We at OWL are often told that we should get a new name. In 1980 when OWL was founded, it was called The Older Women’s League. As years passed, the name was changed to OWL, the voice of midlife and older women. But, even with that change, women objected to being called older – lots of women, and not only those in their 40s, but also those in their 50s, 60s, and 70s.
When did we decide we didn’t want to look good, we wanted to look young? Why would we spend money and risk infection to stretch a wrinkle off our faces? Why do we want to deny the years we have lived? Who has made us ashamed?
I am reminded of a society that convinced African-Americans that their hair should be straight and their skin should be lighter to be attractive. Or convinced gays and lesbians to be ashamed to come out of the closet.
It is time we pushed back. Older women need the equivalent of a “Black is Beautiful” campaign or a Gay Pride Day. It is time 50, 60, and 70 year-old women stood up and said, “Take a look. This is what “older” looks like and I like it!” No more pretending we are something we are not. No more trying to go back in time to the “good-young-days” which probably weren’t that great anyway.
Fifty is older! Face it. There is nothing wrong with being older. In fact there is a lot to say for it. You have probably accomplished quite a bit through your work, raising a family, helping your community, etc. You have collected experiences that have made you wiser, whether you acknowledge it or not. And you probably have a better sense of what is important to you. All this is because you are OLDER.
But changing our perceptions of being “older” is not something we can do alone nor is it just an individual decision. We are all affected by societal images and our culture. For older women to be free to say we are older we need to join together, stand up to the media, come out together, and show our pride in who we are.