Age Management, Anti-Ageing Practices and Working Class Masculinity

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:15
Location: Hörsaal 42 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Hanna OJALA, University of Tampere, School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Finland
Ilkka PIETILA, University of Tampere, School of Health Sciences, Finland
The neo-liberal ideologies that point to individual responsibility for risks increasingly influence countries of the global North. The anti-ageing industry reflects this dictate and encourages middle-aged people to use their products and services to manage their ageing. However, given the negative connotations attached to the term ‘anti-ageing’, which is usually seen to focus on aesthetics and thus be a woman’s concern, men may be likely to disavow being involved in such activities. However, men live in the same ageist culture in the global North as women, and thus are not immune to the dictate to fight the visible signs of growing old. The paper uses interview data collected from Finnish working class men aged 50–70 to explore how men adhere to the call to manage their ageing when such anti-ageing activities are seen to be potentially feminising. We find that these men reflected neo-liberalism in the sense that they felt that, although ageing cannot be prevented, it can be controlled. Also while they generally rejected anti-ageing products and services that they judged to affect aesthetics, they reported using those that they define as promoting health and masculine performance instead. In talk of their age management, working class men distanced themselves from women and especially from other men: Americans, Swedish, homosexuals, white collars, and celebrities. These differentiations show that in distancing themselves from anti-ageing products and services men do not only emphasise their masculinity in contrast to women. Simultaneously they also (re)produce a normative version of a working class masculinity. Groups to which men attach the consumption of anti-ageing products represent an antithesis of the working class masculinity. This illustrates that there is not only a gender divide in the use of anti-ageing products; this consumption is also largely a matter of class-based values, identities and distinctions.