Saturday, March 3, 2007

'The Glow (of Money)' AARP and Ageism

by Marian Van McCain Saturday, February 24, 2007

Someone has just drawn my attention to an article in the latest AARP magazine about skin care in the second half of life. Forwarding the link: she wrote: "It gives a lot of info about caring for our skin as we age -- with illustrations showing women in their 50s, 60s, 70s -- along with product names. Titled "Go with the Glow," it is about care of the skin, not about staying young, and it illustrates the point with some beautiful aging women. A specific dermatologist gets a big plug as the scientific/medical expert, and a number of specific products are recommended. … it is an illustration of an issue that pertains to many of us. No promises to stay young, but info on keeping our skin healthy. It does place a lot of value on spending for skin care products at the same time it addresses basic protection measures of caution about sun, not smoking, eating healthy, etc..."Hey, that’s great, I thought. If the world’s highest-circulation magazine for ‘seniors’ can publish an article on skin care while avoiding ageism, well things are really looking up.

They are not. (sigh)

The article, I’m sad to say, is as full of ageism as any other article I have ever read about skin care for the over-fifties. The ageism is just a tad more subtle, that’s all, and overshadowed by the use of older models. Here are some ageist quotes from the article .

"Other changes aren’t as pleasant… freckles, fine lines, and wrinkles can become more prominent. But advances in skin-care technology mean many of these problems can be addressed, so long as you use the right products—and see a dermatologist regularly"
"…she hasn’t taken any preventive measures to ensure her skin stays youthful-looking."
"Beverly is lucky; her parents and grandparents looked much younger than they were, so she has some genetic protection. Doctors aren’t sure what genes are at work, but if your parents looked young, chances are you will, too"

"Seventy years later, those preventive measures—and a lifelong diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish—have paid off: Joan looks years younger than she is"

"She could also use a facial cream that prevents sagging, which is a concern at her age."
Yes, it is the same, tired premise: looking young is better than looking old. And that, my friends, is ageist.

Totally. But ageism is so deeply woven into our culture that most of the time we don’t even notice it. The person who forwarded the article obviously didn’t notice it. Although she asserted that the article is ‘not about being young', as you can see from the link its actual title is ‘Erase Ten Years’!! I don’t want to erase ten years. I like being 70. Why should I pretend to be 60?

...advertisers, instead of saying ‘moisturise your skin with this if it feels too dry’, say ‘buy this, it will keep your skin looking young’.

To cap it off, the natural changes of aging, such as freckles, age spots, wrinkles and crows’ feet, instead of being seen as badges of honour for elders, are now neatly redefined as ‘blemishes’ in order to put more money in cosmetic manufacturers’ pockets – and the massive chemical corporations who supply their raw materials.

We are being conned, folks. The con gets cleverer and subtler but it is still a con. We are now being conned into needing supplements to combat Vitamin D deficiency because we’ve been so busy slathering ourselves with the sunscreen they managed to convince us we needed. We are being conned into spending millions on fancy products to moisturise our skin when simple, traditional things like olive oil and shea butter (and washing our faces just with water to preserve the natural oils) would serve us just as well – in fact better because they aren’t full of dodgy chemicals like parabens.

Above all, we are being conned into believing that looking exactly like the old women we are is not OK.

No comments: