Visible Women

Life is easier when you can see people at stages ahead of you doing things in the sort of ways you hope to do them. If you don’t have role models, and are obliged to make your own path and map as you go, that’s exciting, or terrifying, or both.

Older women tend to become less visible, through to totally invisible. It’s something I’ve seen some women describe as a relief – no more male gaze, no more pressure to be beautiful, or sexy, far less harassment because you’ve become irrelevant. I do not wish, as I age, to become invisible. I don’t want to go down the botox and plastic surgery route of trying to stay forever young. I have little inclination to age gracefully into some gentle, unassuming grandmother figure, all aprons and baking. If I end up wearing an apron, I will be doing my best to channel Nanny Ogg.

Looking around me, I realise there are some fantastic examples of women aging in the way I want to – in the folk scene. This is particularly on my mind because I went to see Steeleye Span last night. Maddy Prior is seventy one at time of writing. She’s still gigging, touring, singing, fronting a band. She’s clearly not trying to be a younger version of herself, and she most certainly isn’t fading gently into old-lady-obscurity. She still dances on stage. I can think of a number of other folk women who are also carrying on, on their own terms, and I feel inspired by them.

Curiously, things I’ve read about research into hunter-gatherer communities suggest that the survival of children in that kind of society has a lot to do with the competence of their grandmothers. Humans did not evolve to have ‘little old ladies’ be some sort of harmless background feature. Humans very likely evolved to have kickass older women and this in turn is likely why we have women who survive long after their fertile years. An experienced older woman can increase the odds for her gene pool doing well.

I note that my non-binary identity gives me a feeling of resonance with the kickass approach to being an elder, that the twin set and chintz grandma doesn’t. Not for the first time I find myself asking if my feelings of non-femaleness are a rejection primarily of social conventions.



About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

15 responses to “Visible Women

  • catherinepawson

    Thanks for writing this. For women in our mainstream culture, there’s a pressure to shrink ourselves to fit around others, to modify our visibility so we’re neither too loud nor too quiet. That pressure intensifies as we age, so the modifications required become a growing invisibility lest we upset anyone with our salty tongue or our grey hair.

  • jen liminal luminous

    I’m following some interesting things over on Instagram about this, as it seems to becoming a place of thin, white, young women. There is an older group of women pushing against this – started it all.

  • Donnalee

    I always like reading your posts, and wanted to tell you that now every email from you has a spam line of photo ads on the bottom–it’s a new wp thing and it generates money for them and seemingly not for you. When I emailed them about it, I got this as a reply: ‘Hi there,

    I believe you can remove the “related posts” or “posts you might like” section from email notifications for your site by disabling the feature in your site’s settings. It can be found under the Related Posts heading on the following page:

    Note: this setting will also disable the related posts section from being displayed below posts on your site’s webpages as well. There’s no way to configuring these separately.

    And changing this setting will only effect post notifications for your site, other publishers would have to change that setting for their own site if you didn’t want to see them in post notification emails from other publishers.

    If you have any more questions about this feature or anything else on, we’re always here to help!’

  • Aspasía S. Bissas

    I’ve known so many amazing older women. If someone wants to look through them (or me)–their loss. Anyone that shallow has no place in my life anyway. Look into Louise Bourgeois–I think you’d appreciate her.

  • lydiaschoch

    Honestly, I think this was one of your best posts yet. Bravo.

  • Hoon Gyeong

    Such an amazing articles with different thoughts. i really like it.

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