a lot of superficiality that I hate in myself...fear of aging included. I can't help but think: What will happen when I can't use my looks to my advantage anymore? It's hard to remind myself that others my age don't have that privilege right NOW. I'm trying to change this way of thinking because it's entitled and despicable, but man, it's hard!

My mom is 51 and looks great. My grandmother, though her face looked, as Ava Gardner put it, "lived in," was elegant and stunning until her dying day. I have these reminders that aging happens to everyone, that it makes you wiser, but I still cringe a little thinking of it. And articles like this actually help. Thank you.