With her essay Les flamboyantes, the French psychoanalyst Charlotte Montpezat is interested in the place of women over 50 in society. Women often invisible, stigmatized, stereotyped, while they live a period of their lives where they are more free, available and fulfilled than ever.

On his 45th birthday, on his desk, a letter from the human resources department informs him of his new “senior” status in the company. “Senior”, really? Is she already in the early retirement world? she wonders. Has she suddenly aged without realizing it? “What a shock, and at 45, an age where you are very fit, efficient, creative, dynamic… senior, the word cut my legs off,” says Charlotte Montpezat, whom we joined in Paris. “Because we use the word senior at 45, but also at 85, but it’s not quite the same thing! “, she says.

She later discovers that this letter was related to the objectives of the Ministry of Labor and was part of the device called the senior agreement in order to prepare the employees to pass the milestone of their 50 years.

But why would you want to sideline these women over 50? This is the big question that is addressed in this essay. Charlotte Montpezat starts from her own experience, but asks specialists about the representation and employability of these women, which is a real problem. In France, there are 17 million women over 45 and 9 million of working age.

“You can’t ignore such an important part of society. We are the first generation of women in the history of humanity to be lucky enough to be, between the ages of 45 and 65, at the full power of our means, physical and intellectual. You really have to shake the stereotypes and break the injunctions that limit you,” she says. Hence the title Les flamboyantes, because these women are more fulfilled than ever.

“I’m 57, and frankly, I’ve never looked so fit and good in my sneakers! We are, at 50, relieved of family responsibilities and mental burden (because our children are grown), liberated from the procreative function, free, strong, active, available, full of resources and experiences, we must change the society’s view of the stale woman over 50. This new age, let’s say it, we have to invent it, ”says Charlotte Montpezat.

Many women dread the social identity of the 50-year-old woman. “Because it’s related to the body and biology. The philosopher Camille Froidevaux-Metterie writes that the existence of women is determined by their physicality. While men live, in professional life, as if they had no body or child, women are always sent back to it, ”analyzes the author. She recalls that it was in 1972 that Susan Sontag published The Double Standard of Aging, where she pointed out that the aging of women and men are two very different realities. The depreciation is greater for women than for men.

“What we also see is that the representation of women over 50 is not adequate. You immediately think of a grandmother! And paradoxically, we see Martha Stewart on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine. It’s nice that an 80 year old woman is on the cover, but she doesn’t look her age and she’s been photoshopped extensively…and what we end up showing is not an 80 year old woman! »

The author believes that the less women aged 50 and over are shown, the less they feel showable.

The other annoying thing is discrimination. According to the International Labor Organization, ageism and sexism are the two greatest forms of discrimination, ahead of ethnic origin and disability. A 2021 World Health Organization survey of 57 countries reveals that one in two people hold moderately or strongly ageist attitudes. “These are prejudices that are conveyed throughout society, businesses, media, cinema and social networks. I think we have to recognize the problem and fight it. Faced with such discrimination, the will of women and companies is not enough, the public authorities must intervene to make things happen. »