What Should We Call Middle-Age Women — Older, Midlifer, 40+?
Pro-aging thought leaders nominate the best language to describe people in midlife
In the last several years, our culture has seen a rise in blogs, influencers, businesses, communities, and organizations welcoming and celebrating women in their middle years.
Still, as two women leading entities in this environment, we’re grappling with how to talk about women older than 40 in language that feels empowering. So much of the language out there seems to carry negative undercurrents (seasoned, mature, old?) or boxes the world of the 40+ woman into an age bracket, which may or may not have anything to do with the life stage she’s actually living. After all, this woman could be a CEO or retired, a mom or grandmother, changing careers or moving to a new country.
Are we, as a society, reaching a moment when women are more confident about saying we are “over 40, hear me roar”? Does the number even matter?
We set out to get to the bottom of this by asking fellow industry leaders to answer this question: What should we call middle-age women? Here are recommendations from Omisade Burney-Scott of Black Girl’s Guide to Surviving Menopause, Stephanie O’Dell of Celebrate The Gray, Natalie Waltz of Tabu, and Susan Douglas, a professor and author of multiple books.
I actually think each woman, woman-identified or gender-expansive person over 40, gets to decide for themselves what language they want to use to identify or reference themselves. We live in a society that’s really good at creating messages about groups of people or labels. I think that takes the power away from the individual or the group to be able to name themselves, claim their own identity, and tell their own story.
The best place to start is to ask the person. For example, I like the term midlife…