It’s no secret that women are judged for what they wear. And as women get older, the “rules” seem to become ever more stringent. Women are expected to “act their age” and adhere to a milder, primmer aesthetic—it’s ageism at its worst.
But Rachel Peru is not having it. The model, influencer, and podcast host recently shared an Instagram post featuring a video for which she received some pretty nasty responses. And she’s a model of how to respond when comments get ugly.
In the post, she played a reel she had previously posted on Facebook in which she shared her outfit for going out on a Friday night. She looked fabulous in a longline bralette underneath a black velvet blazer, pants from Zara, and Karen Millen nude pumps.
When she posted the outfit video online, she received hundreds of negative, ageist comments including some real gems: ”Don’t like the bra look for her age,” followed by, “Will someone give Nan her medication, she’s playing dress up again.” And of course the favorite of age-shamers, “[She’s] too old for this outfit.”
It’s awful when those sorts of comments come from men, but it’s not particularly unexpected. What really bothered Peru was that most of the negative comments on Facebook seemed to come from other women.
“I’m thick-skinned, and I certainly don’t get dressed in the morning to please others,” she said. But she asked that women stop shaming other women. “Women do not have to conform to any dress code because of their age, and we shouldn’t let other women stigmatize or shame us because we want to dress in a different way.”
Perhaps Peru shouldn’t have been so surprised by her fellow female shamers. Dr. Joyce Benenson, a lecturer in human evolutionary biology at Harvard University has studied competition and judgment among women for more than three decades, and her studies show that women are hard-wired for this behavior.
“Within the female community, girls reduce competition by demanding equality and punishing those who openly attempt to attain more than others,” Benenson wrote in a 2013 study published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Sounds a bit like the plot of Mean Girls, doesn’t it?
But just because we may be predisposed to mean-girl ways doesn’t mean we can’t take a step back, think before we act (or comment), and over time change our behavior. Several kind commenters on Peru’s post proved it’s possible.
One commenter said, “Stunning outfit. Rachel you look amazing.” While another simply said, “Wow, you look fab.”
Peru suggested we go into the new year being a little bit kinder to one another. And when the judgers inevitably judge, she encouraged her followers to not let our age, or other’s opinions, hold us back.