Femininity – as understood in cultural terms rather than biological ones – is a social role which undergoes changes, and which is regulated by social norms, stereotypes, historical traditions and social expectations, etc. The popular conviction is that a girl becomes a woman when she starts to menstruate, therefore – analogously, the loss of reproductive function apparently causes females to lose their femininity (or lose in their femininity).
In many cultures there exist initiation rituals, which are a symbolic “introduction” to the period of femininity, however, as (inter alia) Germaine Greer regrets it – there are no relevant transition rituals for elder women. However, many women, when they grow older, experience the unpleasant feeling of losing their attractiveness (physical, sexual, social or professional, etc.), and in a more or less overt way – the pressure to remove themselves from the public space and positions they have been taking so far.
Until recently, the only positive and valuable function offered to elder women was to become a grandmother, helping out busy parents in taking care for their children. Nowadays this situation seems to improve, as the repertoire of roles available for this age group is widening and becomes acceptable for broadly understood society. Examples include the Third Age University students, professionally active persons, members of associations – such as The Amazons Club.
In my talk I would like to discuss the issue of the “new” and “old” social roles taken up by women over 60, with reference to the evolving category of femininity.