Hags: The Demonisation of Middle-Aged Women

Fiona Sturges in The Guardian:

In the US comic Amy Schumer’s sketch Last Fuckable Day, Schumer is out walking when she comes across a picnic. There, three actors – Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey and Patricia Arquette – are celebrating Louis-Dreyfus’s last day of being “believably fuckable” in the eyes of the entertainment industry. “If you shoot a sex scene the night before your birthday everyone’s, like, ‘Hurry up, hurry up, we’ve got to get it before midnight’ because they think your vagina is going to turn into a hermit crab’,” Fey tells Schumer.

I kept thinking of this while reading Hags, Victoria Smith’s account of the way older women are treated by a society that deems them unsightly and past their sell-by date. In discussing the precedents and structures behind this unholy collision of ageism and misogyny, the book draws on Snow White, the Malleus Maleficarum (a German treatise on witchcraft), Fatal Attraction (featuring Glenn Close’s fabled “bunny boiler”) plus the work of feminist theorists and campaigners such as Andrea Dworkin, Adrienne Rich and Gloria Steinem. From “Karens” (the entitled middle-aged complainers demanding to see the manager) to witches (read: sexless, embittered, ugly), Smith examines the thriving stereotypes used to sideline and vilify older women, often by young people who call themselves feminists. She recalls the New Yorker cartoon depicting a Puritan delivering a speech as a woman is about to be burned as a witch. “Let me start by saying no one is a bigger feminist than me,” he says.

More here.