The silver generation and beauty: Does American culture provide models for positive ageing? | Intellect Skip to content
1981
Volume 10, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2040-4417
  • E-ISSN: 2040-4425

Abstract

Abstract

Modern US society’s attitude towards beauty has been shaped by the advertising and cosmetics industry to shun older women and worship youth. The discourse in popular and public culture is that ageing equals failure (Peterson 2017). However, the increasing prevalence of emancipatory discourses that are giving a voice to previously silenced minority groups has been making its way to the catwalk with the inclusion of alternative femininity models (Holland 2004), comprising a range of ages, body shapes and ethnic groups, as well as disabled models.

A new cadre of older female models is drawing attention to the issue of ageing that might provide a diversified image of what beauty could look like later in life. Informed by frame theory (Goffman 1974) and positive ageing (Gergen 1994; Gergen and Gergen 2001), we conducted an exploratory study applying thematic analysis (Lapadat 2010) to media narratives of age and gender in relation to modes of appearance, particularly fashion. In our analysis, we highlighted the catwalk because it is a microcosm of cultural representations. We sought to establish whether the new trend regarding older women on the catwalk is finding expression in the US media, whether it radiates to other fields of public culture, and whether it represents a cultural shift, or a passing trend. We found some evidence for age-friendly catwalk reports, but even those reports reflected, at best, an ambivalent attitude. The results are discussed in the light of a dialectical discourse where inclusivity becomes both an enabling and oppressive attitude at the same time. While wider representation of older, ethnic and disabled women extends the boundaries of inclusivity, it also extends the scope of the normative expectations of beauty standards to older cohorts.

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2019-12-01
2024-02-25
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