What Are We Teaching Our Daughters? A Lesson For All AgesI am raising my daughters to be proud feminists: people who believe in equality for all regardless of gender, race, religion, politics, nationality or sexual orientation. Therefore, it came as no surprise when my daughter, a college freshman, enrolled in a "Women and Gender Studies" class this spring. This morning, she forwarded a video, explaining that it was required viewing for her class. The professor used it as a springboard for discussion and debate about women, beauty, aging, self-esteem and the media. I urge you to spend a few minutes watching this powerful video, which conveys the tragicomical way society tries to convince women of all ages that we must be beautiful, thin, wrinkle-free and young in order to be desirable. The video does a masterful job of proving the point, while poking fun at the advertising, media, cosmetic and skin care industries, all of which are morally culpable. Click here to view the video. What's the lesson learned? It's time to change how we think about and talk about women, beauty, and aging in the media. As someone who writes frequently about positive aging, the video resonated with me. It seems we can't pick up a magazine, watch television or see a movie without being bombarded with messages at every turn urging us to join the war against aging, no matter what age you are! We listen to the "anti-aging sirens" sing sweet words of encouragement (and promises) in our ears. "Youth is beauty," the sirens sing. "You don't really want to age, do you? Who will hire you? Who will love you? Who will desire you? Come with us, and be young, young, young . . . forever." The media in which the ads appear are often just as guilty. A study finds that the absence of older women in magazines wreaks havoc with our self-esteem. It isn't limited to just the images on the covers: An analysis of editorial and advertising images reveals that despite proportions of older readers ranging as high as 23 percent, magazines (even those supposedly geared to women over 40) show older women infrequently, if at all. Magazines geared toward older women generally show young, thin, wrinkle-free women on their pages (and based on the video, they are thin and wrinkle-free from a little tweaking, compliments of 'Fotoshop') an "ideal" that's impossible to sustain, even with the use of Botox, fillers or plastic surgery. Now experts are saying these media messages threaten to cause eating disorders, low self-esteem and loss of sexuality in post50 women. But, of course, it's not just about women over 50. It's about all women, of all ages, especially those who are young and emotionally vulnerable to the constant bombardment of media messages. We can't let our young women believe that the perfect body and face equals the perfect life. We can't continue to place such an outrageous emphasis on how we look as opposed to who we are. Our visual presentation of women in the media is distorted beyond all proportions and must be stopped. What can you do? Share this article and video with every woman you know, of every age, and ask them to read, watch, think, and act. Most importantly tell them they are beautiful, just the way they are.
For more tips on living your best life after 50 visit www.bestofeverythingafter50.com. Staying connected is a powerful tool! Keep me posted on how you're doing by subscribing to me on Facebook and "tweeting" me on Twitter at @BGrufferman. Check out my weekly columns on AARP and HuffPost, too. My next book, "Take It Back: The Best of Everything Guide to Owning Your Body After 50 (and Beyond)" will be out in 2014!