26 March 2012

Facing It: Relections on Images of Older Women – Harriet Walter at Bath LitFest

March 8th is International Women’s Day, which for a century has celebrated women’s achievements throughout history.
March 8th was also my maternal grandmother’s birthday, and as she was such a brilliant woman and a huge part of my life, it seems appropriate that the date is the same, and I try to mark it somehow.
This year, amongst the March 8th listings for Bath LitFest I read this:

A refreshing, revitalising and empowering talk from one of the world’s most gifted, celebrated and beautiful actresses. In Facing It: Reflections on images of older women Dame Harriet Walter encourages women to look the mirror full in the face, enjoy what they see and glorify the lines that time and experience have placed there.

Struggling a bit with the middle-age thing and lacking my beautiful, positive mother and grandmother to encourage and reassure me through it, I thought a bit of revitalising sounded like a good idea.

wedding and events drawings - Dame Harriet Walter at Bath LitFest

In conversation with James Runcie, Harriet Walter spoke with humour about how easy it is to misjudge people from a first glance.
She recounted an occasion on the tube train when she observed a fellow passenger, an older woman; imagining her to be a bit of a stuck-in-the-mud, she was taken aback when the woman began reading her book, Dirty Russian Everyday Slang from What’s Up to F***Off.

We’re told that women become invisible as they get older, and it’s obvious to remark that magazines and advertising are full of airbrushed images and photographs of young, often very young women, so I could identify with looking out for older role models as we move into this next stage of life. I’ve always thought I’d like to be Lauren Bacall when I grow up.

There were funny and moving readings from the book, and a good sprinkling of useful quotes, from the well known Bette Davis line, ”Old age is no place for cissies”, to the more recent Tina Fey comment on plastic surgery, ”Get old or look creepy”.
And there were the photographs, wonderful portraits of the older woman, some unknown and others familiar; the serene, English beauty of Phyllida Law, the slightly scary self-assurance of Bianca Jagger, the wisdom in the lined face of Georgia O’Keefe, the open, even features of Annie Lennox.

It was an uplifting event, perfect for IWD, with the comforting message, ‘We’re all in it together’.