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Midlife CrisisThe Feminist Origins of a Chauvinist Cliché$
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Susanne Schmidt

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226686851

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226686998.001.0001

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(p.176) 7 Oldness
Midlife Crisis

Susanne Schmidt

University of Chicago Press

What is the meaning of the surprising origin story of the midlife crisis? Reflecting on the history of the midlife crisis in light of ongoing debates about the cost of living for women and men, the final chapter points to the relevance of female and feminist discourses about aging and the life-course. Feminist conceptions of “midlife crisis” continue to exist, although the term is rarely used. The idea of changing your life midway through is central in the work of theorist Sara Ahmed, and middle age also remains prominent in the debate about gender and careers, where a new “midlife crisis at 30” describes women’s anxiety about integrating work and family lives. However, as Sheila Heti points out, time and aging often liberate from the strain of making a decision and can bring relief for women who are faced with the choice of motherhood. By illuminating critical attitudes and alternative conceptions of the meaning of life, the story of the midlife crisis makes visible the legacy of feminist thought and practice. This makes it important to better comprehend who suppressed it and how, while also encouraging a fuller engagement with feminist pasts as a starting point for new visions today.

Keywords:   double standard of aging, Sara Ahmed, gender and science, Sheila Heti, intergenerational feminism, feminist expertise, midlife crisis at 30, Sheryl Sandberg, Anne-Marie Slaughter, U-curve of happiness

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