• Helen Ferguson

We Have To Normalise Normal

We Have to Normalise Normal.

I crave seeing normal faces and normal bodies of Middle Aged Women on our screens, in advertising material and in general day to day media.

I see Normal on the train, at the shops and walking down the street, so I know Normal exists. I really want to see Normal Middle Aged Women filling as much media space and time as normal middle aged men.

It is rare, and harder than necessary, to find any or multiple examples of middle aged women in mainstream media and entertainment who didn’t come out of a cookie cutter.

I’m constantly on the lookout for positive, wide ranging and diverse representations of normal Middle Aged woman hood.

I need them.

It’s not just for my own sake, I’m thinking of the generations of women following up behind us.

If we can’t see it, how can we appreciate it?

If we can’t see it, we can’t be it

Critique and Scrutiny

I remember as a teenager in the early 80’s, the teen magazines that were available to my friends and I, regularly had articles about our bodies and our faces.

We were warned by the advice columns not to be too skinny, because boys didn't like that.

The articles were accompanied by photos of clearly unwell girls, with attention paid to the way they looked, rather than what they were suffering.

We were told to strive to keep our skin clear, because spots were unattractive.

The opinions at the time were very outward facing.

I recall how a young female body made society react if it wasn't 'quite right'.

Normal teen girls, the target customer of these businesses, weren’t often shown on the pages.

Normal girls with normal skin and normal bodies couldn’t see themselves being represented or valued, so they set about under-valuing themselves.

Getting older and growing into my 20’s in the 1990’s, the message shifted dramatically.

Being skinny was now ok.

Skinny was more than ok actually.

Skinny was the goal.

The thigh gap was the holy grail.

Hip bones sticking out just a touch, with a flat or slightly concave stomach…...that was what dreams were made of.

Have a black coffee for breakfast and go for a run, aspire to look like a model.

Don’t be normal.

Guys don't like that.

I wondered at the time, if all men only find one type of woman attractive, why are the rest of us even in the dating game?

What if attracting a male was not my chief ambition, can I be left out of the judgement and live by normal standards please?

I looked around to find normal, average looking women on television, in movies or reading the news.

They were there, but in categories marked 'friend of love interest' 'unmarried sister' , 'ball-breaker' , 'feisty/whacky' , 'single/childless' 'ambitious'.

We were being sold a dud.

The boys and men were being short changed.

The only people finding any joy in making and changing these rules, were the people selling us the products to achieve that (airbrushed) complexion, those (photoshopped) bodies, or the impossibly tiny clothes to drape over those bodies.

Fashion and Beauty Models became younger and younger; because finding grown-ass women with faces free from life experience and bodies free from age appropriate development was nigh on impossible, because……...experience and maturity happens to women.

We’re almost like actual humans in that regard.

Does Everything Really Need To Be A Bikini Body?

My early years of Motherhood coincided with the rise of cheap magazines plastering photos of celebrities over their covers, 10 weeks post-partum and wearing bikinis.

What on earth????

I didn't buy into the hype, I was too sleep deprived, thankfully, but I did get it wrong.

I just assumed that these women had Personal Chefs and Trainers on hand to allow them look so astonishing post delivery.

It didn't dawn on me until years later that the photos were so heavily edited that they were a barefaced lie.

Normal isn't aspirational.

Normal, by it's very definition, is what the majority of us are though!

I want to see me, I want to see you, I want to see us!

As a Middle Aged Woman, I want to see women in my life stage, wearing clothes that fit them, that let them feel comfortable and help them feel beautiful.

Show me the brand that has the talent and willingness to provide that, and I'll be a loyal customer.

I'm Not Anti-Aging

I’m quite happy being 54. It's great.

I'm not anti-aging, so why must practically every skin care product claim to be anti aging?

I'm pro moisturised skin.

I'm pro comfortable, non irritated skin.

I'm pro long lasting make up that brightens me up when I want to be brighter, but doesn't stain my clothes or make my eyes water, but I'm not anti aging.

Think about it, if I'm not aging, what am I doing? Repeating myself? Stagnating? Dying?

No thanks, I choose aging over those options.

If Media Bosses and Advertising Gurus were braver, they could open their creative minds and appeal to this largely ignored resource.

The landscape has shifted in the real world, and the media mantras need to change to keep up.

The ‘middle aged white man in a suit’ is not the only way to convey gravitas and authority.

We’re ever so tired of the same old same old.

The ‘hot young thing in a daring gown’ might be the obvious and traditional choice, because

‘sex sells’, but surely that depends on what you’re selling and to whom.

I am a grown up with disposable income; I have the power to make my own purchasing decisions, the ability to choose what company to hire, which news channel to watch, what restaurant to book.

I recommend things to my friends, my colleagues, my clients and my book club.

I want to see what women in my age range are thinking, what careers they have, what questions they're asking, what well cut clothes they're wearing, where they are socialising and who they are voting for.

I want to see all of these things now, for me.

I also want younger women to see us, being ourselves, enjoying the fruits of our labour and living real and full lives.

I want younger women to view the next phase as something to look forward to, not dread.

We have to fight harder and shout louder for normal, for our own well being and for the young people coming up behind us.

We didn’t grow up in the age of Social Media, cosmetic procedures and advertising at every turn, but they are, and what they are seeing every day on their screens is unrealistic and unsustainable.

We have to normalise Normal.

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