Women, Society, and Ageism

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Image: news.bbc.co.uk

Image: news.bbc.co.uk

As women, we are often held by the society’s standards we live in to maintain a youthful appearance. To a certain extent, the majority of women feel a bit “forced” to keep up. While I was talking with a good friend of mine over the weekend, it reminded me just how hard many women work to do this.

My friend “Jill” is a group fitness instructor teaching 3-4 classes per week. She currently has less than 20% body fat, weighs less than 110 pounds, and is 5 feet tall. Jill stated that, while she is currently considered to be in the “athletic” health and fitness category, she wants to get down to 10% body fat and weigh 100 pounds. I couldn’t help reminding her of the health dangers of being overly thin and asked why she felt the need to attain this goal. (My perspective in general is that it’s good for women to work toward lowering body fat and increasing muscle mass, but weighing 100 pounds and being just under 40 years old is a little extreme for the average woman.)
Her response to my inquiry boiled down to a fear of looking “old” and needing to lose all the belly fat from postpartum childbearing. Regardless of whether we (women) try actively to meet these standards, the pressure of others’ perceptions of us is a very real issue and each of us handles it a bit differently.
In my situation, I’ll be 40 years next month and work to educate women 1-to-1 on how to integrate health and fitness into their daily routine. My physical body is the example clients see every time they train with me and is their main indicator as to whether I am capable of helping them be their best self. (After all, if I can do it for myself they’re probably with someone that knows what they’re talking about, right?) So, when my spouse asks why I color my hair I often feel defensive because the reality is that I’m graying. If I stopped coloring my hair, I would look older.
Women are faced with these types of choices every day from what to put in their body as nourishment to how to treat their external body whether to exercise, what type of work environment we can maintain, etc.
How do you handle the demands of the image conscientious society you live in? Do you:
  1. Internalize it and strive for perfection
  2. Blow it off all together by “giving up”
  3. Do the best you can with what you’ve been given
  4. Choose to be oblivious

Is there another option I neglected to state? Please share your thoughts on this issue. Have a great day!

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4 thoughts on “Women, Society, and Ageism

  1. Ging

    I try to remind myself that the constant barrage of images of “beautiful” women are starving teenagers and that I am healthy. I try to stay away from fashion magazines and other mentally depleting propaganda.

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  2. I do my best to pick option 3. I am turning 41 at the end of the month and have always felt ‘big’, one of those ‘big boned’ girls. It’s just in the past year that I have been more accepting of who I am, and focusing on the strength of my body instead of the bits I don’t like. It’s a hard process when as young girls we strive to meet the images we see….doing anything else requires us to re- wire our thoughts. It can be done…but it’s hard work.

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