The Sarah Birthday
Updated: May 17, 2019
Let me explain.
I was born on May 16 , 1969. Yep, today I am fifty.
Back in '69, mothers saw no need to give up the smokes, decimal currency was three years young, Apollo 11 completed its mission and Midnight Cowboy won Best Film. If you've seen it you'll know it's a lacerating story of a vagrant con man and a naive male prostitute grifting their way around New York city. It was pretty groundbreaking for the time and won critical acclaim. Oh, and it was rated X. It is touted to have 'changed Hollywood'.
Fast forward fifty years, and whilst we were normalising all kinds of sex, drug use, gratuitous violence and body counts in film and television, we dared not enter the female Twilight Zone. AKA The Menopause.
Thanks to the rising tide of new-wave feminism and the #MeToo movement, Gen Z girls who are socially and politically 'woke' are applying pressure to the marketing and advertising industry to get real or no deal. We are beginning to see better representation and diversity across the chick targeted world with menstruation activism firmly on the agenda.
Even so, some women remain pigeonholed. I'm talking about the over 40s who enjoy starring roles in ads for medicines, senior cruises, and incontinence pads , or are just MIA from marketing messaging altogether.
The Last F*ckable Day sketch (warning : colourful language) is a frank and funny take on sexism and ageing in Hollywood.
Case in point : Sally Field played Tom Hank's love interest in Punchline.
Only six years later she played his mother in Forrest Gump. WTAF?
In fact , most women in Hollywood are too old to be the leading man's on screen love interest because as we know, all wives, partners, girlfriends are under 30. All the time.
And think of poor Scarlett who has to get it on with old blokes to pull the big bucks.
But (spoiler alert) women over 40 actually exist. Fun fact : there are 2.4 million women aged 45-60 living in Australia. And they represent a large spending force that marketers ignore at their peril.
It is Cindy Gallop (The Michael Bay of business. She likes to blow shit up) who often reminds us :
"There is a f*ckton of money to be made out of taking older women in menopause seriously, in all sorts of contexts beyond medications and hormone therapy treatment.
That’s the huge trick the industry is missing. "
Fortunately, there are some who have looked up from their phones and detected the invisible women. Here are some great examples of the few brave souls who have gone to 'the dark side' with their insights, tech, innovation and creativity.
Icon know that 1 in 3 women leak a bit, and that it takes 7 years for them to bring this up with their doctor. It’s more prevalent in the years after childbirth and Icon have a mission to address the stigma and create a safer space for women to talk about pelvic health.
They 100% kept it real in their 2017 Piss Off campaign where they showcased their pee proof underwear with a trio of 'unruly women with unruly bodies'.
Look On The Light Side
In 2018, Mars UK aimed to tackle the inequality of gender representation in advertising. They wanted to "tell the stories of women often not heard," said Michele Oliver, the vice-president of marketing for Mars UK.
"It’s not just gender, it’s the intersectionality of it. We’re looking to tell stories of older women, women of colour, gay women, single mothers," Oliver explained. "Not only are women not seen in advertising, but the roles they play and types of women we do see are very narrow."
The Maltesers TVC addresses this problem with a "lightness of touch" , some good humour and deliberately avoiding the activist space.
This Isn't Your Mother's Menopause
Whilst there is no shortage of fem tech in the health space for fertility, menstruation and women's well being, menopause chit chat is pretty much off the radar.
Jill Angelo, CEO of Genneve, launched the first online clinic in the US for menopausal women. In addition to normalising discussion of the menopause, she hopes Genneve’s design and tone of voice can help change attitudes.
"The more I learn about menopause, the more bullish I am in making it something that every woman has control over — in terms of understanding what’s going on in her body and what to do about it,” Jill says.
Just as well. Look what happened when I began to google menopause :
Me No Pause
The UK's leading health retailer Holland and Barrett launched a range of print and TV ads that focus on the challenges women face during the menopause, including the loss of femininity, identity and self. It showcases women asserting their identity and purpose despite these obstacles. The appeal is in the authenticity of the women, their thoughts and activities.
The Sarah Birthday
A tradition that hails from the Netherlands, is the "Sarah birthday". It's celebrated when a woman turns 50 and becomes a "Sarah." It means that she's old enough and wise enough to have "seen Sarah," the biblical figure and wife of Abraham.
One of the best-known and visible parts of a Sarah birthday is placing a life-sized doll in the front yard of the person who's turning 50. It often appears overnight and is dressed and decorated by her family to represent her life and interests. Sounds ace.
But really, there is something in that.
Business ( not just the meds & HRT game) must strategically acknowledge the wisdom of the mature woman, take her damn seriously, ask about her needs and prove to her you can meet them. Be real, bold and empowering whilst you do it. Ditch the stereotypes and bullshit platitudes.
And I guarantee she will thank you.