my occasional musings on life, love, art, perfume ... what else is there?

10.08.2005

Ageism

There was a discussion in one of my classes last week on the various stereotypes that can affect a just legal outcome.

Income level, social class, race, disability, sex and sexual preference ... and age.

I am increasingly aware of my age ... and just got pricked with it again as I cruised a message board that I frequent. There are so many conscious and unconscious references to age in that ongoing discussion of fragrance, beauty, fashion ... often disparaging.

And I find myself getting angry when I feel that age has been singled out as a negative. Invariably the individuals who make the disparaging age references are the ones whose intellectual shortcomings I fight back the urge to remark on -- or their shallow political views -- or their obvious "I define myself by the man I managed to catch and isn't my lipgloss stunning?" frame of mind. Too bad they don't demonstrate the same self-discipline in their remarks.

I think you can tell I'm pissed. But why? Why should I care what some insensitive, not too bright, not too emotionally developed twit thinks about middle-aged women? (And it's especially ironic when I further assess the twit: I'm pretty sure she's not too far away from the age range under discussion.)

I'm pissed because this type of disparagement of a group, the stereotyping of a population segment, IS unjust. It's limiting and it can lead to limiting of opportunities.

A wise man once told me all anger is rooted in fear ... and I am afraid. Not of being old, but of being kept from opportunities because of stereotypes surrounding age.

I read this to Jim and he said, "Sadly, women who react that way to age, who feel that it is diminishing, will have the most to lose as they age. But your response demonstrates you're buying into the argument to some extent."

And he's right. I need to not care. I need to laugh at the stupidity. And keep living my life as fully, as vibrantly, as richly as I am right now.

Stereotypes be damned.

17 Comments:

Blogger still life said...

Sometimes when I'm out with an aide or a friend, people will talk over my head to them asking questions about me.

ie. Bus drivers who say... "do you know what stopped she wants to get off on?"
And then I say... "SHE, wants to get off on 100th"

7:18 PM

 
Blogger Bela said...

There's a programme on BBC Radio 4 entitled Does He Take Sugar? about disability. I've had experience of people talking over my head too, because I was a woman... and older. It's horrible. I kept quiet. Next time it happens I will make such a fuss!!!!

8:35 PM

 
Blogger Kyahgirl said...

Hey M, I have a few things to say about this post. First off, Great post!
Second, your Jim is so smart its scary,
Third, I have met you in person, hugged you, (sniffed you) :-), and taken your measure, both on line and in real life. You are the farthest thing from an 'aging' woman that I can imagine. You are sharp, intelligent, funny, insightful, wise, and ( I know looks shouldn't matter ) but, cute as a button!
So, fourth, when people start ruffling you with these age comments you must really just blow it off. Imagine being so dull witted and short sighted to think that way! Be grateful for your sense and wisdom.

xoxo
L

9:39 PM

 
Blogger Tom & Icy said...

Seems to raise the classic question "To be or not to be", suffer or take command of your life. There are too many that accept the stereotypes and become them, thus perpetuating the myths. I like your attitude much better.

10:00 PM

 
Blogger AP3 said...

:-(

Yeah, I don't blame you for feeling angry.

I love the Joan of Arc.

10:38 PM

 
Blogger Lulu said...

There is one thing that is for certain: the young women disparaging age are going to get older too, sooner than they think. And here's a thing - they are going to mind it SO MUCH MORE THAN YOU DO! Now doesn't that make you feel better?

4:53 AM

 
Blogger actonbell said...

I'm with lulu! And I've been angry, too. When it's YOUNG women making catty or disparaging remarks, you can just think: tick,tock, baby! The last time I got miffed about this subject was when I saw remarks in the fashion section of the newspaper, naming OLDER actresses who "dress too young," i.e., show too much skin, wear figure-hugging clothes. The women they were criticizing were in excellent shape, btw. Grrr

2:36 PM

 
Blogger katiedid said...

I think you're right, anger can be rooted in fear. I also notice in myself that it's sometimes rooted in hurt, too.

And I wonder if that doesn't manifest itself inversely, too. Off-hand cruelty to other human beings seems like disguised fear, and maybe it's really them being angry with themselves for accepting a notion that what they look like is the sum total of who they are. Or them trying to deflect some secret hurt from our culture's promotion of the notion that there is some magically correct way to be a woman. Or, like me, sometimes they just don't fully think things through first. It's a bad habit (to say the least) and one I find that I only slowly grow out of in spurts. Maybe that's what the best thing about growing older and up is. You gain patience. Patience with your body; patience with other folks, and their bodies, too; patience with the idea that time is passing and it can't be controlled. I don't think it's about not caring that will help, though. I think it IS that you care, but you don't react to them with anger or vitriol. It's that *you* care enough to react with slow steady patience. That's a gift from you to others (maybe they just don't realize it), and a gift to yourself perhaps. I don't think it's wrong to care about how we treat one another on a societal level.

I sometimes am scared by the fact that in this day and age there are still women who identify more closely as being so-and-so's wife or mother than with being THEMSELVES. It comes as a bit of a shock to me, which I guess is a little naive of me. I can't imagine how hard it must be for them to make themselves feel special when they tie their identity down to that of other people. I think sometimes the -isms come out of them, because it's just another way for them to define themselves by other people. Again. Just to a broader, more generalized, degree.

3:59 PM

 
Anonymous janey said...

Now this really hit home. I bought a magazine that had an article about "emerging artists". It was the rest of the title that angered me "under thirty". Gezzzzz. I'm not sure I'm emerging yet but I do know that 30 is just a memory. I'm always buying art magazines and they all spotlight either established older artists or emerging younger artists - no in between, as if art is only for the very young. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, that's the way it is in the commercial world.

I was having lunch with a few people at work and we were talking about parents aging and I mentioned my age. One young thing turned to me and said "I didn't know you were that old". I said "I didn't know you were that stupid". I felt alot better.

5:37 PM

 
Blogger mireille said...

go Janey. go Janey. xoxo

5:39 PM

 
Blogger Tom & Icy said...

Joan of Arc had a good tailor

6:44 PM

 
Blogger mireille said...

she DID. excellent metalwork. xoxo

7:03 PM

 
Blogger Ariella said...

Sic 'em, old age and treachery have my money every time!

I think women like fine wine and cheese improve with age. Only the foolish prefer Velveeta cheese and Boone Farm.

Word veri-
gumwekr
is that like an iron worker, but with bubblegum.

7:33 PM

 
Blogger Lulu said...

Remember the line in Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe? Two girls in supermarket car park steal older woman's space (it's the wonderful Kathy Bates). She protests. They say, 'Face it, lady, we're younger and faster.' They head off and she revs up and crashes her SUV into their spotless soft top sports car, over and over. They come running back in horror, and she smiles wickedly and says, 'Face it, girls, I'm older and I've got more insurance.'

4:45 AM

 
Blogger katiedid said...

Hee janey - I could never be that quick minded. Excellent comeback :)

12:24 PM

 
Blogger Urban Chick said...

screw 'em, i say

i think life just gets better as you get older and as you have demonstrated, whilst these stoopid folk still niggle at you occasionally, if you are at ease with yourself, you can brush 'em off a lot quicker than you would have as an angsty teenager or even 20/30-something

your jim is a wise man

((hugs)) from cold and drizzly edinburgh...

UC
x

4:59 AM

 
Blogger Kate said...

Ok, what Katiedid said: that was just amazing.

You know what gets me? When women my age or older make comments about how they never want to get old and they will be sporting tatoos and peircings and partying with kids way younger than them into old age. They won't give up stilletto heels or fighting their bodies to stay terribly terribly thin. I don't really mind if people really want to do this, but somehow it smacks of desperation, it seems sad.

I enjoy middle age. I look forward to being older, wiser and (as Katiedid said) more patient. I will not have the same vitality. I won't look as cute as I once did. I will prob gain more weight, I will have some gray hairs. And guess what? That's life. I'm not one to "rage rage against the dying of the light". I accept that at the end of life is death, and as we get closer, we don't have all the energy and good looks we once had. It's ok with me.

I was HOT when I was young, so hot I had a slew of men (and women) panting over me. I had daily deliveries of flowers and partys of hundreds. That was fun and I'm glad I did it. But thank God, that's over. :-)

I look forward to being a grandmother, knitting, taking walks in the woods and having a little wisdom to pass on.

And guess what? Fat middle aged people with gray hair, wrinkles or bald heads still get laid. :-) You don't have to be an emaciated 16 year old supermodel to enjoy sex or enjoy life. It's ok to relax at some point and be who we are. Isn't it a relief?

8:14 AM

 

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