If Only Martha Stewart Weren’t So Old
Ageism strikes again.
This year the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue chose 81-year-old Martha Stewart as its cover model. Eighty-five-year-old me took one look and said, “Damn! She looks good!” Not so the rest of the country, apparently.
They’re going nuts out there! Who does she think she is? What does this say to women who hate the idea of objectifying female bodies? How do you think those women who don’t look like that must feel? And oh, by the way, those pictures aren’t real. Old women don’t look like that.
Ew! It’s gross!
Notice that these issues don’t come up when the women so pictured are young. Suddenly, because an old woman dares to bare it all, she needs to be put in her place. Which is, I don’t know…a nursing home?
I’m not a huge Martha Stewart fan. I almost never like anything she cooks. Her stilted, inauthentic speech patterns drive me up the wall. I honestly find her pretty boring, but she’s been around for a long, long time and life apparently has been good to her. (Except for that stint in prison. Not so good.)
She’s a bit of a phony and always has been, but it hasn’t hurt her popularity or her pocketbook. Martha Stewart is her own corporation. Like Oprah. They’ve turned themselves into thriving businesses, and more power to them. I’m not in the least jealous of them but I don’t feel like gushing over them, either. I don’t understand their appeal, but that’s me.
But I’m going to defend Martha’s decision to grace the SI Swimsuit Issue and fight anyone who says she’s too damned old, she should have known better, and it’s all air-brushed, anyway.
I know my octogenarian crowd: not many of us got to this place with our skin still that intact, our arms without crepe drapes, and our faces and our necks sans wattles and crinkles. So far, it looks like it may be only Martha and Jane Fonda and Rita Moreno—who, at 91 looks amazing!
Now, Jane, who at 85 is three months younger than me, admits to a LOT of work, but Rita says it’s all genetics, and Martha says, in this Variety article, she’s never had plastic surgery, though she had some enhancements like fillers and Botox (which she now says she hates), and, yes, there was some very minor air-brushing to the SI photos, but otherwise it’s all her, courtesy of healthy living and of course, killer workouts.
Gloria Steinem is 89 and still going strong. Have you seen her lately? She’s still lovely, but she’s not hiding the fact that she has grown old.
I’m with Gloria. What you see is what you get. I wish my body hadn’t drooped and shriveled the way it has, but this is what normally happens when bodies get old. Martha seems to be defying the odds and half the country now hates her for it.
Why does it matter that an 81-year-old woman is perfectly okay with showing off her body on the cover of a sports magazine? It doesn’t. It shouldn’t. Any complaints about Martha Stewart’s cover on Sports Illustrated stem from out-and-out ageism.
It’s not even insidious. It’s expected. Old women should have the good sense to look old. Women who defy the aging expectations and go around in youngish clothing and longish hair and makeup that includes eye liner make people uncomfortable.
It’s not ‘natural’. As if women all over the world today are eschewing fashion and makeup and can’t wait to get to that age where their dewy looks give in to those incredible sags and bags.
I’ve bypassed dozens of articles with titles like, “Styles Women Over Sixty Should Avoid”, or “Hairstyles for the Older Woman” or “Stop Trying to Look Like Your Daughter”. It’s hard to avoid them but I don’t have to read them. I know what they’re trying to tell me:
Conform. Act your age. Give it up. We don’t want to look at you.
So, Martha, you go, girl. Show ‘em what you’ve got. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. And don’t ever let anybody tell you your age has anything to do with anything.
Constant Commoner is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
I don’t have a problem with her being on SI, or flaunting her body. What I had a problem with was her saying she hadn’t had any work done and deriding those who use filters. It sets unrealistic expectations for women and that only young looking women can be thought of as sexy. I am not considered old at all but I’m approaching middle age and I would love more role models that embrace their age and/or owned up to the work they’ve had done so that we don’t feel like there’s something wrong with us for not looking that way.
Martha looks fantastic and I’m glad she’s featured. She and women her age are not invisible, relegated to the shadows of their younger selves. They are wonderful as they are. I always think people are fortunate to get old and if she’s up for it... 👏🏾👏🏾