Bernardine Evaristo gets real about the ageism pressures women face

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Girl, Woman, Other author Bernardine Evaristo joins Elizabeth Day on this week’s episode of the How to Fail podcast, and her candid words on ageism are something we must take note of.

Despite its ongoing prevalence, ageism is something that society still very much needs to openly discuss and tackle. 

Just last week, Chicken Run actor Julia Sawalha revealed she’d been told she was “too old” for the animated film’s confirmed sequel. It came a few weeks after Kate Beckinsale responded to ageist criticism saying she dated men young enough to be her “children”. And let’s not forget how, earlier in the year, the internet could not cope with Alexandra Grant having grey hair when she appeared on the red carpet with her boyfriend Keanu Reeves.

Yep, ageism is still targeting women in 2020, and award-winning author Bernardine Evaristo has just given her honest views on how this creates pressures for women.

Evaristo, who is of course the writer of the Man Booker Prize-winning Girl, Woman, Other, speaks to Elizabeth Day on this week’s episode of the How to Fail podcast.

“Do you believe it’s never too late to change your life?” Day asks Evaristo, who won the Booker prize at the age of 60.

“Oh god yes, absolutely!” she replies. “I think we’re living in a culture where if you’re not achieving or living a certain kind of life by the time you’re 30 or 40 then it’s over for you. But that’s nonsense, because, actually, as human beings we are constantly evolving and also changing…

“I think if we’re open to [the] infinite possibilities of who we are then we are also open to changing. Life is very exciting and it’s an adventure so I definitely feel that we shouldn’t be bound by age…”

She admits that she too has felt “brainwashed” by society when it comes to ageism, saying: “I remember when I was 40, then 46, and I was thinking, ‘oh my god I’m going to be 50 soon’. And when I was 60 [thinking], ‘oh my god I’m going to be 60.’”

“Of course, because of the way we have been brainwashed in society, thinking of becoming those ages is a really scary thing, because we’re not supposed to celebrate it at all.”

It’s because of this pressure and the “negative” view of ageing that Evaristo now makes a point of saying her age to people, but she reveals this can still sometimes be hard to do.

“I try to be really positive about getting older,” she continues, “because our society tells us otherwise: we’re supposed to be completely marginalised, uninteresting, physically incapable and mentally deteriorating as we get older – and that’s a load of nonsense.”

She adds: “In my 50s, I started to change my attitude and had to consciously – and still have to consciously – change my attitude to ageing because it’s inevitable. I’m never going to be a younger age again and right now, especially winning the Booker, I feel I have a duty to just be positive about being the age that I am so that younger people coming up don’t see it as something to be afraid of. 

“So these are some of the thoughts I have around ageing but I do sometimes struggle with it and I do dye my hair!”

You can listen to the full interview on the How to Fail podcast with Elizabeth Day.

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…