“Sixteen till I die”; it is not known to whom does this celebrated saying belongs to; however, it is not surprising that women who are victims of age-shaming are seen chanting this mantra at the top of their lungs as they perceive it as a form of expression of their confidence.
What is unfortunate is that how these so called modern, progressive women do not realize that such behavior arises from a place of insecurity, lack of self-esteem, the feeling of not being good enough as they are and the need for validation.
When, Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’ engagement news circulated, it took the desi aunties’ world by storm. Priyanka Chopra’s age and how she was 10 years older and thus an incompatible match for Nick was the center of discussion at all the aunties’ gathering. These women just couldn’t help commenting on a problem which didn’t even concern them. It is no surprise that in such a toxic and judgmental society, every woman feels the need to appear younger or hide her age altogether. Women themselves are the perpetrators of as well as the victims of age-shaming. They are stuck in a cyclic process that ostracizes and shuns them from who they are.
Also, even many Pakistani celebrities feel uncomfortable sharing their age on camera and thus avoid the topic or lie about it altogether, an example being the infamous Meera Ji. Such behavior when portrayed by celebrities who have a monumental impact on people’s lives and to whom people look up to perpetuates this virulent thinking. However, this isn’t even the actual problem. What really is a matter of concern is that these female celebrities when interviewed are not questioned regarding their work, passion, projects etc. rather are bombarded with such irrelevant, dumbfounding, stupid questions that should not in anyway, be the center of discussion. So, where does this sick mentality stem from?
In an increasingly patriarchal society, male approval is regarded as top priority for most women. Younger women are considered sexually gratifying and more fertile compared to older women and receive the desired attention when they apply makeup, go on diets to the extent of becoming anorexic and do whatever required to look younger, all so they can be married to an economically well off husband.
Jane Austen depicts this Marxist concept of social mobility through marriage well, in her classic “Pride and Prejudice”.
Younger women are also considered physically active and thus better equipped to deal with the conventional roles they need to perform such as managing a kitchen for 8-10 people in South Asian societies.. The irony lies in the fact that how much effort men put in gaining a woman’s approval and satisfying her.
Thus, it can be concluded that if women don’t feel financially dependent on men, they will not need to run after such ideals and this will lead to self-empowerment not by referring to how’ young’ they look but how ‘old’, yet ‘beautiful’ they are( Now we are talking!).
Moreover, if we talk about the youth, this trend seems to be increasing within the teenagers. Our schools and institutions have created this venomous environment, which is scarred by this never ending competition where women need to look perfectly their age. It would be wrong, at this point, if I don’t share my own experience of how I have been told countless number of times from school mates as well as my own mother, how I look older than I actually am and need to reduce my weight.
Not only me but all of us sometime in our life have heard this comment and unfortunately most women do not have the kind of savageness I had to reply with a sharp retort. We owe a responsibility to these women to help them counter the society and lead a more self-pleasing life rather than have a need to impress others.
So, what can we do to support each other and support some #GirlLove? (Yes, that is a Lilly Singh reference if you get it)
- Every day, tell someone that they look absolutely beautiful and need to change nothing about them.
- Go and tell your mother that no matter how old, or aged she might be, for you she is perfect.
- Whenever someone you know is feeling down because of some bodily insecurity, tell them all the things you like about their body and specifically, about their personality.
- Stop cracking age related jokes (I mean it). Those are not funny and can seriously affect someone’s self-esteem without you even realizing.
- Indulge in social media or some sort of activism regarding body positivity. Possibly, start a trend on twitter. Here are some ideas:
- #OldandBeautiful #65andPerfect #Livingonpensionandyetperfectlyhealthy.
- Whenever you feel bad about yourself, accept the feeling and share it with someone. That will really help you get that burden of your chest.
- Call out someone who is age-shaming you.
Those are only some ways how you can spread body positivity and make an impact in someone’s life. Those minor words or encouragement might mean a lot to somebody so don’t hesitate to say them. Remember, you are beautiful the way you are. Much Love!
The article has been contributed by Sana Abbasi.