Gender, ageing and appearance

Authored by: Laura Hurd Clarke , Erica V. Bennett

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Gerontology

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  June  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415631143
eBook ISBN: 9780203097090
Adobe ISBN: 9781136221033


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We often hear the adage that one should not judge a book by its cover. In making assumptions about people that are based solely on their appearances, we inevitably miss the depth and complexities of their personalities and accumulated life experiences. However, research has long established that appearances do matter in the ways that people are regarded, evaluated and treated, particularly those individuals who deviate from conventional norms or ideals of physical attractiveness. In this chapter, we will explore the nature of idealized appearances for men and women, the social consequences of looking older and how older men and women feel about and respond to the ageing process. We consider the socio-cultural research and theorizing pertaining to appearance, work motivations, gendered ageism, the double standard of ageing, consumer culture and the concept of the mask of ageing. We explore how older adults’ perceptions of their ageing appearances are shaped by dominant cultural norms and ideals. We investigate how attitudes towards and investments in appearance vary by sexual orientation, ethnicity/culture and social class. We conclude by suggesting future avenues of research and theorizing.

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