“Sometimes it seems the older we get, the less we are sure of. The mystery deepens. Certainties becomes less certain. We continue to wrestle with boundaries between self and other, with our need for approval, with our desires and aversions.” – Brigid Lowry
Women of a Certain Age is the latest feminist treatise from Fremantle Press. Edited by Jodie Moffat, Maria Scoda, and Susan Laura Sullivan, the book features testimonials from fifteen Australian women from all walks of life, combining their unique experiences and perspectives on life. It focuses on the intersection between misogyny and ageism, and gives significant pearls of wisdom to all its readers.
I often approach feminist books with a degree of caution – as a woman of colour, I don’t expect much from books produced by white women except for feeling excluded. History has shown me that these books can often lack nuance or be one-dimensional or exclusionary. As a result, I was pleasantly surprised to see myself represented in Women of a Certain Age, and not in a tokenistic way, but in an honest and empathetic manner. I found myself connecting on an emotional level the most to the women of colour who have lent their voices to this project – Anne Aly, Jeanine Leane, Mehreen Faruqi, and Pat Mamanyjun Torres – but found something wise and helpful in every chapter of the book. Women of colour make up a third of the contributors to this book, which is certainly something that can and should be improved on, but it is also worth saying that their contributions are salient in conversations of feminism and ageism. While the book has room for improvement, it’s also a step in the right direction.
Women of a Certain Age functions remarkably well at providing diverse and intersectional viewpoints on a large range of social issues including race relations in Australia, the invisibility of older women in the workplace, the exploration of female sexuality at an older age, and our connectedness with the world. It’s impressive how dense the book is but how engaging it remains – a testament to the power of effective storytelling. All the women in this book have a strong sense of self, and talk about not only the wonderful parts of life, but also the difficult parts with candour and a sense of positive self-reflection.
At the end of the day, young girls and women need role models – women who have lived long, full, and three-dimensional lives to learn from. And this book provides you with fifteen of them. And these women are not perfect – in fact, many of the women in the book discard the notion of perfection in the first place. They tell stories of regret, growth, accomplishment, and restlessness. The diversity of their lives provides a significant thread of commonality that is a testament to the spirit and ability to endure that so many women have. It is inspiring as a young woman to read these stories, and to find threads of knowledge that we can meditate upon for hours and hours.
What I loved most about this book is how it joins the long tradition of women supporting, teaching, uplifting, and guiding other women. There is truth in the fact that women are confined by misogyny due to years, if not decades of socialisation, but reading this book made me realise how important it is to look critically at ourselves and at the world around us, and that it is possible to break down the walls that seek to limit our potentials. It also paints the most truthful picture of humanity – that we are all works of progress. There is a pressure within our society, especially among young people, that we must achieve our goals by a deadline, and reach that pedestal of happiness and satisfaction. Women of a Certain Age shows in a brutally honest way how unsatisfying this mentality truly is, and also how personally debilitating this unattainable, unrealistic goal can be. It serves to humanise a demographic we seldom talk about.
So this International Women’s Day, do yourself a favour and pick up Women of a Certain Age. It can be found online and at all good bookstores.
Ishita Mathur | @ishitamathur7
Ishita is the Diversity Editor for Pelican. She is tired and sleepy but also committed to kicking ass.