Posts Tagged ‘unemployment in older women’

I’m angry today, the kind of angry that makes me want to throw on a placard and demonstrate on the busiest street corner I can find. What would the placard say? “I’m over 55, but I’m not dead yet! HIRE ME!”

The month started off so well: an article in the Globe and Mail, a ton of positive feedback, including personal emails, and a guest interview on a CBC news programme where I talked about the difficulties of being out of work. Messages filled my mailbox. People complimented me on my honesty, said I handled myself professionally, wished me well. But a job offer? Not even one – unless you count a couple of people singing the praises of multi-level marketing companies.

I even joined LinkedIn. It wasn’t actually my own idea, but something thrown out at me as more of a taunt during an argument with someone. It was like “Why haven’t YOU tried LinkedIn?” The implication was that I wasn’t trying hard enough to find a job, so I joined, wrote up a profile, included my work experience and links to this blog in case writing opportunities were out there, and joined a few groups. Then I sat and waited, and I realized why I’d never joined before. The problem is that while I’m able to “link” to a few people, I am virtually unable to ask for a reference from anyone there because the people I’m linked to are friends or casual acquaintances, not people who’ve worked with me. What are they going to say about me, other than personal things? Some have never even read my work. They can only guess at my capabilities.

In the meantime, I’ve continued to apply for jobs at all ends of the spectrum. One person who responded to my article suggested I don’t apply for anything “beneath me,” because of the sheer number of applicants for less qualified positions. I understand her point, but it hasn’t stopped me because I can’t pass anything up. I’ve also applied for lots of work that I’d be perfect for, but so far, I seem to be the only one believing that.

And here’s the thing. No matter what anyone says, the longer I go without a job, the more I know that this IS about age. If I’d been twenty or twenty-five, I would have been hired long ago for some of those lesser-paying jobs. If I’d been under forty-five, I’d have at least been called in for interviews for some of the better jobs. I know it as well as I know that underneath this dark brown hair hide grey roots.

So I’m frustrated and furious.

They say that no group is valued less in western society than older women, and more and more, I’m beginning to believe it. We’re past our prime and for many, past our usefulness. We can no longer bear children and our figures aren’t perfect. We go through menopause and have “unsightly” hot flashes in public. If we are emotional, society thinks we are “losing it.” If we are strong, they say we’re “cranky old bitches.” Unless we want to volunteer and run ourselves into the ground (we’re always welcomed when the work’s for free), we are often ignored, even by our male counterparts.

There’s no industry where ageism against women is more evident than in movies and television. Actors are allowed to age but their love interests rarely are. And when we do see an ‘older” actress on the screen, the portrayal is sometimes ridiculous. Case in point: Erica Kane, from All My Children.

I’m a follower of soaps, and recently I’ve found myself more and more insulted and irritated by the way this character is being written. “Erica” is a fashion icon/television star/author/businesswoman/philanthropist, with ten marriages under her 20-inch belt, children in their thirties and a few grandchildren to boot, yet she’s seen as ageless, a tiny slip of a “girl” caught in a permanent time warp. The part has been played for over nearly forty years by Susan Lucci, now sixty-three years of age. Lately, she is batting her eyelashes and tossing her long hair over her shoulder, then finally falling into bed with Ryan, the early 30’s ex-lover of her daughter, the father of Erica’s grandson. Lost yet?

I’m 58, just a few years younger than Erica, and I find the current storyline extremely offensive. In fact, the lack of reality regarding Erica, the way she sees herself and how others view her, is turning me off the show entirely, and that’s after over thirty years as a faithful watcher!

Do the writers forget that people actually GROW in character as they age? Despite the fact that they’ve allowed Erica to develop some better qualities over the years, she is still coming across as a “sweet young thing.”. Her mannerisms are coy, flirtatious and affected. She is a caricature.

The viewers know she is in her sixties. Let her dress a bit more appropriately. Stop shooting her through a soft-focus lens. Don’t insult the viewers’ intelligence. Address the logical concerns that an older woman should be having. Have her worry about the younger women around Ryan. Have her look in the mirror and be concerned about her age. Bring in a storyline where she considers plastic surgery. Viewers know she’s had plenty. Have her talk about her grey roots. Show her having a bloody hot flash. Oh gosh, forget that. She’s long through menopause. Give her osteoporosis!

Why not make her REAL, make her HUMAN? I can’t be the only one who’s offended by the way this is going.

Nothing is as black and white as some employers see it, or as the writers on AMC write it. Women over 50 don’t whither up and die, but neither do they have to act like they did at eighteen to compete. We should be free to be ourselves, confident of our worth and believing that somewhere, someone still recognizes our value.

In the meantime, I need a job.

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