This week on Refinery29, we’re filling your screens and consciousness with inspiring women over 50. Why? Because living in a culture obsessed with youth is exhausting for everyone. Ageing is a privilege, not something to dread. Welcome to Life Begins At...
It’s hard to be excited about later life when you can’t see anyone ahead of you. With so much of our society oriented towards being young (and staying that way), we’re more inclined to look backwards and resent what we’ve lost rather than forwards towards all the good things yet to come. Spoiler: the modern world may not shout about it often, but life goes on when you pass your 20s, 30s and 40s. In fact, it can be pretty incredible.
No industry unashamedly celebrates youth over age quite like show business. This year the annual Annenberg Foundation study found that in more than 1,000 films released between 2007 and 2017, just 24.6% of the women on screen were over the age of 40. Even as the entertainment industry begins to engage in conversations about diversity and accurate representation, only a few months ago actress Jane Fonda revealed that the studio execs behind Book Club (a film about four lifelong friends whose lives change after reading Fifty Shades of Grey) said they would only produce the film if the characters were younger.
"It's an industry that's very much driven by youth and beauty. Ageism is alive and well. I think that's beginning to change though," Fonda said. It’s no secret that it's a different reality for older men, however. We know that women are considered to be at their peak at 20, while men hit their prime in their 40s. Research has even demonstrated how the likes of Harrison Ford, Denzel Washington and George Clooney play characters their own age, but the women playing opposite them either stay the same age or get younger.
But Fonda is right; there is change on the horizon. 2018’s award season was flooded with acceptance speeches by some of Hollywood's most wonderfully talented women, such as Frances McDormand and Nicole Kidman, who thanked actresses over the age of 40 for the "trailblazing performances you have given over your career". She added: "Twenty years ago, we were pretty washed up by this stage in our lives, so that’s not the case now. We have proven these actresses and so many more are proving that we are potent and powerful and viable."
To celebrate these trailblazing women who refuse to be invisible past 50, who challenge society's stubborn perception of the "older woman", who continue to tell stories about life beyond middle age, we've rounded up some of the brilliant things they've said about ageing. Click through and feel really damn good about what later life actually means.