Lately, I have been meeting women who are in the prime of their lives: healthy and confident, they radiate real beauty, that irresistible appeal that comes with the acceptance of ourselves in all its complexity.
And yet many of these women tell me they feel invisible. Constant scrutiny and unsolicited opinions on their appearance have come to an abrupt halt. At first, this is disconcerting, I expect because we’ve had no other way to measure our physical attractiveness. But then it comes as a great relief: you no longer have to swat off pests and your sexuality no longer interferes with your work, social life, or how you are viewed intellectually. Finally, your condition as a human being is considered to be something other than your xx chromosomes. There is some peace of mind to be got from being able to move around without feeling constantly stalked. But this does not detract in the least from the sexism intrinsic to this change: the fact that women over 40 are no longer perceived as attractive is the result of a culture shaping men’s desire based on unequal relationships. The mass media systematically under-represents women it considers old. If the protagonists of movies and series are always in their thirties – if that – how can this not have repercussions off screen? And examples such as Jennifer Lopez, who invests huge amounts of money and time in pretending to be younger than her age to impress us, don’t count.
The great paradox of this ageist misogyny is that the sexual splendor of women comes precisely after 40, when we have got rid of our complexes and fears, and have lived long enough to realize the big lie spread by the beauty industry: that to have the right to fuck we have to prepare, wax, exfoliate, moisturize, file, paint, reduce, increase, tone, flatten and a long etcetera of absurd requirements. All this is consumption and an effective way of undermining the self-love necessary to offer ourselves to others freely. Beyond 40, we know what we want, what we like and what we don’t like and we are not scared to ask; we stop being ashamed of our needs because life doesn’t last forever and, if there is a sin, it is to postpone pleasure and waste the beautiful gift of nature that is sex.