This is an extract of our Gender Studies M Phil Research Proposal '''Top Of The Mountain'' Yet ''Over The Hill'' A Study Of Cultural Negativity Towards Female Ageing' document, which we sell as part of our Gender and Ageing Notes collection written by the top tier of University Of Birmingham students.
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Gender Studies MPhil Research Proposal
'TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN' YET 'OVER THE HILL': A STUDY OF CULTURAL
NEGATIVITY TOWARDS FEMALE AGEING
My proposed topic will explore the issue of the double-standard and the ageing process, with regard to the differing attitudes commonly applied to men and women. This stems from the observation that within the media (including such sectors as film, news broadcasts and light entertainment) there exists a widespread and persistent imbalance regarding the ages of males and females appearing onscreen, characterised by a prominence of older males and young females, yet a dearth of older females. That this is the case has been illustrated by an array of statistical research, and has also been remarked on by various writers, with Stevenson observing that it is common to see middle-aged or elderly men as newscasters but that the same cannot be currently said of women. Likewise, Wolf asserts that 'if a single standard were applied equally to men as to women in TV journalism, most men would be unemployed' (1991, 34), while a variety of actresses have also spoken of their frustrations regarding their experience of age discrimination. One must therefore consider the possible reasons for this imbalance in representation, and this is something that I will explore in my thesis.
Though this double-standard is perhaps most obvious in the media, it is arguably the case that the media serves to reflect beliefs and issues within wider society. For instance, statistics have pointed to a disproportionate amount of older women living alone compared to older men, while younger women are less likely to be living alone. This has been seen to suggest that a significant amount of older women who were not previously living alone find themselves doing so later in life, and not always out of choice (a situation for which feminism has sometimes been held responsible), which is one of the issues that my thesis will explore.
In addition, in a study focussed on attitudes towards age-gap relationships, it was found that relationships between older men and younger women were typically regarded more positively than those between older women and younger men. One could therefore suggest a parallel between the favouring of older male and younger female characters / presenters onscreen, and prevailing attitudes outside the media, and my thesis will consequently explore the motivation behind these attitudes.
In attempting to position the issue within wider society, I will refer to and elaborate on various studies and theories that I believe to be suggest a basis for age discrepancy within the media. It has been argued, for instance, that fear of ageing and death tends to be greater for men than for women, with the latter typically seen as being more resigned to their situation.
Similarly, it has been suggested that women generally have better coping capacities than men
(following widowhood for example), and that the traditional alignment of men with the public sphere means that retirement can prove particularly traumatic. Thus, I will consider whether the wealth of middle-aged and older males (as opposed to similarly aged females)
onscreen, along with a proliferation of younger female co-stars / co-presenters, could serve as an attempt to assuage these anxieties regarding ageing and mortality. However, I will argue that this assuagement could be seen to come at the expense of older females, and to neglect the issues or concerns that they may have (or, even worse, to create or exacerbate such concerns.) On this note, I will refer to Gibson's (1996) warning about treating women as
'other' and judging situations from a male, midlife viewpoint due to the presumption of men as the dominant group.
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