Sarah Jessica Parker is an award-winning actress and fashion icon, yet her age is one achievement she’s apparently not allowed to claim.
When the 53-year-old star attended Monday’s Met Gala 2018, Parker embodied the night’s theme, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” wearing a metallic-gold Dolce & Gabbana gown with a nativity scene headpiece, but her lavish look was overshadowed by nasty comments about her appearance.
On Twitter, Parker was likened to a senior citizen.
On Instagram, people were just as mean: “BIG put her through too much #StressandTheCity,” “Girl has aged,” “She is overdue for fillers,” and “Sarah, darling, the word for today is MOISTURIZER.”
And when Stefano Gabbana Instagrammed some red carpet looks, commenters remarked that Parker “looks older” and “scary.”
It’s no surprise that women of a certain age aren’t exactly a draw in Hollywood. One study conducted by the University of Southern California’s Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative found that of 1,256 film characters in the 25 Best Picture-nominated films from 2014 to 2016, only 11.8 were 60 years old or older. And in half of the films that did feature a significant or supporting older character, the film contained lines that emphasized or joked about age.
Another study from the same group found that “[o]f the 100 top films of 2015, 32% depicted a female as the lead or co-lead of the unfolding narrative. This is an 11% increase from last year. Five of these films portrayed female leads/co-leads 45 years of age or older at the time of theatrical release in 2015. In stark contrast, 26 movies in 2015 featured leads or co-leads with males 45 years of age or older.”
“The intersection of ageism and sexism devalues women — whereas age distinguishes men,” Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It’s an outlook developed early in life from reading children’s books, watching cartoon characters like Homer Simpson, or being exposed to stereotypes, like all grandmothers sit in rocking chairs knitting.”
Even in our 20s, she says, women are told to use Botox or get fillers in their hands ahead of “engagement selfies,” guided by the notion that “aging can somehow be stopped.” Applewhite adds, “In the workplace, we see ageism around age 32, when women are often passed over for promotions based on the assumption that they may get married and have children.”
According to Andrew Hanssen, professor of economics at Clemson University, ageism is equally problematic in Hollywood. In 2016, he co-authored a study that outlined the dwindling opportunities for women as they age: 20-something women nabbed 80 percent of leading roles, for 30-year-olds that number was 40 percent, and beyond age 40, only 20 percent.
“Aging is a bad career move, whether you’re a man or woman; however, it’s seen as more negative for women,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle, explaining that in popular romantic movies where sexual attraction plays a role, female youth is prized above other attributes. That may explain why female celebrities start and end their careers earlier than men, who aren’t typically taken seriously for major roles until they hit their 30s.
“We have fought and continue to fight for civil rights and gay rights around the world,” she wrote on Instagram. “When it comes to women’s rights we are still in the dark ages. My dress at the Met Ball was a political statement as well as a fashion statement. The fact that people actually believe a woman is not allowed to express her sexuality and be adventurous past a certain age is proof that we still live in an ageist and sexist society. I have never thought in a limited way and I’m not going to start.”
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