A while back I wrote an article about how to be 50. I was talking about a male coaching client who was looking for a career change. We discussed discovering his core values, and making choices in line with those values. This man was looking for his next chapter. Men at 50 never have the fear of suddenly being invisible. Turning 50 — or even 40 — for women can be a very different experience. We are suddenly the invisible woman.
Women are often defined by their looks or by the traditional roles they play in society. I read an article recently that spoke very strongly to me. It’s about the invisibility of middle-aged women.
We are young and hot, then we are mothers, then grandmothers, or we are that odd duck, the career woman who doesn’t want to be just a mom. So we either try to be superwoman and be everything to everyone or we are considered a bad mom, who is self-centered and puts her own needs before her family’s.
You are really looked at strangely if you don’t want to be a mom. What is your purpose in the eyes of society if you don’t want to procreate? What a waste of organs. We already have men for that. We don’t need another gender who doesn’t give birth.
Well, I am now 50 and do not have any children. I love kids. I have plenty of nieces and nephews and now grandnieces and grandnephews. But I never gave birth myself. Sorry, men.
Now that I am supposedly past my young and hot years, there is no way to define me. You can’t call me Mom. I’ll never be a grandmother. I left my big-shot job in the corporate world so I’m no longer superwoman.
Now I am invisible.
The article I mentioned above also discusses how middle-aged women disappear from literature and movies. There are plenty of parts for young actresses and for spunky grandmothers. But you rarely see movies about women in their 40s and 50s. The same for books. There are few authors who write about middle-aged women doing interesting things.
We haven’t disappeared in the real world, but we’ve disappeared from the mainstream consciousness. And while it’s nice to sometimes fly under the radar, middle-aged women are somehow invisible and judged at the same time.
Perhaps this is just a problem in America. French and Italian women never seem to disappear. In Europe you can be attractive at any age. But this isn’t just about beauty, sexuality and attraction. It’s about having a place in society.
I want to explore this topic further. I’d appreciate your thoughts on the subject. Please discuss in the comments below.