Reading The Fifth Season, I was irked as I came across a male Breeder’s weak attempt at a compliment as he said “you’re only forty-three” to Essun in Chapter 14. It was a brief comment, and holds no real significance to the development of the plot. But in the time humans have occupied the planet, women have consistently been categorized and assigned a “worth” based on several physical attributes. But, especially age.
In particular, black women, and colored women in general, seem to receive the twisted compliment of “you look good for…your age.” I know it is in good intentions that most use this phrase, but it’s truly a slap in the face and criticizing one’s age. I feel personally conflicted with this, because at the tender age of 18, I can feel society telling me I am in my “prime,” and soon I will be considered “old,” a negative quality that women should avoid to be labeled as at all costs. In contrast to men, who are described as “silver foxes” and creatures that age gracefully over time. For example, these doubles standards are highlighted in China’s society with “leftover women.” These are single women who have failed to marry by the age of 30 and are no longer deemed desirable, because they’re “too old.” Although men may face some societal shame for reaching a certain age and remaining single, it is far from the outright disapproval that women receive. In general, our society is entirely consumed with the notion of “looking young.”
I know that there are some logical explanations behind the origins of this sexist idea with women most stable to reproduce at younger ages. In my senior year of high school, I learned the scientific background behind the average man’s biological need to have several partners. The explanation was simply that men have the natural urge to pass down their genes in order to ensure the survival of their kind. While, biologically, women have the need to “settle down” and nurture a stable family. But this should not be used to excuse society’s continuous fixation with age.
Small micro-aggressions like these are not addressed in The Stillness with the constant fear of the impending doom of a Season occurring. These issues are always important, but the need to survive will ultimately take priority first, naturally. With our society constantly developing and improving upon itself, I have hope that slowly age becomes of less importance, and there is more of an emphasis on maturity.