Friday, January 25, 2008

Just when you thought it was safe to stop coloring your hair ...

At least I'd been thinking I might stop coloring mine because I find the confident look of grey-haired women so appealing. But then a story titled "Nice Résumé. Have You Considered Botox?" appeared as the "Skin Deep" feature in yesterday's New York Times. It's been among the most emailed stories in the last 36 hours. Journalist Natasha Singer writes here about a new book, "How Not to Look Old," which has been a hot seller on the "how-to" lists since it appeared last week. Charla Krupp, author of the book, queries on her website: "Why look like an old lady when you can look younger & hipper?" The book pitches the "looking young" mission as not only (or at least no longer) about vanity, but about job security. Ultimately, as Singer's story reveals, the message here is not just concern about ageism, it is concern about a wicked cocktail of ageism and sexism that leads to discrimination. Singer quotes Dr. Molly Andrews of the University of East London who has written "The Seductiveness of Agelessness." Andrews calls ageism "one of the last frontiers of discrimination where people think that a way around it is not to be seen to age." She observes that we don't urge a parallel response to sexism -- that is, we don't suggest that women behave in a more masculine fashion in order to avoid it.

Singer puts the book's success in temporal context:

The success of “How Not to Look Old” comes on the heels of disparaging comments about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton made by the radio provocateur Rush Limbaugh, who last month said: “Will Americans want to watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis? And that woman, by the way, is not going to want to look like she’s getting older, because it will impact poll numbers.”

Although Mr. Limbaugh’s comments drew widespread criticism, they underscored the idea that older women in the work force are vulnerable to age prejudice.

Singer goes on to report studies documenting discrimination against aging women, which has me wondering what economic necessity will be demanding of us next . . . .

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