Amanda Hess, writing for slate.com, posted an article entitled “It’s Horrible to Be an Old Woman in Hollywood, Kim Novak Edition.” The article dealt with the appearance of 80 year old Kim Novak who did not look or perform her best at the Oscar presentation on March 1, 2014. The article included a line from Ellen Degeneis, “I’m not saying movies are the most important thing in the world, I’m not saying that—because the most important thing in the world is youth.”
Slate’s title, “It’s Horrible to be an Old Woman…” gets closer to the sexual political bone of the problem than does Ellen’s funny, but not quite brave enough “I’m not saying movies…” joke. The youth/age issue is not genderless. It does touch both genders, but it reaches with heavier claws at females. It is as if women must pay in their older years for the sexual power they owned in their youth. Sexual politics are still a losing game for women. There is a Grecian Nemesis at play in our feminine lives: Every attention, every love, every fame our looks gain for us in our youth is fated to be lost as we age and lose the coin with which those treasures were bought.
This is why wise fathers have put mud in girls’ hands and said, “Land, that is the only thing you can count on,” or why Susan Anthony said, “Don’t clip the branches of a problem, lay you ax at the root (paraphrase),” and she went out and got us the vote, or why if a woman has any brains to go with her beauty she works for two things: love and power. She may use beauty to make the early down payment in her pursuit of love and power, but all too soon she must learn to achieve her goals without it. And really, girls and women, that’s actually when life gets interesting, because unlike fleeting, easily-lost-forever beauty, love and power are generative. The more you have, the more you make, the more you give, the more you have, and then the more you have, the more you give, the more you make, ad infinitum.