10

Women Aging and Body Talk

Chris Gilleard


INTRODUCTION

In this chapter, I propose a general framework to interpret the conflicting and contrasting discourses about the aging body in contemporary society. I will focus on the aging of women's bodies, the various practices through which women understand and interpret their changing bodies and the structures that shape those practices.

The experience of bodily aging is a topic curiously ignored by mainstream gerontology. In her book entitled Women and Aging, published as recently as 1999, Linda Gannon has nothing to say about the subjective experience of aging. Throughout her book she makes no mention of the aging of skin and hair, of changes in fat and muscle distribution, no reference to aging and appearance, or the use of the body as a source of personal and social identity—indeed, nothing about the psychological and social reality of women confronting their own aging. Instead,

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