My earlier blog post “Now You See Me, Now You Don’t” looked at whether or not midlife women felt “invisible” in the eyes of the media and society in general because of their advancing years. Here is an excerpt from that blog post along with some of the many comments I received from women in response to my questions.
As I found with the women I interviewed for my book, the responses to my blog post were varied, but one thing was constant – none of these women were content with being “invisible” – not, then, not now, not ever!
I was blown away by some of the responses and would love to hear from you as well. If you care to comment, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave your comments here.
Now You See Me, Now You Don’t excerpt:
“In the past five months that I’ve spent interviewing women for my forthcoming book on navigating midlife, something rather interesting has come up. In almost equal numbers, midlife women are lining up for or against feeling “invisible” as a result of being 40 and older.
I wasn’t really expecting any one answer when I asked the question about whether or not they felt the media was ignoring them, but I guess I was assuming the responses would be less divided between two opposing camps of thought.
After talking with more than 60 women from all across the country, about 50% expressed concern that they were becoming marginalized because of their advancing years. The other 50% had no such concerns, in fact, I had to define more clearly and concisely what I meant by “invisible” in order for them to answer the question. It just wasn’t on their radar.It got me thinking about what could account for such a stark difference in perspective. Did it have anything to do with how each person felt they were noticed in their younger years? Would someone who was attractive and used to having attention paid to her because of her looks be someone who begins to feel the world is seeing past her as she ages? Does it have anything to do with attractiveness, or is it something else entirely?”
“I am 55 years old. I have noticed a bit of that cloak of invisibility — but only as it concerns men. It was a shock to realize that I was seen as “older” and not as desirable — but in a strange way it felt like a relief also. The media seems to market to older women in terms of diseases — bladder control, osteoperosis, arthritis. Once in a while there is a movie that shows us as living full and active and meaningful lives — but I do not take my cues from the media anyway. The purpose of media is to sell things to make big companies money, not to make you feel better about yourself. (They tell you how terrible your life will be unless you buy their product!) I try not to watch too much — it gives a distorted view of life. I live a full life — I am still growing and learning and pushing myself to try new experiences.” – Elaine
“I’m 50 and don’t necessarily feel ‘invisible’ these days — I do look much younger, so that is probably a not-insignificant factor. I *did*, however, feel *very* invisible when I was in my 30’s and lived in a place with no on-site laundry facilities — which meant I rode the bus to the laundromat, my clothes in plastic bags. I could *see* people actively *not look* at me and even ‘unobtrusively’ shift away from me as I tried to find a seat, assuming I was homeless. It didn’t help that my self-esteem was also taking a beating over not being able to find a job. Ironically, several months later I was temporarily homeless after a year+ of unemployment.” – Victoria
“I’m 60 years old and I certainly don’t feel invisible. I don’t pay attention to the media. It’s just not in my world. My world is full of people who value me and my experience. It’s actually an asset to be older and experienced as a business coach. I’ve won jobs because of it. This is my time to make my mark on the world, take risks, ignore the nay sayers and tell myself, ‘now or never, go for it’. So I’m charging full steam ahead into other people’s consciousness (whether they know they need me or not). It’s my time to shine and heat up the world with all the brilliance I can muster. I hope to shine the light on the path for others to follow as well. Thanks, Evelyn, for asking.” – Jeri
“I am 45 and I am Czech. I live in the Czech Republic where the society tends to pay attention primarily to young attractive women. In part, this may be due to the young democracy but given the tradition and history, it is a conservative and masculine society. I feel great at my age but I also know that I have to keep developing my social circle for years to come. That’s why I started a women club focusing on discussions with interesting people about interesting topics, inviting women with fascinating life stories (plenty, given the history of former Czechoslovakia). I guess what I am trying to say we all can create exciting and interesting life, knowing what we know at this age and having lived through all the life lessons. The key is to share with other women and encourage those who need it.” – Margareta
“Wow, Evelyn. This is a *great* post and very well-written. I hadn’t considered this a concern in my case. I am 42, and like one of the women above said, I don’t look my age so I have gone about my merry way thinking it isn’t an issue for me. However, others have brought it to my attention that it may play a part in why I haven’t secured a position since this recession began and I lost my last job. Personally, I think it’s because I am trying to downgrade my career to upgrade my life, meaning I used to be a well-paid consultant but now wish to take an assistant position so that I have more time to devote to my personal projects that just may become my career. I get my foot in the door but once my background, salary history and resume are fully reviewed, I know I’m seen as more of a risk than an asset. Won’t I leave as soon as something better comes along? So, no, I don’t *feel* invisible but I am concerned that I am seen more risky than someone newer to the market with more to prove than I.” – Patricia
“I think that if we are not careful we can become invisible under the cloak of fears, depression and anxiety. Freedom is knowing that we can breath in life of re-invention, refreshing ideas and restoring perspectives. Thanks for this thought challenging post!” – Rosie
“This is an outstanding post! I will be 60 in Nov. of this year. Invisible?? Not me! I’m too futuristic and have too many dreams to become invisible. If I have a goal, I press on until I have reached it. This year I had had a book published, was called to Hollywood to film a series of exercise dvds with Donna Richardson Joyner, and have so many projects going I can’t keep up with them. If one feels ivisible, stand up and do something proactive to prove that your best years are yet to come. The media sometimes come to me, but more often, I am searching them out. If you believe that age is a state of mind, you will never feel invisible.” – Pam