From time to time I find myself referring in these blogs to the fact that we live in an ageist society. I feel that this is a given without actually giving much thought to what is meant by that phrase and anyway is it actually true? After all at the age of 65, I decided to start a new business and needed to persuade various people that I was serious. I was also looking for their backing and support. At no point did anyone challenge what I was doing based on my age. In fact I often felt that my age was a positive advantage because people could tell that I knew what I was talking about! Who better to come up with a range of makeup specifically formulated for older faces, eyes and lips than the person who looked in the mirror every day and saw that older face reflected back?
However, the very fact of needing to launch a beauty business that spoke to our generation in a different language was absolute evidence of the deeply ingrained ageism of the whole cosmetics industry. Look around any beauty hall and ask yourself (if you are over 55 years of age) where do I see anything here which reflects who I am? For a start the people serving you will be well under 40 and are likely to be made up in a way that is quite intimidating. Thick dark 'scouse' brows, heavy eye makeup probably enhanced with thick false eyelashes topped by solid black eyeliners which flick up at the end. Then look at any advertising material on display. Are there any featuring a mature skin even on the counters of brands who apparently target the older demographic? It's as if women over 40 have been wiped out in some kind of plague.
Now look for inspiration in women's magazines for your beauty and fashion needs. Most will feature very young models and those that acknowledge that their target audience is the older demographic will only show celebrities on their front covers from an extremely narrow band of 'bankers' - women we all love and admire like Twiggy, Helen Mirren, Lorraine Kelly and Joanna Lumley (see left) - and all of their images will be routinely photoshopped to remove any signs of ageing (see images of Twiggy above in an Olay ad and how she is in real life). Do they think we are blind or stupid? These 'celebs' are in films and on TV so we know they haven't got the perfectly flawless, unwrinkled skin of their magazine cover shots or skin care ads.
Inside the magazines this 'everyday ageism' is rife. The fashion spreads In magazines like Good Housekeeping and Woman & Home invariably feature much younger models than the average age of their readership. The way they get round the 'problem' is to show real women in story-led pieces which have a broader range of sizes, shapes and age profiles. I have been in these profiles myself and can attest to the fact that they usually insist on styling you in a particular way to conform to the younger look they have in mind, Rarely are the results very flattering nor do they feature clothes or (especially) shoes that I would actually wear from choice or go out and buy!
At LFF we are often approached by clothing lines whose target market is older women. Their marketing people send us really nice emails saying 'we love your website and as you are obviously appealing to the same group of women as us - let's promote our products jointly.' Then we go onto their website and see the (often ghastly) clothes routinely being shown on twenty-something models. Anna (our Communications Director) and I often wonder if they have actually looked at what we are doing with Look Fabulous Forever! Whether they have seen that we only use real older women to show all our makeup in the Gallery and in our videos. Whether they have read some of my blogs and understood that we are positive about the ageing process and celebrate faces with evidence of ageing. When we actually come across brands like Hope Fashion and White Hot Hair who really do think like us, it's such a refreshing relief!
Other bugbears for my "Everyday Ageism' file? The television and film industries. I really resent the fact that older women like Anna Ford (see right), Moira Stewart, Kate Adie, Sue McGregor and Joan Bakewell either disappear completely from our screens or are only allowed slots on the radio where they continue to show their supreme professionalism. Meanwhile John Humphreys and David Dimbleby who are both well into their 70's and very craggy, are still regularly fronting prime time shows like Mastermind and Question Time. The film industry is also notorious for the 'anti-ageing' pressure it exerts on everyone, but especially female film stars to stay looking as young as possible, often with quite bizarre consequences.
Why does any of this matter to you or I? Well actually it's of profound importance. We are all living much longer and more active lives. If society doesn't catch up with this fact and start to re-evaluate what ageing means, we will just feel invisible, irrelevant and side-lined for much longer. The other crucial thing is that in societies which value and honour older people, those older folk live longer, happier, and more engaged lives because they are considered to be worthy of inclusion and respect. That's the kind of society I want to live in! So here at LFF we will keep plugging away and showing a different (older and wiser) face to the world and saying loud and clear this is how we older women look - and it's fabulous!
What evidence do you have that we live in an ageist society? What are your bugbears? As always I welcome your comments and I always read them all!