It’s even funny how, this weekend when the Oscars awarded prizes to two women over 60 years old, one of the main subjects on Brazilian social networks was a video recorded by three young people who have just entered a higher education course in Bauru , city in the interior of São Paulo, and enjoyed a 40-year-old classmate. “Bro, she’s 40 years old now. She was supposed to be retired”, says one of the young women.
On the one hand, I wish she were right — imagine being able to enjoy being 40 without working! —, on the other hand, I feel a taste of throwback that is difficult to swallow in 2023. Of course, this type of speech has always existed and would have gone unnoticed a while ago. But, with social networks, any nonsense can gain astronomical repercussions.
The networks expand all kinds of discourse, including prejudiced and discriminatory speeches. As someone who was born in the same interior of São Paulo, in a city just over 200 kilometers from where these girls live, I know well what this old-fashioned mentality is. The idea that we all have to follow the same steps, fulfill all stages of adult life in the “correct” time frame – study, get married, have children before 30 – and that, after that, we can only keep what was done.
Actress Michelle Yeoh reminded us this Sunday night that we must go our own way. At age 60, she is the first Asian woman to receive the award, for her performance in Everything Everywhere at the Same Time. In her speech, she thanked her family in Malaysia and encouraged other Asians to pursue their dreams of acting. To the women, she stressed: “Ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime”. Something like, “Women, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re overdue.”
Actress Jamie Lee Curtis, who won the statuette for best supporting role, praised her production colleagues, the biggest winner of the night, and recalled that her parents were, themselves, Oscar winners. She didn’t mention gender or age, she was just happy.
The exceptions to the established path, more than the rules, yield the best scripts. Life — anyone who has lived a little longer knows — is far from having this straight line, with a single path delimited by birthdays. This holds true for both men and women.
For us, the weight of completing the steps at the right age is greater. Either because fertility drops after the age of 35, or because we don’t have the same socially valued appearance. And if we try to stay young, we are criticized (as Madonna says). And, if we accept aging, equally. And we women are also part of this relentless jury that now turns against the three girls from Bauru.
I imagine they are now frightened by the unexpected repercussions. They already said they regretted it. In the end, I even want to thank them for, albeit crookedly, giving visibility to the issue of ageism and how it affects women, with the consent of the women themselves.
It’s that kind of mentality that has long since passed. It’s overdue. The great advantage of these and other young women is that they will have plenty of time to rejuvenate.
The author writes in Brazilian Portuguese