Sexy, Older Women …

The recent media hoopla surrounding Susan Sarandon’s choice to show her cleavage at the 2016 22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, where she was nominated for an Outstanding Performance award, has once again raised the discussion on how our culture hates to see sexy, older women.

Like it’s not the first time we’ve seen Sarandon looking sexy?  For decades, Sarandon – like many women attending such galas and events –  has had the boldness and confidence to embrace her curves and femininity with V-line dresses and tops.  This year her choice to be both self-expressed and gutsy with her top and to wear black and white, hello Monochrome, British Mod, color-blocking, seemed an appropriate and applaudable nod and tribute to the recently passed David Bowie.

However, mainstream media was – and still is – a barrage of tweets, articles, and blogs criticizing her choice to show her cleavage.   Sarandon is a rare woman in our culture: not only is she an accomplished and award winning actor, she is a social & political activist, a UNICEF ambassador, humanitarian, and a mother.

She’s 69, smart, and incredibly sexy.  So is Lauren Hutton (72), Helen Mirren (70), Jaclyn Smith (70), Barbara Hershey (68),  Meryl Streep (66), Jane Seymour (65), Lynda Carter (64), Christie Brinkley (62),  Kim Basinger (62), and let’s not forget … Madonna at 57!

The Sexist Lens…

I know it’s pretty typical, sexist media stuff.  It’s also ageist, anti-intellectual, and insidious.  Our culture has a real problem with smart, bold, sexy women … really, at any age.  We have rigid cultural & social conditioning that supports sex role definitions.  Some of these are  good/real/respectable mother/woman. And the older the woman, the more she is told to curb her sexiness and reign in her body. Women over 50, 60 or 70 are especially taken to task for any display of their sexuality.

Even if they don’t display their cleavage, they are sexualized.   Every time Hilary Clinton is running for a particular political position, more articles have been written about her choice of hairstyle, make-up, and wardrobe than on her ideas and the policies she supports.

It’s at this particular intersection of gender and age that we do well to reconsider how we look at, view, create, and support agist, sexist views of women … and men.

Sexy, Older Men…

Men’s aging is, for the most part, seen as “distinguishing”.  The term “silver fox” is rarely used for a woman and would certainly be used to describe Stephen in the picture above.  We appreciate the white and gray hair peeking out of a hat, the laugh lines show a life of laughter, the skin becoming weathered illustrate a life lived.  With men, their age speaks of wisdom, substance, sensibilities, and skill(s).  Sean Connery is still considered a sexy, leading man and clocks in at 85 for goodness sakes! Jeff Bridges (66),  Richard Gere (66), Bill Murray (65), Pierce Brosnan (62), Daniel Day Lewis (58) Antonio Banderas (55) are all considered sexy and I’m sure no one would say they should tame down their sexiness.

Interestingly, gay men experience a similar sexism and ageism as women.  Clark Rogers wrote an insightful article on what you’re missing by bypassing older men.  He writes that “It’s no surprise that our sexual culture completely excludes older gay men … While the consumers have aged, the models have remained the young … thus, our very concept of beauty has stagnated, pushing older generations out of the sexual imagination.”

Celebrating Self Expression…

While many of us may advocate for a world in which a person’s wisdom, kindness, and character take precedence and are valued before beauty and image, limiting and hiding our sexiness and personal style doesn’t do us any good either: in fact, it confines and silences our authenticity and self-expression.  I reckon we would all do well to appreciate and smile, rather then judge and access, other people’s self-expression … however it looks.

What if we found other people’s bold expressions as inspiring?  What if we didn’t care so much about what people think and if our tits might offend someone?  What if we stopped trying to “fit in” and “look good” and just embraced what has us feel sexy, handsome, gorgeous, or just plain good!  Let’s stop censoring and criticizing both ourselves and other people, especially the fashionable, sexy, original, and bold!  It’s not the first time Sarandon has shown her cleavage, and I hope it won’t be the last!

Photograph above taken by the talented Kevin McDermott: