Category Archives: Aging

Community Comment: Cussing Out And Forgetting Feminist Foremothers

Editor’s Note: This quote came as a response from Friday’s post about Jezebel and ageism online. Reposted with permission and edits.

Second Wave feminist Flo Kennedy. Image credit: Jo Freeman.

Second Wave feminist Flo Kennedy. Image credit: Jo Freeman.

“Well, the worst sign of ageism I noticed was a Jezebel writer forgetting a groundbreaking feminist author in her list of feminist scholars. There was a lively comment [thread] about it. To add insult to injury a young feminist came on and attacked the author herself for complaining about it (and hijacked the [thread] and promoted herself)! I see it also in commentaries that talk about the racist founding of Second Wave feminism, all the while completely ignoring the older women of color who were there. (I forget the waves maybe because I’m squeezed between them.) I think that upsets me the most. I welcome the discussion about race and feminism , but please let’s not add to the problem by ignoring the older women of color. I”ll start by naming Flo Kennedy. Or Faye Wattleton who is still here. Of course, we all know Loretta Ross, but I have yet to see her on The Rachel Maddow Show.

“We all felt the ageism too in the performance we did two weeks ago: “Between the Door and the Street.” Ironically, it was started by an older feminist but staffed by young interns, [sic] who, by the way, were paid.

“I’m glad we are bringing up younger women, but we need to take care of ourselves first, I think.

“P.S. I hate the Cialis adds but that has nothing to do with age. Why can’t birth control advertise? I think we all know the answer to that.”

~~Reynolds N. Art, artist

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MILFs, Perimenopause, And Silence: Jezebel Shows Its Ageism—And Ableism And Sexism–By Mocking The Cialis Ads

By Andrea Plaid

Cialis Is Here

Can I say that the more I deal with the rest of the ‘net, the happier I am that Tami and I started Squeezed Between Feminisms?

Two of the latest ageist microaggressions:

An online friend posted a great photo of actor Bill Murray dressed up as Jimi Hendrix sans blackface, which seems to be the new way to express how post-racial we are in the US. (/sarcasm). My online friend, a Black woman wrote: “Bill Murray slayed without a lick of blackface. [T]ake note, [W]hite people.”

A Black guy of indeterminate age posts: “lol, Bill Murray looks 138 years old.”

I replied: “Maybe his age gave him some wisdom to not do blackface, unlike the relative many 20-something and 30-something white kids who are?”

His response: “Co-sign with the above statement.”

Of course he does.

The second? From Jezebel–of course.

While founder Anna Holmes is on tour promoting The Book of Jezebel and some broadcast-media types are trumpeting the tome as, in so many words, online feminism writ in ink—even as some folks question whether the site itself is relevant as a feminist site anymore—some writer on the site had the mind to show how Jezebel stays losing that cache by going for cheap ageist, ableist, and sexist laughs over the Cialis ads.

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The Disturbing Sexist Ageism of American Horror Story

It is hard to choose just one thing that is problematic about FX’s American Horror Story. It is the guiltiest of pleasures. The first two seasons of the mini-series were captivating, cringe-inducing, camp celebrations of the art of horror storytelling, complete with cribbed soundtracks from films like The Exorcist and featuring an immensely talented cast: Denis O’Hare, Zachary Quinto, and Jessica Lange(!), gnawing scenery like starved theater mice. American Horror Story also heavily exploited racism, sexism, violence against women, sexual violence, homophobia and ableism.

The show’s latest incarnation, American Horror Story: Coven, is no different. It is set in a secret New Orleans school for young witches, run by a headmistress who wants to help her charges harness their powers for good, in opposition to her more powerful nemesis (and mother), who just wants to wreck shit. It’s like X-Men with Spanish moss, crawfish, and three of Hollywood’s best actresses who no longer get roles because they are older than the internet. In addition to Lange, the show includes Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett in key roles.

Perhaps you are expecting, since the history of witch hunts in America is intertwined with the history of women’s oppression or since Coven showrunners clearly recognize the value of three great under-used actresses of a certain age, that this season of American Horror Story would present a tale about women that is less reductive and trite than the usual. You might think, like a person in the clip above, that it would celebrate women.

You clearly don’t know Ryan Murphy (showrunner; see also: Glee and Nip/Tuck).

What would make an all-powerful witch dig up the zombified body of a 19th-century serial killer? What would make a wealthy woman set up an attic torture chamber to perform horrific experiments and concoct a special pancreas-based elixir? If said witch or woman is of middle age, then it must be a desire for the sweet beauty and desirability of youth. American Horror Story: Coven offers up the all-too-typical message that a young woman is always more desirable than an older one and that the saddest and most disturbed of hags can’t deal with the fact that their looks and sexual currency are necessarily fading.

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Too Old For The Freelance Economy Fairy Tale

By Andrea Plaid

Image via virtuemarttemplates.org

Image via virtuemarttemplates.org

I’m tapping out of the full-time freelancing writing life. I don’t have the constitution for it.

Or maybe there isn’t a constitution—a binding structure or a shape—to sustain this life for me…and others who leave the profession.

Of course, we’re warned that the full-on freelance writing life would be very hard, to be prepared for “feast or famine” cycles by having so much money to cushion you, to buy things in bulk during the flush times in order to survive the fasting ones when our pitches for blog posts/magazine articles/ news stories aren’t accepted or the check doesn’t arrive on time, if at all.

But what these warnings don’t tell you about is, to really maintain a certain quality of freelancing writing life over time—to be able to pay for a mortgage or rent, food, transportation, clothing, utilities (including phone and some sort of internet access), and some “pocket money” in order to attend those networking events to buy drinks—one also needs to what I call an “invisible income structure.” SBF homie Deanna Zandt touches on this at Forbes, but what this entails is having a financial safety net in place that bolsters the freelancer’s income, such as a steady-paying gig, having roommates, having a partner who works a steady-income job, living on public assistance (from unemployment to food stamps), living off parental support or an inheritance (be it money, property, etc.), student loans, living in a geographically inexpensive place, and/or some other break with expenses or monetary supplement.

Without that structure, how many freelancers are really “making it”—meaning that they’re able to not only pay for the basics, including the aforementioned “pocket money”, but are able to live a comfortable  middle-class or upper middle-class life strictly on their earnings, when the market is demanding more from writers for less (and by less, I mean “free”) or, at least, six bottles of wine? Especially in a metropolitan place like New York City, which still is seen as the literary/artistic nexus of the US and still the most expensive city in the nation?

And this life isn’t relegated to New York writers, the usually middle-class US-educated–though so many are still, monetarily speaking, the working poor–creative class and the working-class day laborers, some of whom are undocumented immigrants. In fact, this freelancing life is the reality of US working life. What actors and writers and fine artists have been told (and frankly, we tell each other) is our lot—under the romantic myth of The Starving Artist for —has now metastasized. The economic uncertainty that undergirds the Starving Artist Myth crept into corporate and non-profit “office culture,” with the rise (and rising acceptance) of the temp worker. It also inhabits academia, with the increasing dependence on adjunct faculty. Unlike adjunct professors and artists, the temp jobs held at one point held out the promise of full-time work, if not a 40-hour work week for a certain period of time—which some companies took advantage of—then going from a “temp-to-perm” position in a company, complete with medical and other benefits for one’s self and one’s family (depending on the structure of the family) when hired. With that acquired full-time job—as so many others presumably have in the company—one could build a life, like a home.

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The Space Between

By Guest Contributor Aimee Thorne-Thomsen

Feminist buttons

I turned forty earlier this year. Unlike some of my friends and colleagues, I looked forward to entering middle-age. In fact, to celebrate the big event, I went on a two-week vacation to Italy and Spain with my nearest and dearest. What an amazing affirmation of life and love! It was the perfect way to launch the next decade of my life.

All that’s to say that I am really comfortable with who I am at forty. I’ve worked hard on myself and continue to take the time to reflect on myself and identify areas that I want to address. I have earned every gray hair in my curly mop of hair, and I have also earned every extra pound. (That’s one of those things I’m working on, btw). And despite the fact that lots of people try to convince me that I am not middle-aged or console me about middle-aged, (which I’m okay with, really,) I’m in a good place in my life.

But I’m also in a weird place. Because in addition to being middle-aged in my personal life, I’m also middle-aged in my movement life.

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MILFs, Perimenopause, And Silence: Miley’s Ageism And 40-Something Sex

Tami: So, Miley Cyrus thinks people over 40 don’t have sex…from the video, I suspect Miley may simply be taking the piss out of the olds–the ones she imagines have been clutching their pearls over her twerking skillz. I’m not sure she really believes what she’s saying. Whatever Miss Miley believes, the notion that sexuality ends at 40 is prevalent in our society and I knew we had to tackle it.

And before we get started, we should acknowledge that we are approaching this issue from the perspective of cisgender, straight women. I would like to hear more views in the comments and on Facebook.

Andrea: ::files nails:: I think because I’ve had a variation of such ageist dismissiveness directed at me from someone about her age–a young gay Black man–I wouldn’t be surprised if she meant every word of it, as pissy as it is. My point is that this kind of thinking isn’t confined to 20-something white women who are former Disney stars.

Hey, Deanna Zandt! Welcome to our freewheeling SBF chat! You know the topic. Go for it.

Deanna: Whee! Thanks for having me.

Tami: Andrea, when we spoke on Facebook, you mentioned the idea of “parent revulsion”–that’s it’s hard for young people to think of people their parents’ age as being sexual. I agree. Miley Cyrus is 20 years old. Often, at that age, quite a few people still haven’t begun seeing their parents, or people like them, as fully actualized human beings. Part of that evolution comes with getting into the workplace and spending days alongside people of various ages. But Cyrus’ “workplace” is awfully youth-oriented.

Andrea: But I think that her workplace is a distillation of this society’s fantasies and sometimes attendant morality plays.

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MILFs, Perimenopause, And Silence: Forever Young, Forever Fertile

*Editor’s Note: This post is part of SBF’s first weekly series, “MILFs, Perimenopause, and Silence,” about how media do–and don’t–talk about people, specifically female-identified folks, in our 40s and 50s in terms of sexual and reproductive health.]

Salma Hayek, who is  47.

Salma Hayek, who is 47.

It used to be that reaching middle age meant being viewed as disposable and irrelevant–especially for cisgender women. But 40 isn’t what it used to be. Even the big 5-0 has an appeal it didn’t just two decades ago, when Molly Shannon’s character, Sally O’Malley, drew laughs on Saturday Night Live for being so damned exuberant about being active and an “old”. But no one is laughing at 44-year-old Jennifer Aniston, 47-year-old, Halle Berry, 47-year-old Salma Hayek, or 55-year-old Angela Bassett. They are viewed as attractive and vibrant women. If not young, at least not old. In fact, in a recent Harris Poll, Americans said they would rather live in good health at 50 than any other age.

Thank the Baby Boomers, who once didn’t trust anyone over 30, we can all be younger longer. But there is a trade off for holding on to our youth: silence about the changes human bodies–even the still acceptably firm and sexy ones–go through with age. Based on celebrity culture, for cisgender women (because the myth excludes other female-identified people) that means maintaining the illusion of fertility.

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