Gendered ageism and grey hair: Must older women choose between feeling authentic and looking competent?

Vanessa Cecil, Louise Pendry, Jessica Salvatore, Tim Kurz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Ageing women frequently use hair dye to disguise their age in order to avoid being stigmatised as ‘old’. Recently, however, some have chosen naturally grey hair. Informed by Goffman’s theory of stigma, we investigated why they would do so in the face of age-discrimination, and their experiences of the process. We identified two major, oppositional themes, competence and authenticity. Despite wanting to avoid perceptions of old-thus-incompetent, women risked grey hair in order to feel authentic. However, they employed other beauty practices to mitigate the effects of grey hair, indicating conflict between a (subjectively) authentic appearance and societal perceptions of competence.

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