Why The Hell Are Men The Only Ones Allowed To Age?

by Maria Guido
Originally Published: 
Image via Tatler, Men's Journal, InStyle, Time

We’ve earned all the experiences that show on our bodies and faces — just as men have

Daily, women everywhere are exposed to women our ages and older who seemed to have stumbled upon the fountain of youth. Women in their 40’s and 50’s just don’t look like they’re in their 40’s and 50’s anymore — at least not on the silver screen or the cover of magazines. And it’s doing something to the rest of us. We’re on the desperate hunt for the next serum, face roller, mask, even surgical procedure that promises to stop time.

But has time really stopped for these women? How much of this is reality? Have we ever stopped to think about why men are the only ones allowed to age?

“I would like to put airbrushing in the bin. I want it gone. I want it out of here,” writes The Good Place actress Jameela Jamil in an essay for the BBC last weekend. “I think it’s a disgusting tool that has been weaponised, predominantly against women, and is responsible for so many more problems than we realise because we are blinded by the media, our culture and our society.”

Aging is a gift not everyone is afforded. It’s strange that we’ve become less likely to see those laugh lines and general signs of aging as reminders of a life well lived. Well, for women anyway. Women aren’t allowed to show experience on their faces. Jameela was quick to point this disturbing fact out with a few magazine covers.

Nicole Kidman in Tatler’s July 2018 cover. She’s 51.

Josh Brolin in Men’s Journal’s June 2018 issue. He’s 50.

Clearly both successful, very attractive actors – but what the hell is happening here? Would any 50-year-old woman be able to adorn the cover of a magazine without being airbrushed to death — or without the many treatments that make age-defying possible?

“If you see a digitally “enhanced” picture of yourself, you run the risk of becoming acclimatised to that level of flawlessness and it makes it harder for you to accept your actual image – the one that exists in real life, in the mirror,” Jamil writes. “You then might want to take measures to match what is achieved on the screen. Often this is only achievable with expensive, painful and often risky cosmetic procedures or surgery.

“Filters and digital editing have almost certainly contributed to the fact so many of the women I know have turned to needles, knives and extreme diets to try to match their online avatar.”

There may be an argument that women are actually getting more procedures done, hence looking younger than men. But no one looks this flawless.

Sandra Bullock on InStyle’s June 2018 cover. She’s 54.

George Clooney on Time’s March 2008 cover. He was 47.

Why must women be porcelain dolls, while men are allowed to show laugh lines, crow’s feet, and grey hair? Well in reality, if you’re a woman in Hollywood who hasn’t managed to completely defy aging or let the photoshop artists go to work — you’re probably not getting any work. Older women who actually look their age just aren’t sellable to Hollywood. They’ve been sending us that message for years.

In 1967, Anne Bancroft was 36 when she played the role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate. Her character would become synonymous with “predatory old sex fiend” forever. It was the story of a mother who seduces her college-aged daughter’s boyfriend. The boyfriend was played by Dustin Hoffman. He was six years younger than Bancroft.

Six years younger.

It’s almost 50 years later, and the age disparity in casting hasn’t improved much, as evidenced by an anecdote 37-year-old Maggie Gyllenhaal told The Wrap in a 2015 interview. The actress claims she was told by a Hollywood producer she was “too old” to play the love interest of a 55-year-old man. Too old. At 37. To play the love interest of a 55-year-old man.

There’s clearly a very legitimate reason why women are drinking the Kool Aid and fighting signs of aging at all costs. But it just feels like this all needs to stop at some point, right? We’re not avatars — we’re human beings. These images aren’t “beautiful” when you really think about it.

I’m 45. I may not be in my twenties anymore, but I’m a mature, smart, sexy, intimidating-ass woman who my 25-year-old self would have looked up to and loved — wrinkles, bigger ass and all. I don’t want to look 25, because I’m not. There are plenty of women in their 20’s starting all of these interventions already. Is it okay to point out that we are going totally overboard with this shit? You will age. If you’re lucky.

“When you filter a woman’s photo you are legitimising the patriarchy’s absurd aesthetic standards, that women should be attractive to the straight, male gaze at all costs,” Jamil writes. “When you filter your selfies, you are doing the same thing.”

We’ve earned all the experiences that show on our bodies and faces — just as men have. Youth and beauty are not accomplishments. We need to stop feeding women the lie that they are.

“Men get a green light on ageing and gravity. Why can’t women get the same allowances,” asks Jamil. “It is anti-feminist. It is ageist. It is fat-phobic. It looks weird. It looks wrong. It’s robbing you of your time, money, comfort, integrity and self worth. Delete the apps and unfollow those who are complicit in this crime against our gender.”

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