This week I read an article written by Susan Sontag called “The double standard of aging”. It is really interesting to notice how the social context rules your life over the years and it influences you on how to think about the passing of the time. And what is even more dramatic is that this social context makes differences between genders.
These differences are called double standards.
Definition: Double standard is a cultural practice that accords less freedom and choice to one sex. This double standard of conduct was once severely oppressive to women, but has reduced relevance in western societies today where pre-marital sexual activity is normative for both sexes.
Susan Sontag says that: an instrument of oppression is the social convention that aging enhances a man but progressively destroys a woman. Accordingly, to liberate themselves, women must “disobey the convention.” And that creates double standards between genres.
“How old are you?” is a question that women tend to avoid, but men answer proudly. Excepting the bureaucratic formalities, after a certain age, it is very impolite to ask a woman about her age. She might be offended, she might lie about her age or she might tell a joke about “how you are not supposed to ask a woman about her age”. More than that, being the right age for a job is a pressure that women feel every time they are looking for a new job.
But why you are not supposed to ask a woman about her age? Why is it such a big taboo? Maybe it comes from the fact that after passing 35, people start realizing that they are more close to the end and they are not getting any younger. It may come with the fear of death that people have and with the fact that death is a taboo too.
Old age is a genuine ordeal, one that men and women undergo in a similar way. Growing older is mainly an ordeal of the imagination—a moral disease, a social pathology-intrinsic to which is the fact that it afflicts women much more than men.
Women need to be actresses all their lives. They need to hide their age and feel ashamed about it. What about the beauty of every age of life? Where that went away?
By Roxana Miron