Ageism is the new sexism that women start facing as early as 30
When I decided to write this article, I swear the inspiration came from an honest place. I turned 30 a couple of months ago and I have had a series of epiphanies induced by the people around me and their invasive commentaries on my life choices in the past few months. At first, that is what inspired me to pen my feelings down.
But to my surprise, there are more than 135K #turning30 posts on Instagram and almost all the top, as well as recent posts, are from women. So, this post is not going to be a personal rant anymore. I am forced to think that in the eyes of the society, for women, is turning 30 an achievement or is it some kind of a (biological) alarm? I don’t understand what it is but one thing is very clear from the thousands of posts on social media and numerous blogs on the internet, and not to mention the mausis of Indian mohallas– turning 30 is supposed to be some sort of a big deal. My question is why?
Pop culture and its influence
I am a huge Friends fan and data proves that so are millions of other people all over the world. So, I am hoping this analogy will work.
One of the reasons, they say, why Friends is still relevant is because the characters seem real and the audience resonates with them. Interestingly, all Friends characters had no clue where their lives were headed when they turned 30. Joey had an unstable and barely successful acting career and a series of flings but no serious relationships. Rachel was just starting in her career sorting hangers at a store after resigning from waitressing, Phoebe was a freelancing masseuse who had never had a serious relationship. And, don’t even get me started on Ross- divorced twice with major intimacy issues. Chandler and Monica were the only ones who’d found each other in their early thirties.
British songwriter Lily Allen talks about a woman approaching her thirties in her song “22”. She sings: “It’s sad but society indeed says her life is already over, there’s nothing to do and there’s nothing to say.”
While this song is barely a decade old, the notion of a woman’s life being over at thirty sounds archaic to me! In fact, I believe that our lives only start by the time we turn thirty. Think about it, we spend our 20s finishing college and trying to find employment. So, how is it fair to say that a woman’s life is over at 30? Or, even to expect that she should “settle down” by that age?
So much for changing times and progressive societies
We all like to believe that times are changing and that we live in a better and progressive society, but is that really true?
The advocates of “everything is a bed of roses” will pull out studies comparing the lives of women in their 30s during the 1960s versus women in the present day, to show how women above thirty are now “allowed to go out, have fewer children and even pursue a career”!
But is that real progress? Did you know that it was as recent as 2015 when for the first time, married women were better educated than their husbands? But despite that fact, 72% of the time, a wife earns less than her husband of the same age.
However, instead of focusing on real issues like gender disparity, wage inequality and lack of opportunities in the employment sector for women, society likes to focus on “things a woman should do by the time she turns 30”.
I chanced upon hundreds of articles about women turning thirty. From “are you eating right”, “do you have the right wardrobe” to “did you find yourself a husband” to “here’s why you should bear a child right now”- I found a range of “knowledge imparting” articles. Funnily enough, I could barely find articles advising men on marriage, fatherhood or ageing.
From the pressure of being married by this age to the constant reminder of the (oh so annoying biological clock) – the stereotypes associated with women approaching the age of 30 are archaic and need to go away.
I want to believe that we are a “woke” society outside of the virtual walls of social media feeds as well. I want to be able to decide things for myself. And, I definitely don’t want strangers advising me on my personal life and how I should be entirely dedicated to procreation because I am 30 and “it is already too late”!
Can we please stop with all the ageism and sexism, and let women just live their lives; or is that too much to ask?
Surabhi, a former Delhi Doordarshan presenter, is a journalist based in Singapore. She is the author of ‘Nascent Wings’ and ‘Saturated Agitation’ and has contributed to more than 15 anthologies in English and Hindi in India and Singapore. Surabhi’s work has appeared in various publications in India, Singapore and around the world. Website | Blog | Instagram