There have been a couple of incidences lately that have got my tits in a twist about how invisible women become after the age of fifty – unless we go around waving a banner that says ‘Look at me, I’m here.’
Sadly, it is becoming commonly accepted that as women age and become less physically attractive (by society’s standards) and recognizable for their function as reproductive vessels for the population, they become invisible in a society where beauty is rated higher than intelligence for them. And while the optimist in me would like to believe that with progress and education, society cannot surely continue to judge half of its population on their physical merits alone – I’m not so sure, anymore.
I’m also certain that the majority of us middle-aged women don’t miss the wolf whistles from tradies and the comments to ‘smile, love’ that thankfully disappear around the time we became less ‘fuckable’ by society’s standards and more comfortable within ourselves. But ‘invisibility’ is not only an attack on our physical prowess, it is also a scathing judgment about our worth and contribution.
At a talk about feminism on Saturday, Tracey Spicer discussed her treatment as a female journalist and news anchor before the age of forty – when she was told countless times to ‘stick her tits out’ or the equivalent and reminded frequently that she wasn’t paid to think; when she had a baby, she lost her job. So obviously, there is still some way to go.
It appears that society expects women to work to retirement, to equal men in their contribution, as long as it is on its terms ie. in the jobs that suit its narrow-minded gauge of what women can do. And for older women, that gets trickier for roles in the media, the arts, or indeed any job where they are in the public eye. Even those mature women who survive the harrowed journey to success that culminates in high-powered positions in politics or the corporate world, continue to be judged on their shoe style, their parenting choices, and their work/life balance, rather than their input to the role. And interestingly, this at a time when governments are doing their best to encourage mature women back into the workforce.
My personal beef about not being recognized as an equal member of society (because I no longer fulfill the ‘fuckable’ brief), has nothing to do with how people interpret my sexual availability, it has more to do with the acknowledgement that although I might not have the brains, beauty and youth of someone like Miranda Kerr, I still contribute to society and to the joint finances of my household, and that should mean I have a right to be treated in the same way as my husband.
A week or so ago the old man and I went to our local bank. Throughout the fifteen-minute process required to set up our two new accounts, I was completely ignored by the teller, (a woman, I should add), except for when asked for my ID to confirm my secondary citizenship and saggy tit status. I did check that I hadn’t left on my invisibility cloak – which I have been known to don when the bins need to be put out or the dog pukes on the carpet – but no, I had left it at home – so I can only assume that I was being judged for my gender. Now I know that banks can be a bit old-fashioned, but is that really an excuse? I can give countless examples of similar treatment in restaurants when the bill has automatically been passed to the old man, even after I have ordered our meals.
Perhaps I’m being over-sensitive, but when is this disparity in the way women and men are treated going to change? If I was the sole breadwinner of our family, I would be mightily pissed about it. I understand that it can be tricky in hospitality to know who is taking responsibility for the bill, but is it really that hard to ask ‘Who’s paying the bill?’, in which case I will quickly point to my husband. The assumption that the old man is paying is highly belittling to my contribution. I have always worked hard – apart from two short periods where my vagina was knitting itself back together after our two additions to the population – I have paid my taxes and I have striven to give back where I can to a society that no matter what I do, treats me as substandard.
We need to educate people, ladies. In the same way that we need to call out sexist comments when we hear them, next time you feel overlooked or made to feel invisible because of your gender, say something. Let them know that you have a voice, in spite of the lines on your face and high-pitched voice that perhaps like mine goes awkwardly a few decibels higher in the face of confrontation. Remind them that we contribute as much to society as men do, if not more when you take into account the taxes on sanitary wear, wine and chocolate.
Do you ever feel invisible? Is it an age or gender issue?