In today's youth-obsessed culture, older adults are devalued and later life is assumed to be a time of dependence, senility, loss of physical attractiveness, asexuality, impotence, and unhappiness (Nelson, 2002; Palmore, 1999). Although a large body of research has examined older women's body image and subjective experiences of having an aging body (Hurd Clarke, 2002; 2002b; 2010; Hurd Clarke & Griffin, 2007; 2008), older lesbian women have been described as being 'triply invisible' (Barker, 2004) in the socio-cultural literature. The purpose of my research is to therefore investigate how older lesbian women perceive, experience, and embody or resist ageist beauty ideals that privilege young, thin, and toned bodies as markers of feminine attractiveness.
What do you hope to accomplish with your research?
The purpose is to highlight the complexities and tensions in older lesbians' experiences of aging and having old bodies in an ageist and heteronormative society. This research will extend our current understanding of older lesbian women's embodied experiences and how they intersect with sexual identity and feminine beauty ideals.
What has winning a major award meant to you?
This award will allow me to build my program of research by affording me the opportunity to study in a research-focused environment with excellent mentorship and guidance. Furthermore, I will be able to present the findings from my research at both national and international academic conferences, thus allowing for the dissemination of results and knowledge translation among the broader research community. Lastly, it will allow me to build relationships with other scholars within the field.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
The best part about graduate life has been the opportunity to study within a city with cultural diversity which has afforded me opportunities to build relationships with individuals of diverse backgrounds and interests. The most exciting part about living in Vancouver has been the access to the ocean and the mountains, and also having the opportunity to partake in activities outdoors year round - the cold and snow were not always pleasant when growing up in New Brunswick!
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
UBC will afford me with important mentorship opportunities, as well as with the training and knowledge to further build my program of research. Dr. Laura Hurd Clarke will supervise my doctoral work and her expertise in the sociology of aging and the body, as well as in qualitative, feminist methodology will prove instrumental to my success in my graduate studies.
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
If you can, try to talk to as many people as possible when you first get here - especially fellow graduate students. Ask them to show you the ropes! It makes the transition to graduate school much easier, and will help you integrate within the culture. Never be scared to ask questions – everyone was new to UBC at one point!