9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN01 Ageing in Europe

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Gender, Sexuality and Age Building II, C5.07

From a Bodily paradox to (Age)coded bodies: On Embodied Gendered Ageing

There is a growing interest in the significance of social positions such as gender, age, class and race/ethnicity to how embodied experiences construct gendered conditions for old age. In this paper I will draw attention to a body-related paradox on old women's relation to their bodies. On the one hand, we have the assumption that women's aging is influenced by beauty norms that praise youth, and on the other, studies showing that older women's attitudes towards their bodies are far more positive than has been suggested. Departing from three focus group interviews and twelve individual interviews with women in ages 70 years and older, I will illustrate the presence of (1) Double bodily dimensions, that are used to a greater or less extent in performances of identities, (2) The body as a process interpreted over time and space and (3) Double perspectives on bodies, e.g. the presence of many different reference groups. Analyses of these results with the concept of age coding - practices of distinction that are based on and preserve representations of actions, phenomena and characteristics that are associated with and applicable to defined ages sheds the light on how individuals take advantage of manifold and ambivalent norms and reference groups in order to construct embodied gendered aged identities.