Generations of people before us fought for our basic liberties and rights. In the UK, for example, women only achieved equal voting rights to men as recently as 1928. We have come a long way in terms of equality, freedom of expression and socio-economic human rights. Discriminating against someone on the basis of his/her color, race, religion or sexual orientation is now unthinkable and unacceptable. There is, however, one form of discrimination which is still practiced and openly so: Ageism. It seems as though it has now become acceptable to discriminate against someone because of their age. Both men and women are affected by this, but somehow it is applied to the genders in different ways. Men usually encounter ageism in the job market. Many companies are reluctant to hire people if they are past a certain age. Once someone is in their late fifties, employers tend to ignore the experience that an older person can bring to a role and revert to the old cliché of “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Obviously, a grown individual is more difficult to manipulate than a young man who is fresh out of college and willing to establish himself. It is also difficult for many men to start all over again in a completely different career. If, at the age of 50, someone decides that his calling in life is to work in TV and has to start off as a runner, the chances are it will never happen. If it does, it’s likely that he will be subjected to mockery because of his age; a runner at 50? However, while both sexes may experience this problem of ageism in the workplace, men are hardly ever discriminated against on the basis of age-related looks. Women on the other hand, are not so lucky. Women have kept silent about this for years in fear or in the belief that getting older every year makes them less and less desirable to men and to society in general. The all-powerful beauty and fashion industries do play and gain a lot by feeding on women’s anxiety that they must look a certain way by a certain age and that women in their 40s, 50s or 60s should try to appear younger at any cost necessary. We can often see the sad results of this when once-beautiful women ruin their faces with excessive plastic surgery. It is up to us, women, to fight against this psychological form of discrimination by speaking about it, and by not trying to hide our ages if we look younger. We have to embrace our age whatever it is and stop thinking about it in terms that no longer cut it in our times. The women of 100 years ago are not the women of today in the way they think, act, dress, or look, and therefore, age should no longer be used to define someone. We cannot allow age-related insecurities to win over our own achievements as people. Men will not discard you when you no longer look young, and society will not discard you either. It is now up to us to stop ageism by embracing age as a marvelous wonder in the life of a person. It is important for us to start pointing out the offence whenever we hear a disparaging comment about someone because of their age. Together, we can make this form of discrimination unacceptable. Ageism embraces our throw away culture, it dictates the youth-obsessed societies we live in, and it assumes older people have nothing to offer to the world. It doesn’t value the wisdom that comes with age nor the experience. Truly, there is nothing good about ageism.
Pics by Tim Ward.