Monday, December 17, 2007

Ageism: Not for Women Only

Ann Althouse has a post about how a picture of Hillary showing her wrinkles is a sign of sexism against women for aging:

But here's my second reaction, on reflection: We make high demands on women. A picture like this of a male candidate would barely register. Fred Thompson always looks this bad, and people seem to think he's handsome. We need to get used to older women and get over the feeling that when women look old they are properly marginalized as "old ladies." If women are to exercise great power, they will come into that power in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. We must — if we care about the advancement of women — accommodate our vision and see a face like this as mature, experienced, serious — the way we naturally and normally see men's faces.

Some of Althouse's commenters mention that male candidates do not get held up to such scrutiny:

However, it is unfair and discriminatory to make a big deal out of her appearance as an older wrinkled saggy faced woman, when we don't do the same over McCain, Guilliani or Thompson who are also old wrinkled and sagging. So, it's ok to admire Hillary when she is botoxed, made up, hair perfectly coiffed, filmed through layers of gauze but when she accidentally appears as a normal woman she is held up for riducule.

Oh really, it's only female candidates who get hit with sexism because they look old? Men get it too. As Dean Esmay at Dean's World notes:

The only other comment I'll add is that I'm baffled by people who think no one ever comments on how old Senator McCain looks, when it seems like I've rarely read an article about him this year which didn't bring that up.

Yeah, Dean, I'm baffled too. Whenever you read about McCain, he is often referred to as a "grumpy old man." In this video, a young man asks McCain if he is too old to be President and thinks he might die of a disease in office. Would people dare to ask a woman that question? They might think it but I bet they wouldn't ask it.

In fact, there is even an article entitled Is McCain too Old to be President? that illustrates that ageism is alive and well for men too:

One-fifth of New Hampshire residents surveyed in a recent University of New Hampshire poll said McCain's age would make them less likely to vote for them.

So spare me the "no ageism" when it comes to men. Ageism seems to be prevalent for both men and women in US society. Why do you think so many men over 40 are frightened of losing their jobs to someone younger? Maybe we should learn to cut both genders some slack and look at what people have to offer instead of focusing so much on their age. I am no fan of Hillary but I thought the picture showed her to have some authenticity, nothing wrong with that.

Update: The Anchoress also takes exception to the notion that only women are held up to scrutiny--both genders seem to be fair game when it comes to unflattering photos.


Blogger Mortimer Brezny said...

Yes, that is why people dislike Mitt Romney (who looks like Superman) and like Huck and Fred (not the most handsome of guys).

6:29 PM, December 17, 2007  
Blogger TMink said...

Well, I think that ageism hits the genders differently. A brief example.

Let's think of the words for a handsome, older man. Things like distinguished, dignified, even senatorial (though that last one escapes me.)There are more but I am pressed for time.

Now on to words and phrases for a beautiful, mature woman. I hate to put down "well perserved" as it sounds like a pickle or mummy, but I cannot think of any other words or phrases for a beautiful, mature woman.

Maybe you guys can come up with dozens, but I think that our very language is prejudiced against mature women.


6:47 PM, December 17, 2007  
Blogger Will Brown said...

I think this particular example is largely the result of two factors.

First, women in western countries certainly, commonly make use of cosmetics and, by and large, men do not. When a camera captures an image of a man looking a bit haggard, there isn't as much of a contrast from our mental image of him as there is in the Hillary photo in question.

Second, I'm hardly an expert, but I have been acquainted with professional make-up artists in years past, and they all said that older people require different techniques of application as well as different formulations of cosmetics then they did when they were younger and their skin possessed different qualities. Apparently most women don't make this transition very well as they age in part because they continue using the cosmetics they have become accustomed to (guys, other than Lilleks, who of us really has more then one shaving cream preference, just for one easy example?) that aren't really suitable to their current skin quality and tone.

None of which excuses Mrs. Clinton's politics, of course, I just think it better to fault her for her errors of substance rather then those of style.

7:08 PM, December 17, 2007  
Blogger Mike said...

Will Brown has it right. Think about celebrities in general. Female celebrities put a great deal of effort into making themselves beautiful in part because female beauty is a measure of power in and of itself with men. Even most women do not take an ugly, frumpy woman seriously unless she already possesses tremendous power in some capacity. In fact, some of the most vicious critics of such a woman would be the women around her.

The next time you're at the grocery store, look at some of the pictures of female celebrities at the beach on the tabloids on the way out. You'll notice that they often look very different from how they do at other times. The men, however, won't look that different. Sure they may be out of shape to some extent, but usually not nearly as different as what you see with the female celebrities.

Our mental image of them from movies, magazine covers and things like that leave us unprepared for those pictures.

And besides, this is politics. If someone thought they would be taken seriously in public for writing an article pointing out that "Hillary Clinton is a big poo head," you better believe it would have been written by now. Anything that tears down the other candidates, no matter what, is fair game in politics.

7:53 PM, December 17, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

I've come to the conclusion that I longer understand what the term 'sexism' is intended to mean.

But the reason that the photo of senator Clinton is so startling is that she looks very very different than she does on television. It's not just that she looks older than on TV, but the shape of her face is entirely different. If you weren't told that it was her, or couldn't guess from the context, you might not recognize her.

^ this is a recent photo

My guess is that she has been using BOTOX or some other 'Cosmeceutical'.

7:55 PM, December 17, 2007  
Blogger LarryD said...

Hmm, My response is a single name:

Margret Thatcher

8:21 PM, December 17, 2007  
Blogger DADvocate said...

In Hollywood, older men definitely do better than older women. How many of Sean Connery's female contemporaries have gotten the roles he has. Funny that this happens in the hotbed of liberalism.

In real life, age isn't any easier on men than women. Plus, women have lots more social programs to help them. Today I just came across AARP's new Women's Scholarship Program. No mention of any program for men. I thought this organization was an advocate for retired persons, not just women. AARP also has a Women's Leadership Circle. I can't find any similar programs focused solely on men. I don't think I'll be renewing my membership. I can get the motel discounts through AAA.

I thought Drudge's picture of Hillary was a little harsh. I doubt it will effect anyone's voting choice. I hope it doesn't. But I have minimal sympathy for someone like Hillary who has people digging through opponents kindergarten records.

10:48 PM, December 17, 2007  
Blogger Elusive Wapiti said...

I guess I'd be more sympathetic to the ageism argument if Hillary and Pelosi et al didn't trade on their femininity on the campaign trail.

Kinda strikes me as a bit hypocritical to accept the positive leverage that appealing to your sex provides you (i.e. implying that grandmother status equals better politician), or blatantly introducing sexuality in the workplace ( by sporting cleavage on the senate floor), yet complaining when the downside eventually comes along too.

12:47 AM, December 18, 2007  
Blogger Jon Swift said...

I had no idea Hillary was as old as John McCain. If that's the case, then I think Hillary looks great for her age. You're right to point out that it is unfair that everyone talks about how old McCain is but never talks about how old Hillary is. Now that you have revealed that they are exactly the same age, which I think a lot of people didn't know, maybe it will become an issue.

2:58 AM, December 18, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

Ageism effects the sexes differently, not better or worse, just differently.

The AARP is under near total feminist control, that is why there are women's programs but not men's. Their, for years, leader lived with the bib-coveralled and screeching feminist leader who recently died (I've forgotten her name). (Do not forget, you are sexist for thinking that there's anything wrong with help-kindness-decency being female ONLY!)

4:15 AM, December 18, 2007  
Blogger Jeff Y said...

I like Ann Althouse. But like so very many women, she falls easily into female exceptionalism.

For her it's easy to think women have a tougher time of things compared to men, and it's difficult to think men have an equally tough time.

I like Ann Althouse. But she needs to recognize her own gender bias before complaining about it in others.

4:29 AM, December 18, 2007  
Blogger ketzel said...

Miket compares the male and female stars photographed when they're not fixed up, and thinks the men hold up better. I disagree. Even really good-looking men like Brad Pitt and others of that type look scruffy and dumpy, when they're off duty. Nothing wrong with looking ordinary when you're not working, but maybe it's in the eye of the beholder. I'm a woman, so I notice when a cute guy like Brad Pitt isn't looking good. As for Hillary, I think she looks good in that photo, I like adults of any age to look real. She's my absolute last choice for prez, though, because both she and her husband are traitors.

4:36 AM, December 18, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was just a bad shot of Hillary. One of a million I've seen. Beginning with her baby pictures I've seen on the net.

6:16 AM, December 18, 2007  
Blogger 64 said...

The boomers aren't going to age well. I expect we'll hear a lot about how older (50+) women are attractive, but it doesn't change reality and hardwired biology. Our culture is youth obsessed and has plenty of room for criticism, but at the end of the day the fact is that older men are attractive because women are attracted to them, older women are not attractive because men are not attracted to them.

8:30 AM, December 18, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


Perhaps it's hard-wired but like many other biological factors, culture and other issues enter in. In cultures where being older is held in high esteem, people--including women, don't mind being older. Even in this country, it used to be that those who were older and acted like adults were rewarded and those who acted like petulant children were not. Now, it is the reverse.

9:27 AM, December 18, 2007  
Blogger Cham said...

Most career politicians age well because they, like celebrities, are aware that they will be judged on TV and video, and wish to put their best foot forward. As for the rest of the population there are many people of both genders that aren't aging well at all mainly due to their hatred of exercise, love of unhealthy food, and refusal to eat a vegetable.

9:44 AM, December 18, 2007  
Blogger Thor's Dad said...

This is more about the Clintons and their obsession with controlling their public image to the nth degree. So I don't see it so much as sexist as it is a good dig at the Clinton propaganda machine.

11:29 AM, December 18, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hillary is way past her MILF expiration date, but that shouldn't matter. I almost prefer her this way as opposed to that perfectly-turned-out, indeterminately-aged, Mom-like creature with the tight, smug little smirk. And even that was preferable to her youthful Velma Dinkley look. The only problem is, Ronald Reagan used up all the clever "old geezer" jokes during his debates. Hills will have to come up with some new material.

12:01 PM, December 18, 2007  
Blogger LZ said...


Point taken. I was mainly commenting on looks. However, traditional culture has a role for an older woman in the family and as family has been destroyed that role has gone with it. There was equality in aging, but once the traditional culture is gone, what's left is biology. And I think people are talking about how women look when they age, and this is directly related to the Boomers' own youth obsession. They don't want to return to the traditional role of wife-mother-grandmother (not that that is their only role, but it requires intact families), they want to be "equal" with men, in every way, i.e. older men are ugly too or older women should be attractive too. But biology says it won't happen, and the cultural roles created for women were thrown out with the rest of the traditional roles.

12:04 PM, December 18, 2007  
Blogger Mark O. Martin said...

Dear Helen:

I have seen some age-ism in academia twice.

First, on a hiring committee, one member suggested we not consider a particular candidate because she was older and would get a higher salary that would impact the overall salary pool. I said that sounded like age-ism and he was honestly puzzled.

Second, during my recent job search, I discovered that one institution did not hire me from three finalists because of my age. The person who told me this was trying to make me feel better, I suspect, but I reminded him that saying things like that was...ah, not legally wise.

Fact is that many, many people are, at their core, prejudiced. It can be about almost anything at all that is different from the norm that the group experiences. That sure doesn't make it right, however.

Great post.

3:36 PM, December 18, 2007  
Blogger Larry Sheldon said...

Is interesting that two women brought up and feed the discussion about a woman?

3:56 PM, December 18, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

I think both women and men are judged on their age. For women, though, its about their looks - jees, she looks like hell - or sex appeal. In the case of men, they get it in regard to their health - not, "darn John McCain looks like hell" per se, but is he going to die in office. To be honest, I'd rather have people sniping at my crappy makeup rather than questioning my health and rapidly approaching dementia.

5:45 PM, December 18, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


Huh? Matt Drudge started this discussion.

5:56 PM, December 18, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dr. Helen: You pose some very interesting questions....

Women ARE told that they are sexually/mate material-wise useless much younger than men.

BUT that doesn't translate into the culture devaluing their intellectual capabilities, based on age....

In fact, much the opposite - the paradigm of the "midwife" the "wise old woman" the "grandmother" as the advice giver. In fact, we have a bias, as a culture, based on some biologically valid grounds (women tend to live longer than men if they make it past childbirth), that a women keeps her noodle together longer than men.

So in a sense, the ageism that McCain faces is utterly different than the ageism faced by Clinton (whatevah you think of her politics). Clinton is no longer a marriage or mate catch, but no one is necessarily implying she's going to die in office, whereas they question McCain's health.

6:22 PM, December 18, 2007  
Blogger Larry Sheldon said...

"Huh? Matt Drudge started this discussion."

OK. Three.

I don't read Drudge.

7:03 PM, December 18, 2007  
Blogger Job said...

Hey, Eric,

I'm sure that you are correct about the legalities of "discriminating" against older workers.

But, when choosing between two candidates, it is perfectly rational to hire a worker of equal skill who will demand less money. That isn't "prejudice," just common sense.

If older workers can't justify the salary that they are requesting, then they are out of luck -- just like younger workers.

11:09 PM, December 18, 2007  
Blogger Mark O. Martin said...

I don't know, job.

Professor Reynolds teaches law. I would think that this is a pretty slippery situation, since age discrimination suits are fairly common.

I love the idea that faculty hiring is made on the basis of common sense. Frankly, any sense in academia is far from common.

Notice that the salary versus age issue is set by the university itself. It wasn't that an old guy (like me) was demanding anything. I would have been happy to have taken a lower salary, but no one asked me. Oh, and in academic searches, the applicant does not request any salary target (at least in my neighborhood of academia).

Any salary negotiation occurs in response to a job offer, not prior to an interview.

As for equal skill, often the older candidate has, ah, more job experience. Strange how that only counts when it fits a preconceived notion...

Not disagreeing with you. But academia is a very strange place, full of folks who do things that would be VERY illegal at the Post Office, and who never think they are anything other than progressive and possessed of good intentions.

2:02 AM, December 19, 2007  
Blogger Serket said...

Dove does commercials on real beauty instead of artificial. Here is a slideshow with older women covering their nudity:

Jon Swift, first I'll take you seriously: McCain was born in 1936, Clinton in 1947.
Now I won't: So ageism is okay if you are 71? But it is not okay if you are 60?

6:11 PM, December 19, 2007  
Blogger magistralatina said...

Concerns about McCain's age are not to be placed on par with petty, disparaging comments on Hillary Clinton's appearance. It's not about wrinkles, but health and mental acuity. McCain is more than eleven years older than Clinton - if elected, he would be two years older than Ronald Reagan was at the time of his first inaugural in 1981. Questions were raised during the 1980 campaign about Reagan's age, too, and perhaps they should have been given more weight - Iran-Contra and 'I don't recall,' anyone?

3:34 PM, December 20, 2007  
Blogger Mabs said...

When they look at Hillary, it's as if they are to give some good women beauty tips .

5:32 PM, March 25, 2008  
Blogger Mabs said...

I appreciate Hillary's beauty.. It's a natural beauty. Check out some women beauty tips. You would be like her when you get older.

10:23 PM, April 02, 2008  
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