Gender Issues

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 51–69 | Cite as

Aging, Femininity, and the Body: What Appearance Changes Mean to Women with Age

  • Julie A. WinterichEmail author


In this article, I analyze interviews with a diverse group of 30 women aged 46–71 to understand how they experience signs of aging, such as weight gain, gray hair, and facial hair, in everyday life. I find that some women’s responses are in line with normative femininity and appearance norms. Others, however, focus on different gendered meanings of the body that are connected to care-taking, work, ageist treatment, and past abuse. I argue that feminists should apply the theoretical concept of femininity more broadly than appearance and attraction issues to gain a deeper understanding of the multiple meanings of living in an aging female body in a gendered society. In the conclusion, I discuss the implications of this study for public health policies as well as future research on gender and the body.


Aging women Femininity Appearance Body Weight Hair 



I want to thank the 30 women who participated in this study and openly shared their experiences with me. I am grateful to Patti Giuffre, Amy Farrell, Pauline Cullen, Ashley Finley, Patricia Richards, and John Knox, for reading and providing valuable comments on drafts of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Family and Community MedicineWake Forest University Health Sciences, Medical Center BoulevardWinston-SalemUSA

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