Gail Hawkes Brown Bag on Sexuality Monday 19th

Aug. 14, 2013

Prof Gail Hawkes

Marginalized Sexualities in a Sexualized World

Beyond ageism and sexism - creating their own scripts: some reflections on social media participation by older Australian women

Noon - 1 pm, Monday, August 19, 2013, Sociology Conference Room, CBC B225a

In the Anglophone west both the problem of and the solution to ageing in women are presented as an issue of ‘the body’ –specifically its its appearance and performance and in that order. Feminist scholars have demonstrated that negative ageist stereotypes disproportionately affect women (Gott and Hinchcliffe 2003) - wrinkles and sagging as indicators of ugliness and lack of sexual attractiveness, associations that appear frequently as popular humor. In this sense ageism fosters and reproduces traditional sexism. Older women, like all women a generation ago, appear trapped within a nexus of ageist and sexist stereotypes in a cultural context that venerates smooth skinned youth while ignoring the possibility of a positively experienced ageing body.

The study from which this paper derives explored subjective experience of women ageing in the 21st century in Australia – focusing on the first group of ‘swinging sixties’ women to enter old age. Specifically, we wanted to find out how women fare within this nexus of ageism and sexism and how representative are the constructions of passive and asexual ageing in women. As part of the dta gathering process opened a social media site so that women could talk to each other, rather than to researchers of different ages, about ageing in 21st century Australia. Using extracts from the blog, this paper will suggest that our participants are creating their own 'ageing' in ways that reflect more their personal histories than they do the impact of what we call ‘naturalized gendered ageism’.

Prof Hawkes is a professor of Sociology at the University of New England, Australia, and the author of A Sociology of Sex and Sexuality; Sex and Pleasure in Western Culture, and Theorizing the Sexual Child in Modernity (with Danielle Egan).

Child in Modernity (with Danielle Egan).