The female body is often the focus of popular culture, and the fourth wave of feminism builds its theory on the view of the female body. The phrase: “The personal is political!”, the slogan of the student movement and the second wave of feminism in the late 1960s, is well known, and now deepened with: The female body is political! Our attitude towards the body is formed within the dominant culture we live in, so this text will open questions about the hegemony of the body, the cult of youth, and the myth of “single” girls and mothers. Referring to the term hegemony, let us recall that it was widely used by Antonio Gramsci, who believes that hegemony is what binds society without using force. Asking ourselves why women are obsessed with the body and why acceptance seems so natural and normal, we come to the answer given by Gramsci in Notes from Prison, where he says – precisely because of hegemony! Hegemony occurs when the upper classes replace economic power with the creation of “intellectual and moral leadership.” This would mean that the ruling class in the patriarchate does not rule by force, but by agreement, through the structure of acceptance and consent of those who are governed, and that is women. The struggle for hegemony is most easily fought on the fronts of popular culture, which can be an arena where a different articulation of hegemonic agreement with the contractual meaning takes place.
Age discrimination is known as “ageism” and is one of the issues reconsidered by feminist critical theory and can be addressed from several points of view. One of the most frequently addressed topics in film, literature, and the media, in general, is infidelity with a younger woman, which makes us rethink the cult of youth from a gender perspective. The fear of women that they will be replaced by younger women is legitimate, whether it is love, partnership, or profession, precisely because it is socially constructed. One of such social constructs is the cult of youth, which is continuously supported by the advertising industry, video aesthetics, music industry, and almost the entire popular culture that is predominantly based on beauty and youth. Billboards with the faces and bodies of young models, beautiful, photoshopped, perfect, lurk from every corner of modern urban living. Young women are the dominant face on both TV screens and the pages of women’s magazines. Themes of gender and “ageism” are part of the cultural reflections of Ana Martinoska through the collection of texts Cultural Factory where under the chapter Notes on gender, sexuality, and freedom of choice in the text Strength and passion she writes about sexuality and age through the artistic examples of Žuži Jelinek and the Austrian painter Maria Lassnig. “Croatian stylist and columnist Žuži Jelinek announced that in her ninth decade of life she is becoming a model in an advertising campaign for cosmetics, to prove that any age of life can be beautiful, and a woman can take care of herself and be attractive. In this way, she continues to fight prejudices about “people of age”, insisting on their right to be happy and fulfilled in love and life. I found confirmation of such thoughts in the artistic expression of the famous Austrian painter Maria Lassnig, whose last exhibition, on the occasion of her ninetieth birthday, was opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Vienna. For sixty years she has been considered an avant-garde leader in painting from a feminist point of view, whose central theme, as she calls it, is “body awareness”. As the critics said: “Her colors become younger as she ages” (Мартиноска, 2018: 60).
Namely, if we want to break gender stereotypes as one of the most conservative forms, it is inevitable to go through the artistic portions that have a wide commercial application among the audience. One such example is the Bridget Jones phenomenon developed through Helen Fielding’s novels and the films made after them. The main heroine Bridget Jones about the cult of youth and the terror of perfection, as dominant determinants in women’s magazines, says: “I find myself constantly looking at my face in the mirror and checking for wrinkles and desperately reading Hello!, checking how old somebody is, hopelessly looking for examples, struggling with the fear of the past that one day in my thirties, without warning, I will wear a big, thick, pleated dress, a shopping bag, I will have a permanent wave and my face will start to fall apart in the style of movie special effects and that will be the end of it all.” (Филдинг, 1996: 81). The obsession with age in Bridget Jones’s novels and films is processed through two narrative lines. The first is related to the transience of beauty, and the second to love and reproduction, i.e. the longing and fear of motherhood. Obsessed with beauty, Jones says that she needs to stop the aging process, but that she can not afford to do facelifting because it is very expensive. Today, cosmetic surgery is gaining momentum when it comes to the rejuvenation process. With a dose of irony, we could conclude that in some societies a Botox revolution is taking place. All of this benefits the retailers and advertisers of decorative cosmetics, as one of the best-selling items among the female population and one of the most commercial benefits of conventional femininity. Consequently, the “love affair” between gender stereotypes and the ideology of consumerism, that is, the standardized conventional femininity, is the function of the consumer culture.