Anti-Aging Boom Preys on Jobless Fears at Midlife

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Middle-aged, worried about income security and feeling susceptible to "anti-aging" investments as a career aid? Margaret Morganroth Gullette probes midlife employment anxieties and the rise of botox, liposuction and face lifts.

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Editor's Note: The following is a commentary. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the views of Women's eNews.

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Such unacknowledged facts cause the bias against "boomers" as techno-idiots and "deadwood" who persist in wanting to hold onto their jobs! Without such middle-ageism, there would be nothing wrong with no longer being young. It brings many good things: a different kind of good looks, experience, job expertise, resilience. But the cult of youth has grown more vicious in response to the downward pressure on employees' wages.

Looking for Marginal Advantage

People who are desperate about their jobs and income security are often looking for a marginal advantage. Their decision to get a facelift won't be spurred by vanity. They take on debt to pay for surgery just as they might go into hock for job retraining.

In this broader economic context, we can understand how "anti-aging" hooks its followers, despite panic about the technical failures and fear that the product might work and still prove ineffective in the job market.

In light of all this, I suggest that boycotting "anti-aging" products and pressures is a socially generous act.

Those who submit to false advertising and the cult of youth make it harder for their friends and colleagues to resist. They put economic and consumerist pressures on those who might start hating wrinkles they could otherwise accept.

I believe that expensive surgeries and products don't buy youth or beauty. But if they did--since others cannot afford to do the same--that raises an additional ethical dilemma.

The health gap between rich and poor is already wide enough. It's measured by access to health care, leisure, healthful food and freedom from stress. These disparities should be fought, not exaggerated.

We must combat middle ageism in its symptoms and in its causes. The alternative is not just that some people will have themselves cut or will risk cancers for "rejuvenation," but that the work-life of the rest of us will lose value, and the human life course meaning.

Margaret Morganroth Gullette is the author of the 2004 book "Aged by Culture," named a "Noteworthy Book" of the year by the Christian Science Monitor, and "Declining to Decline" (1997), chosen by the Feminist Caucus of the Popular Culture/American Culture Associations as "the best feminist book on American popular culture." She is a resident scholar at the Women's Studies Research Center, Brandeis.

For more information:

Congressional Budget Office, "Disability and Retirement:
The Early Exit of Baby Boomers from the Labor Force":

Margaret Morganroth Gullette:

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