It is amazing, is it not, that despite living in an era where men can have babies and women grow beards, where AI can create art and art can be crypto, where we can turn on the light with our voice and our fridges can text us, that we still can’t handle women ageing.
Take two Michigan natives. One, aged 75, describes himself as “the guy with no shirt who rocks”. True.
Iggy Pop’s crepey torso, like a ransacked leather bag, is as much his trademark as his shiny hair and ravaged face.
Not much of a singer, he uses his firebombed larynx to growl and drawl while throwing himself around on stage, and we love him for it. Long live Iggy, who only gets cooler with age, despite those car insurance ads.
He has a new album out and is about to go on tour. Legend.
Also about to go on tour is another Michigan icon, 11 years Iggy’s junior, although if they stood next to each other he’d look like her grandad.
She has never done car insurance adverts, because she’s worth $850m, and is the most successful female performer in the galaxy.
Yet when news of her tour reached us, celebrating 40 years of her greatest hits – which she rebranded as “four decades” because for ageist reasons it sounds better – BBC Women’s Hour wondered if, “at her stage in life”, she wouldn’t prefer to stay home and count her money.
This was the supposedly feminist take – at the other end of the spectrum, clickbaity misogynists who have made careers out of hating Meghan Markle expressed their disgust at Madonna not ageing in the culturally prescribed manner.
Like, say, Jennifer Coolidge, who is 61 – three years younger than Madge – but fat and funny and not overtly sexual. Madonna is fit and focused and overtly sexual.
Isn’t there room for both in our cultural landscape?
Definitely, if you’re a bloke.
You can warble on like cracked drain if you’re Bob Dylan at 80, you can headline Glastonbury if you’re Paul McCartney at 80, you can tour to celebrate 60 years together if you’re the Rolling Stones, even when your drummer is dead.
You can still be The Boss if you’re Bruce Springsteen at 74, and you can still brutalise your audience’s eardrums if you’re Metallica, speed metalling their way to their 60s without anyone demanding they retire to their conservatories and take up Bridge.
Not Madonna though.
Despite her world tour selling out in nanoseconds, the ageism continues to rain down. It falls into two strands – feeling threatened by a sexualised sixty-something woman, and expressing ridicule that she’s had her face done, instead of leaving it all fall down like Iggy.
Had she not had her face done, there’d be a different kind of clamour. All of it ageist, all of it misogynist.
It makes you want to pull your eyeballs out.
What a gaping lack of imagination to continually categorise women by the chronological decade they inhabit, but not men.
How limiting, and how dated. How dull. How old.