It started, as all great ideas do, over cocktails (gin sours of course) with my friend and ageism activist Grace Fodor. “Let’s do a tour” she said. “We’ll get loads of 50-plus women into one place and really hash out the issues that surround being an older woman”. “I am in,” I heartily confirmed. “We are going to transform what getting older looks like and stop all this ‘invisibility’ nonsense once and for all”.
The next two months were a whirlwind of activity. As I’ve gotten older, whilst I still love my life and myself, I am aware of a pervasive sense of judgement creeping in from others. It’s unfair and infuriating and I’m determined to tackle it, so we called in every favour either of us were ever owed and before we knew it, we had ourselves a series of venues and tour dates booked.
The idea was that we’d talk around the truth of being 50+. We were aiming to get as many women of our age together and inspire them to refuse to take the ageism so many of us have experienced as a community. We want to create a movement – the first thunderclaps of a generation not prepared to be told we don’t count any more.
I don’t mind admitting that before the first one back in May, I felt sick with nerves. As an actress for most of my life I know how to play a role, but I know my generation. We’re smart, savvy and we all have inbuilt BS radars – could I really put my head above the parapet and champion these amazing women?
My own experience of getting older has been mixed. I still get great roles and feel as in touch with myself as ever, but my experience of menopause and its side effects have been brutal, and I do sometimes worry about being relevant.
I needn’t have worried. As Grace and I got into the swing of the chats it became more and more apparent that we weren’t say anything our audience weren’t thinking. Each chat may start quietly, but as we gave them “permission” to openly share their views, the group mood shifted quickly to one of “and another thing”. By the end we all frequently felt quite emotional at this chance to say things so many of us thought no one else would be interested in hearing.
Despite the huge diversity in our audience there were some universal truths that by the end of the eight weeks we understood are the real challenges facing 50-plus women today.
We’re not prepared to be ignored any more. The idea of the little old lady, happy to put everyone else’s needs first who silently slips through life is done. We’re loud, proud and determined to be treated with respect.
We still love fashion and makeup. The view that once we hit the menopause we pack away our heels, grow out our moustaches and get grey rinses is ridiculously outdated. We love fashion and makeup but lots of us feel a bit intimidated by how to use it. Often, that’s because of point three.
We don’t believe in “rules”. We’re sick to death of being told that we should choose certain clothes, hairstyles and makeup options according to arbitrary “what women over 50 should wear” doctrines. We’ll look how we want – and that is different for each of us.
We have a lot more power than you realise. We work longer and don’t want to give up our careers, which means disposable income. We spend as much on makeup as the average millennial and we want products that meet our needs, without patronising us. Ignore that at your peril.
We want media that reflects us accurately. At every single event I attended, I asked which magazines the audience read that they felt delivered an accurate view of who they were. The answer: none. They said not one publication realistically reflected the lives of the readers. The models were too young, or the messages too patronising.
It’s not that we don’t like youth – far from it, we all celebrate and enjoy the young and their achievements, free from bitterness. But we’re determined to give a standing ovation to women in their 50s and beyond, who are relevant, relatable and real.
These are the issues that drive us crazy – the ones that marketers, the media and in fact society need to be taking note of, because I tell you now.
Our generation has had enough – we’re going nowhere and one way or another, we’re going to be seen and be heard.