Laurie and Debbie say:
Gina DeVries at The Bilerico Project has run across a rather silly blog devoted entirely to pictures of “men who look like old Lesbians.” Gina is amused, and feels like she probably should be offended.
We, on the other hand, are amused, interested, and not offended. When this conversation arises, it’s almost always about how aging women “look male,” so we started off by enjoying this framing.
(Merv Griffin, talk-show host)
Looking just a little deeper, we see a comment on how this culture deals with aging. Aging is not masculine, because it diminishes the culturally defined core male qualities like strength and hardness. Aging is not feminine, because it diminishes the culturally defined core female quality of youth itself.
This insight cuts two ways: first of all, it pushes everyone who is aging and showing it out of the center of gender definition. The reason these men look like old Lesbians rather than old women is that they are not wearing make-up, skirts, or women’s jewelry, the signifiers that aging women wear if they want to appear feminine. This is intensified because we live in a time and place where much casual clothing is completely ungendered–to present yourself as female you have to wear clothes that most men won’t wear; to use your clothing to present yourself as male is difficult if you’re not wearing a suit and tie.
Because aging is outside of gender, people who are aging, unless they make a significant effort at presentation, are going to look like *drum roll* people on the margins of gender, such as Lesbians.
Bruce Cockburn, singer-songwriter. (Gina says, “Bruce Cockburn manages to combine the aesthetics of THREE different women’s studies professors I had when I was in college. The earring, the hair, and the glasses were each rocked by a different prof.”)
Gender itself is somehow defined by and reserved for the young. Some of this is biological, of course, but most of it is symptomatic of the narrow definitions of the culture. To look male or look female, you have to look young. Otherwise, the best you can do (assuming you want to have a clear gender identity as you age) is to work very hard on your presentation, doing your best to minimize signs of age.
This provides a key insight into the drive toward face lifts and other anti-aging procedures, not to mention cosmetic Botox and drugs: it’s not just your hyper-valuable youth that must be preserved; it’s also your gender. We’ve built a set of cultural definitions so limiting that everyone who lives long enough is forced out of them.