*This talk has its loose origins in my doctoral thesis “Social Construction of a Bad Woman” from 2014 and has been presented at the conference “Engendering Difference: Sexism, Power and Politics“, that took place on 12-13 May 2017 in Maribor at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Maribor, Slovenia.*
We were all young and we will all age (if we live long enough). Age is more than just a sum of years, spent on this planet, it is a social construct that allows people to unjustly categorize other people. Falling into a certain age group is never neutral; it has social consequences on a smaller (i.e. individual) and larger (i.e. systematic) scale. Those consequences are sometimes manifested negatively – as age discrimination or ageism. Ageism refers to attitudes and beliefs, feelings and behaviour towards people based on their age, where the normal or “right” age is from 25 to 55 years old. Right-aged people represent the economic, cultural and social motor of the society and by this, they possess the symbolic power; power that allows them to define Others according to their beliefs on what is right (good) and what is wrong (bad).
Taming of the woman is a common motive in classical and popular art with one of the most representable pieces being Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. For me, a word ‘to tame’ always resonates with words such as ‘to hunt down’, ‘subdue’, ‘break someone’s will’ or at least ‘mould’ (into a prescribed module of femininity). It is obvious that when a person is being subjected to taming, she/he/they must be some sort of a social deviant or Other/ed and therefore corrected (sometimes coerced) into a ‘right’ social role, behaviour or lifestyle.
Party Girl (2014, d.: M. Amachoukeli, C. Burger and S. Theis) is a French woman-centric film, focused on Angélique Litzenburger, a sixty-year-old unmarried cabaret dancer, who has decided to get married; however, she does not follow through with her marital plan. The film plot may sound simple, but the story narrative deals with the ‘marriage mandate’ (i.e. a societal urge for a woman to be married at some point) and reveals an implicit societal sexism, ageism and classism.