Dear Women, Life Isn’t Over After Your Twenties

Judith Goerge/PantherNow

Hayley Serpa/Staff Writer

Picture this. You are scrolling through your social media, not looking for anything in particular, and the majority of advertisements on your screen feature women in their twenty-somethings. This might not stand out to you and honestly, your brain has probably become accustomed to primarily seeing women in their late teens or early twenties in the media. 

Yet, this limited representation of women in media shows society’s own ageist understanding of the value of women. This has led many women worldwide to base their own value on these harmful perceptions. This also rings especially true for young, college aged women, who sometimes feel as if the peak of their life is their twenties and that their value only decreases as they continue to age. 

These outdated and ageist perceptions of the decreasing value of women as they age held by patriarchal societies are connected to the fertility of women during their different stages of life. A study by the University of California at Santa Barbara has proven that women in their early 20s are at their most fertile and historically, patriarchal societies have preferred to be with and portray in the media women in this age group. This however is only one scientific factor amongst the other cultural aspects that contribute to these patriarchal perceptions of women. 

Some of these cultural factors that create societies with these kinds of views on women’s value are gender norms.  Gender norms are even experienced in the modern United States, where women are expected to be feminine and nurturing while men are supposed to be boisterous and masculine. Another harmful aspect of gender norms are gender stereotypes or “oversimplified understandings of males and females and the differences between them.” These two are linked to the ageist perceptions of women also held by many in these kinds of societies, as seen in the media perceptions of young, feminine women.

However, the adverse effects of solely portraying those young women that the predominantly male-run society acknowledges has made all women in all age groups the victims of new traumas. Nowadays, women are so afraid of aging that it is even considered taboo to ask a woman for her age, especially if she is older. On another level, age discrimination against older women is also present at the workplace and during the hiring process, as a 2015 study states. This is not the fault of women but of the society that has conditioned them to think in this manner regarding the natural process of aging. 

For this reason, young women in their late teens and early twenties can think that they only have these early years of their life to complete their goals. I include myself in this group of young women and can speak from experience about how anxiety inducing these thoughts can be. The thoughts of whether or not I have accomplished enough while in the peak of my life, or what society has erroneously identified as the peak of my life, is just one example. But, I have realized that these fears I hold towards aging do not stem from any rational thought-process of my own but are rather from the society I grew up in. 

In response, I decided that it would be better if I stopped viewing myself through the ageist ‘male gaze’ and began to realize that life does not stop after your twenties. Life does not stop just because I will no longer fit into the male gaze’s definition and understanding of what a woman should be like. Extraordinary women like Viola Davis and Toni Morrison didn’t reach their career peak until well into their forties. This proves that women should not be terrified of aging at all and on the contrary, embrace the maturity and wisdom they gain each year of their lives. 

Forgetting all the ageist and sexist perceptions regarding the value of women is a difficult process. It is not easy to unlearn the societal norms imposed upon us by our cultures and countries. However, it is a necessary step to ensure that women are not victimized further by societies who only value them based on narrow and harmful factors.

One of these first steps that must be taken is the acknowledgement of the ageist perceptions that exist societally towards women. This has pressured many young women to wrongly feel that life is over after their twenties and other older women to continuously devalue themselves. 

To those women in their twenties who may be experiencing the existential dread that comes with aging in a society where women are not allowed to age, this is a gentle reminder that life isn’t over after your twenties. You still have time to do everything you want and more.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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