When it comes to how we look, women tend to be each other’s harshest critics. Social media has polarized us even further. We want to look and feel our best as we age, but we don’t always agree on what that should look like. Should we go au naturel and accept what is? Is botox and plastic surgery really so terrible? What exactly do we mean by “age gracefully” anyway?

Aging is complex and personal, but it’s a process we all share. The #myagingface project asks, can we see ourselves differently in the mirror? Can we age in whatever way we choose? Can we approach ourselves, and each other, with less scrutiny and more generosity?

The Project

We invited women 40+ to post close-up photos of their faces with short descriptions on Instagram with the hashtag #myagingface. Our prompt was: “Tell us what you see. What would you like others to see? Be honest, be real, be whatever you feel.” Select portraits were featured in pop-up exhibits across Athens, GA, to stimulate conversation and comradery.

The project culminated a live, virtual conversation hosted by artist and organizer, Allyn Rippin. In this supportive space, women talked honestly about the pressures of aging, beauty standards, and the familial and societal cultures that shape how we view aging, and one another.

Let’s Keep It Going

The exhibit may be over, but we continue to encourage women to post on social media and hashtag #myagingface. This is a social movement calling for a sea change in how we approach and embrace aging.

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The #myagingface project is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read Program. This year’s selected book, the graphic memoir “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” by New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast, served as a springboard for a thought-provoking series. Book clubs, poetry readings, dance performances, art making and educational webinars were offered virtually and in-person in Athens, Georgia during Spring 2021.

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

El proyecto NEA Big Read es una iniciativa del National Endowment for the Arts (el Fondo Nacional para las Artes de Estados Unidos) en cooperación con Arts Midwest.