“People Don’t See Older Women”

In the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall, the head of British intelligence, M (played by Judi Dench), comes under fire for losing the department’s list of undercover agents. But what is really on trial is the old-fashioned way of gathering intelligence—with human agents on the ground conducting surveillance. M and her methods have become obsolete, the investigating committee says. As a result, M herself has become irrelevant. She is too old to continue to run the department. She has to go.

About 20 years ago, our library book group had to negotiate its position with library staff after a change in the management hierarchy. We asked one of our older members, Mary C., if she would be our spokesperson and talk to the staff. She said she thought one of the younger members should do it instead. “People don’t take older women seriously,” she said. “They look right through us. They don’t even see us.”

I thought of Mary C. while M’s fate unfolded in Skyfall. It seems that M and Mary experienced the same fate: They are women, and they got old. Someone younger should take their place.

Over on my literature blog I’ve compiled a list of fiction and nonfiction books about older women.

© 2012 by Mary Daniels Brown