Women and Aging: Appearance and Age Appropriateness

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 9:15 AM
Room: Booth 40
Oral Presentation
Rachel THORPE , Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia
Evidence suggests that Baby Boomer women may ‘do’ ageing differently to previous generations (Calasanti and Slevin, 2001). To date, there has been only minimal research considering Australian Baby Boomer women’s embodied experiences of ageing. Drawing on data from semi-structured interviews and personal journals from 28 Australian women aged between 55 and 81, this paper explores the ways in which women’s presentation of self was strongly informed by notions of appropriate dress, grooming and even behaviour for older women.  Often these “rules” were taken for granted, and connected to broader ideas of ‘doing’ normative femininity and presentation of self. 

This paper will consider the women’s motivations for doing this “appearance work”, and the impacts this had on their sense of self. While their endeavours were largely informed by established norms of female beauty and “appropriate” ageing, there was also considerable resistance to these norms and acceptance of the ageing process. Competing discourses, such as ‘resisting age’ and ‘being yourself’, were also apparent, and these processes of contesting and disrupting appearance norms will also be considered.