I'm in my mid-40s so I fall squarely into the "older" category of women. Ageing and ageism are on my radar as I look in the mirror and see things falling south which were once in exactly the right place, thank you. I stumbled upon Labour MP Margaret Curran's online sexism discussion by happy accident - reading the Twitter hashtag chat #OlderWomenVoices felt like coming home. And it prompted me to run my own social experiment into how I am treated as I age.
I've noticed a feeling of becoming more and more invisible as I age. I see less women like me in the media and in the workplace. I am treated differently by the opposite sex. This is true, it is an absolute fact for me. I know how it feels to be young and perky and cute. I am no longer those things. Those things have been replaced by other more vital things like fearlessness and rock solid self-esteem. #Olderwomenvoices reinforced how I feel in a positive way but flagged up things I really hoped wouldn't be true. We've come a long way sisters but older women are still a thing of the Dark Ages where attitudes are concerned and only by acknowledging this can we change it.
One of the more brutally honest comments stopped me in my tracks: "Apparently now I'm older I am unf**kable. Thank goodness for that - apart from all the 'cougar' rubbish of course".
Is that really true? If sex sells then what is considered sexy should be exactly what I find when I glance through magazines or switch on the TV or go see a movie. What is considered sexy is YOUTH. It's almost impossible find any age-positive images of women that are juxtaposed to anything sexual whatsoever. I even read that 50 is considered by some advertisers as the cut off year for having sex. How very dare they!
Even though Hollywood does do a great job of marginalising women there is more at work than just this. The only conclusion I can draw is that if I am looking for older women then they will exist in my day to day life but they won't exist in any significant numbers anywhere else in the media. They will be invisible. I can find them on the internet but you don't have to be a member of 4chan to know you can find ANYTHING on the internet with a few keystrokes.
My inbox fills up with dozens of unsolicited emails from men daily when I show my current face and I am wise enough to know that this is not a testament to my stunning supermodel looks and figure. I am decidedly averagely well rounded these days and happy in my skin. Swap it for Older Darcey and not a single peep.
This is no bad thing; in fact I thoroughly enjoyed the net silence. I receive videos of men climaxing alongside wedding cake photos (who said romance was dead?) and all manner of indecent exposure pics. It would be a crime to flash a woman like this in real life and it's another reminder that huge numbers of men think that it is acceptable, or worse that I solicit and seek out these images of their private parts or enjoy receiving them in any way at all simply by existing.
How would this translate into a potential dating scenario? I set up a dating profile with her - she's just like me but a little bit older. She likes travel, photography and nice restaurants not niche deviancy.
As me, the kinds of messages I received then were overwhelmingly sexual, extreme, fetishistic when actually as a first contact a simple "Hello" would have sufficed. The great thing about being Older Darcey on a dating site is that I wasn't seen as sexual. "Older Darcey" attracted genuine and respectful messages from 96% of respondents whereas "Regular Darcey" attracted 0%.
So it's a double edged sword. "Older" equals sexually invisible and respected, "younger" means I'm highly vulnerable to unwanted XXX-rated attention. If 'eyeball rape' is a thing then being older soon puts a stop to that. I win with the quality of interaction I can establish but I lose as it seems... I am past it.
So what world do I want? A world where I am NOT treated how I was treated when I was younger. But how I should have been treated when I was younger? And how I should be treated now that I am older? The Golden Rule is my utopian ideal. This idea of reciprocity has been around in ancient China even before the great Greek philosophers jumped on the bandwagon. I say:
You are old. I shall respect your age. You are young, I shall respect your youth. You are a human, I shall respect your humanity.
Please join me.