The double standard of aging isn’t just sexist—it’s a fairytale

Charlize Theron covers the latest issue of British GQ. Did you read it? She was pretty candid in the interview. A lot of people are side-eying her for implying it’s a struggle to get quality roles if you’re a gorgeous woman in Hollywood. It’s not really all that obnoxious when you read the actual quote. Anyway, the part of the interview that grabbed my attention was when she talked about aging.

Here’s what she had to say:

 “We live in a society where women wilt and men age like fine wine. And, for a long time, women accepted it. We were waiting for society to change, but now we’re taking leadership. It would be a lie to say there is less worry for women as they get older than there is for men… It feels there’s this unrealistic standard of what a woman is supposed to look like when she’s over 40.”

This idea that men become better-looking with age while women become decrepit is beyond irksome. Unfortunately, I’ve met many people (mostly men) who rattle it off like it’s the gospel truth. I can recall two separate incidents where a man has told me this—and these were so-called progressives!

Looking back on it, I really wish that I would have replied: “Why yes, that’s why most male models are in their 50s and balding, because that whole youthfulness correlating with hotness thing only applies to women.” But no, I was like the women Charlize Theron mentioned; I accepted it by nodding awkwardly but inside I was thinking, “m*therf**ker are you serious?!”.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on the men out there who look in the mirror and tell themselves that the sags, bags and wrinkles they see add to their babe quotient. Heck, I’d love it if I could find a way to convince prospective lovers that my cellulite and crows’ feet are actually very sexy and quite distinguished.  It’s the double standard that pisses me off.

These double standard believers always trot out the reproduction argument to support this idea. But it’s curious how the reproduction argument—that attractiveness is linked to youthful fertility—only applies to women. It’s true, fertility impacts women much more dramatically because women can’t reproduce after menopause, but male fertility and the quality of sperm also declines with age. So if you buy the whole fertility argument then it doesn’t make sense that men become more attractive as they get older.

But “what about the Sean Connerys and the George Clooneys?” you ask. Yes, it’s true a lot of people find older men hot, but I would argue that people aren’t intrinsically attracted to the grey hair and wrinkles but instead attracted to what these features signal—which is wealth and status. How’s that for a massive stereotype!

So, sorry brah to the men out there who plan on aging “like fine wine” as you watch women your age wilt. As it is for women, so it is for men. People will find you attractive for a variety of reasons but in a shallow, image-obsessed world, your wrinkles and middle-aged pouch won’t magically make you more alluring unless you have a handsome bank account to go along with it.

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