Stamou, Eva (2010) The ageing process and female identity in midlife. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

My research examines how middle aged women (35-54 years of age) who live in the UK experience the process of growing older, and it addresses in detail the question of whether, and if so, how, their sense of self changes during midlife.

In recent years it has been argued that it is not possible to offer an adequate theory of women’s experience and self-understanding without addressing the bodily aspects of the constitution of identity in their social context. According to the ‘double standard of ageing’ hypothesis, women are not permitted to age in ways that men are;
they are marginalised and ignored not only by popular culture but also by some sociologists and gerontologists. Thus, there is a need for rethinking current theory so as to ensure that middle aged women become more visible.

The themes explored in my project include: body image in midlife, participants’ notions of middle age, methods women use in order to control or conceal the signs of ageing, female sexuality in midlife, life milestones, ageism, the double
standard of ageing in British society.

The thesis contributes to the current debates within social sciences by offering new data that corroborate the hypothesis of the embodied nature of female identity, and the view that ageing is experienced as a defining factor in the development of personal female identity. Paricipants acknowledge that ageing is a feminist issue and their disourse confirms that there is a double standard of ageing in British society. In
addition, my project challenges the idea that getting older is something pathological.
It stresses the importance of diversity among women of different ethnicity and cultural
background for the psychological, and social impact of ageing in women’s life.
Finally, this project suggests that social scientists need to re-consider their age cohort
categorizations and the use of the term ‘middle-age’, which - given the currently popular and medical preconceptions - carries only negative connotations for participants.

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