'Yoo-hoo, we're here!'

'Yoo-hoo, we're here!'

Take the pledge to stand up for older and largely invisible women

By Ellen Snortland 11/13/2013

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I’m over 50, vital, interesting and have lots to give to anyone who doesn’t discount me and my contemporaries because of age and the elephant in the room, gender.

This column was born when I was asked to take a causes.com pledge sponsored by the American Cancer Society, which urged us to “get girls to love the skin they’re in.” Could we change that to “females of all ages to love the skin they’re in?” As it now stands, I signed, and I encourage you to do so. It has a five-point pledge, a “manifesto,” of which I will quote only No. 1:

“I charge that the media’s hypersexualization of girls and women is not en vogue with the full expression of our substance, complexity, and unique humanity. We are more than the sum of our parts; we are leaders and game-changers of the conversation.” 
This is a pledge that’s important for women of all ages, considering how our culture now sucks for ALL of us. By the constant sexualizing of girls and women, beauty and impossible standards of fantasy-femininity become our only means to gain power and influence, creating a human “shelf-life” that expires in a woman’s mid-30s. While some men are just catching their stride at that age, women are expected to shut up and go away so no one will have to look at them, let alone listen to them. Of course, too many men are often not really listening that deeply to the younger, so-called attractive women as much as pretending to listen, while they ogle.

What we need to do is align young women with seeing that they are sealing the fate of their own future as mature, wise and experienced women by buying into the idea that they are only valuable while they are young. The young women who don’t currently clear the beauty bar are oppressed from the get-go.

Hmm. Sniff the air. What’s that smell? Why it’s Hollywood’s stinky old monster — OldBroadZilla — chewing up and spitting out women, going through them like Kleenex. We need Joss Whedon, or someone like him, to set a new standard of onscreen inclusion for women who are now considered persona non grata.

Whedon is a highly successful — and female friendly — producer/writer/director who always includes multiple fascinating and complicated female characters who are just as compelling and related to the world as his male characters. Fans of “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel” and “Firefly” know what I’m talking about. His newest TV adventure, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” is a stellar example. Yet, even he could use a few older fabulous women. 

You might be saying, “What’s the big deal?” What’s the impact of having a huge portion of our population missing from our screens? It costs us a lot, and I would like to foment rebellion among my own kind. I assert that most of my peers don’t complain about being obliterated from the intellectual and cultural landscape. We are so used to being invisible, our invisibility isn’t even visible to many of us! Now that’s invisibility.

What being invisible costs the culture is … let’s see: Remember how brutally Hillary Clinton was attacked in the press during the primaries? Ad hominem jabs at her weight, her hair, her outfits, her attractiveness, blah, blah, blah. Even progressive men got into the act, not just gasbag Rush Limbaugh and his minions. Hillary served as a lightning rod for the barely hidden contempt that a lot of people — including other women — have for middle-aged and older women of all colors. Just as the women who made such amazing strides in the 1970s are reaching the ages of their full-blown wisdom, born from decades of experience, we must fight even harder than ever to not be annihilated with bullshit, anachronistic, gratuitous misogyny.

Men who are over 50 are regarded as dignified and experienced. Their female peers? Invisible or mostly portrayed as witches or bitches. Whereas we are sold stories of men at all ages and stages, women are trotted out as trophies: accessories, as long as they are eye-candy or considered good breeding stock. Menopausal women are just deleted! Everyone would be richer in all spheres if we had more women of all ages expressing themselves, in government, corporations, education and entertainment.

Even the postmenopausal men are rarely with age appropriate wives in Hollywood. There are dozens of movies with A-List male stars whose romantic interests are decades younger than them, sometimes called the “Gramps and Granddaughter combo,” which is appealing to the men (and yes, they are mostly men) who green-light what we see on the screen. Even women who want to “make” it in Hollywood dare not buck the system lest they get a reputation for being hard to work with.

Yoo-hoo! Women and men, too! Would you please stop being quiet about the obliteration of half the population? Those girls and women just may be the “leaders and game-changers” we need. 

To take the pledge, go to http://tinyurl.com/We-are-enough. Ellen Snortland is a writing coach in Altadena. snortland.com

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