Older women are invisible

Bascha Mika: "The older woman becomes invisible"

The former "TAZ" editor-in-chief Bascha Mika wrote a pamphlet about the difference between the sexes in aging. Their conclusion: women are "made old" because they become competition.

Have you ever withheld your age or made yourself younger?

Bascha Mika: At least I can't remember it. However, I have never peddled my age either. But after having dealt intensively with the topic, I am absolutely in favor of women aggressively announcing their age. I understand why women don't do it - because there are disadvantages - but that's not a solution. Age is part of our identity.

In your book “Test of Courage” you do not write about old people, but only about older people, the 40 to 65 year olds. Why?

Age is well researched anyway, I am concerned with getting older - especially for women. And that begins in our head at the age of 20. Today, 17-year-old girls worry that they will no longer look fresh enough.


Have you ever had an "oh god I'm old" moment yourself?

There are always moments when I feel like I'm 150. The question then is, with what kind of look I look at myself in the mirror - my own or that of the other? Do I feel old just because society says I am?


This pattern, that you see yourself through the eyes of others, is also known from young women who stand critically in front of the mirror. What's so different in old age?

All of our emancipatory ideas lag behind as we get older. The claim that women create their own image of themselves is much less implemented than in other areas.



Because the devaluation of older women is deeply ingrained. It comes from antiquity, which provided the source code for the software of our culture. It's hard to believe, but the prejudices are partly the same today as they were 3000 years ago.


They criticize the fact that women and men are rated differently in old age. You represent the thesis of "doing aging". According to this, age is above all a social ascription, one is "made old". Does biology play no role at all when the sexes age differently?

The difference in the assessment of age is exclusively social. Because men and women experience the biological changes in a similar way. Men also go through a kind of menopause, but nobody talks about it.


But men can start a family again at 70. Women don't.

The age limit for having children is also shifting backwards for women. But while everyone applauds when Klaus-Maria Brandauer becomes a father at 70, a sixty-year-old having a child is a scandal.


But this is about the health risk.

This is also the case with men. Old semen carries risks. Also, it's not that older men team up with younger women just because they want a family again. They want something completely different from the young women. The fact that women over a certain age find it difficult to find a partner has little to do with the loss of their fertility, but rather with the fact that men believe they have the right to poach in all generations of women, while for women a younger partner still has one Is taboo. My point is not that men are not allowed to have younger women, but that the same rules apply to everyone. It's a matter of power, not biology.


But how do you demand these same rules? It is difficult to demand equal wages to be found attractive.

Of course, I cannot ask a man to find me attractive. But: What we find attractive does not fall from the sky. Our desire follows a pattern that is actively shaped by society.


You write that role models were needed to change these patterns - e. B. Prominent women who age without cosmetic surgery. Isn't the German Chancellor enough as a role model? I don't know that she can be injected with Botox.

If you follow Angela Merkel's career, you can see that she - like other women in top positions - has been emasculated and de-sexualized. It was a real shock for the public when she appeared at the Wagner Festival with a low neckline. With her predecessor Gerhard Schröder, sexuality was never a problem - he could be a virile macho and have a much younger wife. Merkel's nickname, on the other hand, is "Mutti". That's not what you call an erotic being.


You yourself propose female TV presenters as role models, who unfortunately disappear from the screen after a certain age. But could older TV presenters really change society?

Absolutely. We develop our view of the world by playing ping-pong with the media. While it goes without saying that men also appear in front of the camera when they are over 70, women over 50 often leave the field preventively - motto: I prefer to go voluntarily. The older woman becomes invisible. The viewers not only lack optical role models, the content of these women also lacks the view of the world.


You are considered a quota fan. Did it need a quota for older women on TV?

Ultimately - yes, maybe.


But doesn't the problem of the invisibility of these women in public life solve itself anyway? If the elderly are in the majority in the population, you cannot overlook them and then the female image of beauty changes too.

That would be great, but I'm not convinced that the changes are happening painfully slowly. Perhaps, when youth is a scarce commodity, it becomes even more important.


Women are also to blame for their situation. In the book you give an example: When a woman sees another with a wrinkled neck, she thinks: It is better to use a scarf on her arms. She thinks nothing of a man with a wrinkled neck.

It's not women to blame, but they support the system. They are responsible for that too.


In the above case, what's your solution? Should the man take a shawl or should the woman care about her wrinkled neck?

The solution cannot be that we apply the same lousy standards to men as we suffer from. The woman should cover her neck if she likes, but not because her wrinkled neck is considered uglier than that of a man.


Is there a strategy behind these different evaluations of men and women or has it been a historical success since ancient times?

Of course, there has always been a question of power behind this. Because not only do men gain personality, knowledge and maturity with age, but so do women. The older woman is socially excluded in a phase in which she becomes dangerous competition for the men.


If you can "switch off" women by criticizing wrinkles, that means that the power of women generally depends on their attractiveness.

It's not that simple, otherwise young women would have a lot more power. The positions of power we are talking about only emerge in the middle years. The physical devaluation of older women only works so well because women are identified more strongly with their bodies than men. If the body is devalued, the whole woman is devalued.


Then the solution is: women should become more decoupled from their own bodies?

No, it's great that women are stronger in their bodies and also let themselves go less than men. But they also need other things that define themselves - such as their job. Otherwise part of their identity will break away as they get older.


Basha Mika was born in Poland in 1954. The journalist and author became known as editor-in-chief of the German newspaper "TAZ" (1999 to 2009). Alongside Alice Schwarzer, about whom she wrote a critical biography, Mika is one of the most prominent German feminists. In 2011, however, she provoked them with her book “Die Feigheit der Frauen”.


"Test of courage“C. Bertelsmann-Verlag, 320 pages, 18.50 euros

("Die Presse", print edition, 02.02.2014)