From the mundane to the magnificent, researchers find when women explore their feelings about being or becoming 'older women' their responses can be both challenging and humorous. Findings from the project entitled 'Look at me! Images of Women and Ageing' have revealed the complexity of women's feelings about images of ageing. These findings are presented in various exhibitions in Sheffield running from 9 March to 15 April.
Ageing is undoubtedly about the body, and pressure to deny ageing is a common experience, but it is also about the sense of a marginalised sexuality and the silencing of women in later life. A number of women in the project were able to display a transformed self to others and this has had a lasting impact on their perception of their own ageing bodies.
The project has taken a new approach to finding out how older women feel about their representation in the media and society. The team was led by researchers from the Universities of Sheffield and Derby, by Eventus, a Sheffield-based cultural development agency, and by photographer Rosy Martin.
After investigating stereotypical images of ageing women, the messages these images give out and how they affect womens well-being, the project facilitators encouraged the women to create new and alternative images using photography, art therapy, and video techniques. The results of these have formed the material for the exhibitions.
Dr Lorna Warren, from the Department of Sociological Studies at the University of Sheffield, and Project Director, said: "The exhibition captures the power of the collective use by women of their own bodies as a medium for representing their everyday experiences of ageing. This is not a cosy exhibition of images for the mantelpiece. From the mundane to the magnificent it is instead a very honest, sometimes challenging, sometimes humorous display of images showing women exploring their own feelings about being or becoming 'older women'.
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Economic & Social Research Council