Age stereotypes are as strong as gender stereotypes in Russia. Age-appropriate behaviour, clothes, hairstyles. Age discrimination at work. Are the age stereotypes internal or external? How far is Russia from Western countries on that dimension?
Some time ago my mom and I went to movies and, while we were watching a Hollywood action film, a guy sitting next to her leaned in and asked: “Do you Really enjoy the movie?” She replied: “Yes! Do you?” I was angry at his tactless question, since it implied that a woman of her age could not possibly enjoy such an entertainment. And then I glanced over the audience and noticed that there were hardly any people older than 60 in the theater. My mom is in her 70s and, she is very active, travels abroad often and enjoys life. She and I often go to movies together and Really enjoy that. But the data shows that less than 1% of people of her age go to movies.
Same thing is with concerts and other live events. After retirement most people in Russia are not participating in the social life as actively as when they were younger. There are several explanations for that, such as declining health and decreased income (average monthly pension in Russia in 2016 is $200). But another strong reason is age-related stereotypes, what is and what isn’t appropriate for people of certain age. It is considered appropriate to spend time with grandchildren, have such hobbies as jam making or knitting and watch TV at home. Attending a rock concert or going to movies is considered to be a thing for young people. That stereotype is most likely internal, and it deprives many people of fun social experiences.
Another area in which age stereotypes are mostly internal is the appearance. Is it proper to wear certain clothes, make up and hairstyles when you are in your 40s, 50s, 60s etc.? I always thought that I am free of such stereotypes, but when I started writing this post, I understood that it is not the case.
Half of me, who is influenced by living abroad, tells me that people are free to look as they want. And it is none of the other’s business to judge them. (Role model – Vivienne Westwood)
But the other half of me is definitely influenced by the Russian environment. How to describe that? I do care what other people would think about me when I become a senior citizen. For some reason it seems important that they do not say I am a crazy lady. Maybe I will mature in the next couple of decades and will not care, maybe not. I guess it will depend where I will live during these years. To give you an example of what I do not want – we had a fabulous actress Lyudmila Gurchenko. She was an A-list star in the USSR time, she could’ve become a Hollywood actress with her talent and looks. But in her last 10 years of life she started to do too much plastic surgeries and tried to wear looks, which did not correspond to her age. We thought that she in unhappy, seeing her transformation. Maybe she was, how do I know? But for now my role models among actresses in age is rather Meryl Streep, who is gorgeous despite any signs of aging.
Both Russian Constitution and Labor Code prohibit discrimination against applicants and employees irrespective of their age. However, in practice half of job postings list age preferences, usually capping the age at 40 or even 35. And the ones that do not list age requirements still assume that the candidate over that age will have slim chances to get a job. Here is a very good article on this topic – Age discrimination is particularly acute in Russia where working life ends at 40. Scary, isn’t it?
What are the reasons behind cutting off candidates at the peak of their career? I think that the main reason is incompetence of HR managers and lack of research that would show that companies miss out when they discriminate candidates and employees by age. Employees over 40 are experienced, mature and it is likely that they have less personal distractions.
I think that age-based job discrimination stems from Perestroika times. At that time many young people had adjusted to the new market reality and quickly gained the new skills and people in their 30s and 40s were not as fast to adapt. But it was 25 years ago… Now people, who are in their 40s and 50s have the skills and experience, but they still suffer from job discrimination.
I do believe though that things will change with time and when millenniums reach that age, they will not be discriminated based on age. It will happen when age related stereotypes will vanish and instead candidates will be judged based on their skills and earlier experience. And when the Russian laws will catch up and protect experienced employees.
And what do you think on this subject? Please share your thoughts with us!
© 2016 Tatiana Golubeva. All rights reserved.