Feminist Bloggers Need to Be More Inclusive of Older Women

Editor’s Update: If anyone has any suggested topics for people to write about, please add them to the comments section.

One of the biggest biases I see reflected in the blogosphere is age bias. The blogosphere seems incredibly young at times. I notice the youngness of feminist blogs in particular—it seems like issues affecting older women are routinely ignored. In fact, I was inspired by this post over at Heart’s blog. She had several pictures of second wave feminists, and when I read it, I wondered how many of the women in these pictures are active in the blogosphere. Then, I wondered about the women one generation older than second wave feminists. I asked myself, how many of them are active in the blogosphere. I know these women are out there, but it seems to me that their views and experiences are marginalized on most feminist blogs. It seems to me that younger women like myself have a lot to learn from our older sisters; moreover, I think we can all benefit by focusing on issues that affect women through out the life course.Often feminists in my age group talk about issues like abortion, body image, marriage, child rearing, and birth control, focusing on how they affect women in their teen, 20s, and 30s. I suppose several of these issues are faced by women of all ages, but what we often fail to do is theorize about how these issues manifest themselves across the life course. Take this issue of work place discrimination; does work place discrimination affect older women in different ways than younger women?? I think so. One of the best examples is women being fired for aging. This problem is particularly acute at the television news anchor’s desk. Connecticut news anchor Janet Peckinpaugh (who was only 44) was fired as a news anchor. She subsequently won a multimillion dollar settlement in the case. However, what the CNN article on Peckinpaugh does not let you know is that CNN is also embroiled in their own age/gender discrimination suit. (You can read more here.).When men like Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, and many others get anchor positions well into their older years, many in the industry think women are washed up at 40. In my view, this is just one example of an area that we need to expand on in feminist blogs.

Of course, one of the primary reasons that older women are left out of the blogosphere is related to technology access and mastery. Younger people like myself have been using computers since childhood, but the internet seems daunting to some older women who have less experience with computers. I know there are older women participating in the discussions, but it would be nice to see more older women, especially women in their 60s and older, maintaining their own blogs.

So what issues would be discussed differently (or discussed more often) if older women had more say in the blogoshpere? I think there are several important issues facing older women that feminists bloggers should take up more actively. A few that come immediately to my mind are–the social security crisis, life after widowhood, the erosion of anti-poverty programs, gender/age discrimination and bias in the health care system, and grandmothers raising their grandchildren. In order to promote some of the issues that older women are dealing with I am asking other feminist bloggers to post at least one post within the next week (not matter how brief) on some of the issues facing older women. I will be choosing one of the subjects mentioned above, and I will post on it later in the week. If you would like to participate in this project, feel free to use the comments section below to put up a link to your post. I’ll be back later in the week with my post.

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47 Responses to Feminist Bloggers Need to Be More Inclusive of Older Women

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  9. 9
    Vibrating Liz says:

    Thanks so much for this! I think it’s a great idea. I was young but already active in the feminist movement back during the Second Wave; I can remember all too well life before Roe v Wade, before TitleIX, before there was even Ms. Magazine, not to mention personal computers, 1200 baud modems, or Usenet.

    One thing I notice about the young bloggers today is that so many seem to be unaware that they’re rehashing the exact same intramural controversies we banged our heads against with so much zeal and enthusiasm 35 years ago, to little avail. Myself, I just can’t seem to get it up again to dive back into all the, “Can a feminist wear lipstick, shave her legs, participate in capitalism, have sex with men, breed, give blow jobs, whatever, and still call herself a feminist?” thrashes. Been there, done that, way too weary for the deja vu.

    I’ll see if I can put something together for this project this week, maybe something about how aging and failing health affect body image. Again, thanks.

  10. I think this is a great idea. I am not sure quite what to write but I will see what I can do.

  11. 11
    Rachel S. says:

    Liz, that’s a good point. I think that second pargraph is a post in and of itself, but I also like your second idea because so often body image is treated as a young women’s issue.

    Happy, feel free to copy any of the issues from above. I’m going to the grandmothers raising grandchildren topic.

  12. 12
    Antigone says:

    I think part of the problem is experience. I mean, yes, I think it is sexism and important to say that it’s wrong to fire women for aging (does no one have respect for experience? Being an anchor is more than looking pretty) but I can’t really relate that much: I’m still in the age where no one takes me seriously because I’m too young (pretty little thing was a common comment when I was waitressing).

    Older feminists can look back and say “yeah that sucked, I’ve been there”. But I can’t really understand what it’s like for older feminists: I have no experience to compare it to. And since the blogsphere tends to be very naval-gazing, we lack the older persepective.

  13. 13
    Steve says:

    Ok here is a male perspective … why are we having to rehash the old issues. where did it fail. What allowed the old issues to continue to be problems.

    Lets discuss

    1. Feminist.
    - Is not determined by appearance.
    - Is not defined by words she does or does not use
    - Is not determined by political affiliation.

    2. Workplace
    - Many but not all issues resolved (some by just giving up and saying “what the hell”)
    -Feminism like union labor issues needs to move beyond confrontational into inside the establishment work lik eencouraging more female business owners politicians and executives

    3. Inside the home
    - Almost no progress
    - Still fear of women seeing themselves as dominating. If you are a dominant personality find your compliment. stop tryiong to be something you are not.
    - Myth of perfect 50/50 marriage is still clung to. ( No relationship will EVER be perfectly 50/50. Lead, follow or put up with confusion and seeming pointless bickering).
    - Failure of inside the home culture to keep up with progress of workplace culture.

    That is my take. challenge or contrast or request clarification as you wish

  14. 14
    Abyss2hope says:

    By the stories I’ve shared about my history, people have likely figured out that I’m not a young blogger, but I’m not sure I have age-specific issues. What I do have, thankfully, is some distance from some of the worst, most stressful moments in my life. I also know enough now to laugh at many assumptions I made about older women when I was younger.

    There are many divisive issues that would be less divisive if we have the ability to go beyond the surface issues. And that’s where my age has helped, I’ve gained depth as well as years.

    Because I remember times when now-rejected damaging attitudes about women were considered the norm and objections to those attitudes were considered radical or anti-female, I am keenly aware of attempts to turn back the clock to those good old days.

  15. 15
    Heart says:

    Hey, Rachel, thanks for the link and the post. I wrote an article to my site (as opposed to my boards) called “The Politics of Erasure” which is about the erasure of Second Wave and older feminists. It’s the very first article on this page meaning you have to scroll down to the very bottom of the page. I think it’s an interesting article and I enjoyed writing it and have gotten good responses.

    My immediate reactions (as opposed to carefully crafted responses :)) to your post are:

    (1) Older women actually are in the blogosphere and are on the internet in large numbers but they are pretty much on the downlow. Quite a few women in their late 50s to early 60s post to my blog and boards, actually– it’s just that you wouldn’t know their ages unless you “knew” them, i.e., had become internet friends and/or colleagues. They don’t “sound old.” They and others post “invisibly” all over the place.

    (2) I don’t think mastering technology or being overwhelmed by it are really the issue with older feminists, especially, who aren’t the type to shy away from any sort of challenge or traditionally male endeavor (which the internet has been historically viewed as)– I think this is first a class issue. Large numbers of older feminists, I would say by far the majority, are not heterosexually married or otherwise partnered, are lesbians, are single, are low income or in poverty (they are also often disabled or very, very ill). I’ve known some of these older women to post from the library– sometimes having to take several buses across town to do so and then limited as to how much time they can spend by library rules. They can’t afford a computer, can’t afford an internet connection, can’t afford internet cafes or Kinko’s, can’t afford carfare, busfare, and they sure can’t keep up with blogging and discussions if they can only get to the library an hour or two a week. :/

    (3) Another reason some older feminists are not on the internet has to do with their own feminist or professional convictions– they view the internet itself as patriarchal, as likely to erode, compromise or dumb-down feminism itself and feminist community and relationships. Other older feminists view the internet as destructive to language, to writing just in general, and to the world of books, magazines, and publishing in particular.

    (4) Older feminists are resented for all sorts of reasons. This I will save for a post to my blog, I think.

    (5) Liz, while I agree with you totally that the young feminists don’t realize the stuff they’re hashing over is old news, older than the hills, really, the problem is, the stuff you list there is, I think, unresolved old news. It’s true that the topics you list have been beaten to death. What’s also true is that they have severely divided the feminist community, have resulted in the erasure of some amazing feminist voices, and the divisions have existed for decades now. As long as this is true, deja vu or no, the issues you list there will continue to be issues.

    Interesting to think about, Rachel– thanks!

    Heart

  16. 16
    EL says:

    One thing I notice about the young bloggers today is that so many seem to be unaware that they’re rehashing the exact same intramural controversies we banged our heads against with so much zeal and enthusiasm 35 years ago, to little avail. Myself, I just can’t seem to get it up again to dive back into all the, “Can a feminist wear lipstick, shave her legs, participate in capitalism, have sex with men, breed, give blow jobs, whatever, and still call herself a feminist?” thrashes. Been there, done that, way too weary for the deja vu.

    Maybe it’s not that we’re “unaware” but that these issues WEREN’T SOLVED.

  17. 17
    Rachel S. says:

    Marcella said, “And that’s where my age has helped, I’ve gained depth as well as years.”
    First, let me say I had no idea what your age was, but from the posts I read I assumed you were my age. LOL!! I’m sure my own biases are creeping in there.

    Heart said, “Older women actually are in the blogosphere and are on the internet in large numbers but they are pretty much on the downlow.”
    You know as I was writing this. I was wondering how many 50+ women are going to read this and say “I’m here,” but you didn’t know it. I’m sure you know more about this than I do, but I have that same sense.

    Heart said, “I don’t think mastering technology or being overwhelmed by it are really the issue with older feminists………….. Large numbers of older feminists, I would say by far the majority, are not heterosexually married or otherwise partnered, are lesbians, are single, are low income or in poverty (they are also often disabled or very, very ill). I’ve known some of these older women to post from the library– sometimes having to take several buses across town to do so and then limited as to how much time they can spend by library rules. They can’t afford a computer, can’t afford an internet connection, can’t afford internet cafes or Kinko’s, can’t afford carfare, busfare, and they sure can’t keep up with blogging and discussions if they can only get to the library an hour or two a week.”

    Yes, the money issue is huge. Many older women are struggling financially. In fact, that part of the reason the erosion of pensions and social security is such an important feminist issue. I often wonder about ways to create communities of these older women (kinda like the Golden Girls, for lack of a better example).

    Heart said, “Another reason some older feminists are not on the internet has to do with their own feminist or professional convictions….”
    Can you lead me to some of those women or their writings? I’m interested in the subject matter.

    Now, I need to go over and read the post.

  18. 18
    Abyss2hope says:

    After I said I don’t have any age-specific issues, I realized that couldn’t be completely true or I wouldn’t hesitate to say that I’m 47. I remember when I thought that was ancient and meant that the person couldn’t possibly understand current issues.

  19. 19
    Rachel S. says:

    EL, I agree with you and Heart that these issues are unresolved, but I do worry that in some cases these issues are treated like they are some new discovery, which I think is the bigger problem.

    My own sense is that in general (I’m not talking about everybody, but probably the majority.) is that the feminist movement has exactly the opposite problem as the African American Civil Rights movement. I’m involved in both movements, and in the African American oriented organization and groups I’m involved in there is this sense of reverence for the Civil Rights heroes and “glorious leaders of the past.” In fact, I kept having to remind my students that my class was African American sociology, not African American history. There is some inter-generational conflict. I have noticed a lot of resentment among younger Civil Rights leaders in my age group because they feel like their time has come and the old heads need to back off a little, but you will always hear the utmost reverence for these old heads.

    The Feminist Movement seems to be exactly the opposite. The mentality is more like the old feminist missed the boat on a lot of issues, so let’s write them out of history and start anew. Of course, I’m exaggerating a little, but I definitely don’t see the reverence for feminist history like I do for civil rights history.

  20. 20
    Broce says:

    GREAT post, Rachel! As one of those older women (I’m in my late 40′s) I can tell you that you’ve hit a nerve, and I’m going to sort of riff off of that.

    A lot of the issues that you mention as important to older women do matter, and not just to us. Those of you who are a generation younger, time goes quickly, and you *WILL* face those same issues soon enough. Some of those issues like how to handle financing your retirement, are things I wish I had given more thought to at your age.

    A comment to El, based on the comment about Vibrating Liz’s post. You say the problem is that we did not “resolve” the issues of things like can you be a feminist and wear lipstick, shave and give blow jobs. What some of us found, El, is that in the grand scheme of things, these are *not* really issues worthy of the amount of ruckus they cause. They are navel gazing which detract energy and focus from issues like rape prevention, equal pay, domestic violence, reproductive rights.

    We talk a lot, in the feminist world, about privilege. I have to tell you that as a woman nearing 50, who remembers not being able to get birth control, being flat out told that I was not being hired because I was female, who dealt with being rape in a time when it was always the girls fault, period end of discussion…when some 20 year old tells me that she does not shave her legs because it is just the *most* courageous thing, and how I cannot possibly be a feminist if I shave mine, my emotional reaction is that she has absolutely no idea how privileged she is *as a woman*, in comparison to those of us a generation or two older.

    As a parent…I try to be patient because a lot of these young women are about the same age as my son, and I see some of their reaction as just how young people are, before time and life season them a bit.

    But El…the feeling I got from your post, and it may be my own reaction coloring things, was a sense of condemnation that those of us from an earlier generation did not fix it *all* for you. We were a little busy marching in the streets, escorting women safely into abortion clinics, breaking glass ceilings in the workplace and at home, etc. You are absolutely right. We did not take on the “lipstick war.” We didn’t have time, and we kind of thought what we *did* accomplish mattered. The feeling I sometimes get from younger feminists is that what we *did* do matters little, because they still feel pressured to wear makeup.

  21. 21
    piny says:

    (1) Older women actually are in the blogosphere and are on the internet in large numbers but they are pretty much on the downlow. Quite a few women in their late 50s to early 60s post to my blog and boards, actually– it’s just that you wouldn’t know their ages unless you “knew” them, i.e., had become internet friends and/or colleagues. They don’t “sound old.” They and others post “invisibly” all over the place.

    I don’t know if I agree with this. I assume that many/even most of the women who post at your board are your age. They talk about their circumstances and history just like you do.

  22. 22
    piny says:

    But El…the feeling I got from your post, and it may be my own reaction coloring things, was a sense of condemnation that those of us from an earlier generation did not fix it *all* for you. We were a little busy marching in the streets, escorting women safely into abortion clinics, breaking glass ceilings in the workplace and at home, etc. You are absolutely right. We did not take on the “lipstick war.” We didn’t have time, and we kind of thought what we *did* accomplish mattered. The feeling I sometimes get from younger feminists is that what we *did* do matters little, because they still feel pressured to wear makeup.

    But EL’s comment was in response to an argument that younger feminists are going back over tilled soil–in other words, having discussions that are unecessary because they are redundant. EL wasn’t saying that you failed, but that discussions between younger feminists about these issues are also valuable, thanks.

  23. 23
    Vibrating Liz says:

    I wasn’t making the argument that younger feminsists are “having discussions that are unecessary because they are redundant.” Certainly, these issues are still unresolved. But how productive is it for each new generation to pour its energy into rehashing, verbatim, the exact same divisive discussions–the very same ones that didn’t get us anywhere thirty years ago, except divided and alienated? The discussions will always be valuable, and adding the perspectives and vitality of younger feminists is good and necessary. But I think we would all benefit from more historical perspective, from paying attention to the lessons we learned the first few hundred times around, instead of each generation starting all over from scratch as if no one had ever thought about this stuff before, and the past had never happened.

  24. 24
    Sheena says:

    Heart:

    “I think this is first a class issue. … They can’t afford a computer, can’t afford an internet connection, can’t afford internet cafes or Kinko’s,”

    I think age does tie into it, because a lot of the younger feminists I’ve known online have been students*, including some from low income / working class families. They thus generally have access to the internet in university/college libraries, even if they’re otherwise broke.

    (* I know that not all students are young, but there is generally a strong correlation.)

  25. 25
    Abyss2hope says:

    Vibrating Liz makes an excellent point at looking at old impasses. It can be easier to appreciate both the strengths and weaknesses of other people’s debates than it can be to do that to a debate you are enmeshed in.

    As I look back at old debates I’ve been involved in, I realize that the problem often wasn’t the people or the positions, but the approach. Debates imply one party is right and the other is wrong. What we should be seeking are insights that can help us see the world from perspectives different than our own.

    Rather than getting locked into yes/no debates or personal attacks when those who call themselves feminists don’t behave as we would behave in their position, we can try to understand the complexities that are as real to those people as the complexities of our lives are to us.

    Some of my old positions and some I still hold onto were motivated by being raped. But because I couldn’t talk about that for years, I would get frustrated and walk away.

    If those who claimed to be on my side attacked me for my choices, I sure as heck wasn’t going to give them more ammunition by telling them my darkest secret. And that’s a loss for all of us far greater than an impasse on whether or not to wear makeup.

  26. 26
    Rachel S. says:

    Sheena, I think your right about that. Both the young and the old disproportionately affect poverty. But I think it is fair to say college students have much greater computer access than older folks.

  27. 27
    Girlistic says:

    What I think is an issue (“an”, as in one of many) is that the second wavers don’t seem to be as vocal as they used to be. Sure, I see Gloria Steinem on The L Word, and there’s always some big names at major marches and political gatherings. But it doesn’t feel like there’s the power behind the voices to reach everyone like there used to be. And there aren’t any “superstar” feminists in the current movement to get everyone on the same page like there were in the 70s.

    Also, to younger women, feminist issues ARE a new discovery. The rose-colored glasses come off and a younger woman sees what’s going on and she thinks, “hey, what the hell??” and she gets passionate about an issue. I don’t see anything wrong with that, except that it takes a little time to get her through the initial reaction and into the mode where she can be productive. I see this all the time with women’s studies majors going through their first year. It’s redundant, but a necessary process.

    I do think that other issues need to be talked about more – issues that affect older women more so than younger women. I think it’s empowering for the women talking, and educational for the women listening. What I think we are all craving is an interconnection that moves us forward, rather than saying “these feminist experiences belong to me, and those feminist experiences belong to you and ne’er the twain shall meet”.

    Well, it’s late, and I’m losing clarity of thought so I’ll wrap up. But I do want to say that I’d love to hear more thoughts on issues that affect various women, includind older women. And I’ll be checking in to see what is addressed here.

    This, coming from a 20-something.

  28. 28
    piny says:

    But I think we would all benefit from more historical perspective, from paying attention to the lessons we learned the first few hundred times around, instead of each generation starting all over from scratch as if no one had ever thought about this stuff before, and the past had never happened.

    I don’t think younger feminists are doing that, by and large. It seems like a lot of them are rather coming to somewhat different conclusions.

  29. 29
    cicely says:

    I turned 52 two days ago. I started interacting on the net about Feb 2005, and still wouldn’t be aware of the existence of the feminist blogosphere if someone hadn’t provided a link to here (Alas) on one of the two message board forums I was participating on. That was only in late November 2005. I work from home and haven’t been out and about a lot in recent years and that may also have contributed to my not being aware of what was out here. Still, I do think that no doubt *most* older women who might like to participate don’t know about any kind of blogosphere even yet. Since it’s getting mentioned in the printed press a bit now, maybe the awareness is about to increase dramatically.

    I wouldn’t know how to measure the participation level of women my age and older, but I can say that I’ve never felt close to alone. I feel the presence of older women even though issues affecting us specifically may not be being discussed very much.

    From the earliest beginnings of my feminist awareness – in the 70′s – I’ve always respected and felt passionately grateful for the thinking and the struggles and the work done by women, on behalf of women, in the past. I bought a copy of Mary Wollstencraft’s “A Vindication of The Rights of Women”, (written in something like 1792 – correct me if I’m wrong) very early in the piece, and I cherish my copy of Dale Spenders book ‘Women of Ideas and What Men Have Done To Them”, for the whole message (how feminists have had to keep re-inventing the wheel because their work has been carefully erased under patriarchy) and for the long list of feminist women and their previously obscured thoughts and achievements. I recommend this book at every opportunity I get. This was another one!

    As to the unresolved issues – lipstick/shaving/sexual desires and practices/who is and who is not a woman/feminist – I guess those are the ones younger feminists might feel most frustrated with older feminists about. I get frustrated about them myself as I’ve been around them for so bloody long, and I have a more liberal than radical view about them. I think of them (rightly or wrongly) as pretty nitpicky, unlikely to *ever* be resolved – i.e. agreed upon – and the bigger issues, ones we *can* agree on, are always way more important and pressing. The state of abortion rights in the US – and the exportation of US style RR values to other countries in the world – for example. Things that very literally and directly impact on women’s life freedoms, choices and opportunities. I don’t enjoy the arguements within feminism about ‘what constitutes choice’ under patriarchy. I think they actually undermine our potential political focus, cohesiveness and power with regard to the bigger issues, but that’s just me. I’m not saying there’s ‘anything’ that is off limits for analysis, but that our sometimes very nasty disagreements around some of these issues take up way too much energy so it can sometimes feel – to me at least – like we’re fiddling while Rome burns.

  30. 30
    brkily says:

    some thoughts… i’ll be 52 this year. i’ve been on the computer and internet for 17 years (because of graphic design) but 9-11-01 was the year i plunged into the online community. most of my women friends, my age and older, actively read blogs and search for news, information and journalism to try to make sense of what is happening in our country and the world. (i do think some blog communities are becoming important replacements for historical journalism.)

    i also think the radical rate of political, scientific, ecological and cultural change is disorienting for many and generating massive denial in the general public. feminist concerns, as they existed for us historically, are too narrow to address the passionate, compelling and desperate need of human beings and our living planet– to find alternatives to war and “racial”/religious persecution, to civilize capitalism- or end it, and to be cherished and nurtured. i think an expanded and amplified rhetoric of feminism is called for.

    … although i consider myself very literate and amply opinionated, i find the speed at which online posting and commenting takes place uncomfortable, and there are issues of online/posting etiquette i don’t understand. i do read it, though, slavishly. and i especially enjoy the intelligent and sarcastic “snarkiness.”

    it is possible that many of us who are becoming elders did not possess all the mental and spiritual fortitude we needed to resist cultural diminishment and preserve our sense of our own value, we are therefore quieter out here than we should be. this invitation is both provocative and welcome.

  31. 31
    Spotted and Herbaceous Backson says:

    Generational conflict issues can complicate the deal. I was 14 in 1970, and discovered a big article on feminism in a conventional women’s mag that I picked up in desperation after having read all the interesting stuff. It was a “where has this been all my life??” moment. But my folks then didn’t seem to get it, despite their progressive stances and supposedly big plans for my [educated and professional] future–all they seemed to care about was my grades (no one knew about ADD then) and my looks (best not go there.) I couldn’t do much because too busy trying to survive as a lonely kid in an isolated dump of a town. Of course, I couldn’t see all of what was really going on. Then, all of a sudden when I was 20, Mom seemed to discover feminism justlikethat. Got involved in projects, “Ladies’ Sewing Circle and Terrorist Society” t-shirt, jeans, not a dress to her name, the whole 9 yards. Dad was right at her side, wreathed in pot smoke. Her best friend spearheaded a deal to help battered wives and I didn’t quite have the nerve to get up and say “But what about battered daughters????” I feel like she stole the whole idea from me and didn’t give credit, though of course that isn’t true. Not the stealing part anyway. But she is having a ball doing all the things she tried to keep me from doing when I was 10, 12, 14. Not that I’d stop her for a millisecond, but it is still a bit confusing sometimes. Why didn’t she remember, when I was a kid, how the aunt who raised her tried to clip HER wings? Now, I am 50, disabled perhaps for good, uncompensated, unemployed, trying to get back on the world I’ve fallen off of , wondering if I will have a future worth having, and wondering Where It All Went Wrong. A lot more places than my family relationships, but anyway, I must say I am proud of and grateful for all the old generation feminists–and old but wised-up newcomers like my mom–who know stuff the young ones don’t.

  32. 32
    EL says:

    Wow, Piny came in and completely clarified my position for me. Thanks Piny! :) That is exactly where I was going. And, yes, we are coming to very different conclusions on a number of issues,; and it is that, as much as our unwillingness to genuflect to our elders, that makes age divisions in the movement so hostile.

    I don’t begrudge any person’s participation in the blogosphere (well, I’m sure there’s an exception now and then), but I also don’t feel particularly compelled to draw more “older” women into the debate. Should they wish to join, I’d love to have them. Unfortunately, in my off-blog life, I’ve rarely been able to have the discussions my peers that I want to have without being told that we’re “rehashing” and we don’t know our history. I’ve heard this about, say, trans issues and race issues and class issues and queer issues, and I think that where the “younger generation of feminism” has ended up as a result of these so-called “re-hashings” is a better place. Not a perfect place by any means, but loads better.

    Let’s look, for example, at the whole “lipstick thing” that Vibrating Liz and Broce and others see as a waste of energy. You know where that whole “beauty standards” thing came from? The so-called “Second Wave” with the Miss America pageant, as just one manifestation of a larger concern. (I know that this particular action has been debated into the ground; I’m not roundly condemning it, just mentioning it as one example of how this beauty standards issue was around before most of us who are “wasting energy on it” were even born.) These days, I think the main reason any of us “young feminists” even care about whether anyone wears lipstick or high heels or whatever is because “older feminists” keep telling us that those high heels are stomping all over their hard work. And now I think that, overall, most “younger feminists” are cool with high heels or combat boots as long as people are committed, and this has led, I think, to a movement which speaks to a new generation of women, more and more.

    Now, this is personal to me. I have had my work claimed by, condemned by, disabled by “older feminists” who thought I owed them something more times that I can count. I have actually watched “younger feminists” be chased out of active organizations (sometimes reforming together, however) because we had new ideas or our thoughts on old ideas weren’t in line with the “Second Wave” platform. We were being “petty” or “ungrateful” or “rehashing” or “divisive” or “sell-out” or “ageist” or , more often than any other criticism, “anti-feminist”. (This is more than an interaction with one or two or even ten or fifteen “older feminists”, this has been far and away the norm. The exceptions have been wonderful and the work that came out of intergenerational alliances and collaborations has been stronger for it, but very rare.) Even when we did, in fact, “know the history of the movement,” if we had a different take on it, particularly one with any measure of complexity- not simply laudatory- then we were told we needed to read up.

    (I’d also like to point out that, in addition to activism, I am also an academic and I see very similar things going on there. Look at the resistance to the introduction of “Gender Studies” as well as “Queer Theory”.)

    I’m not trying to say that, simply because I have disagreements with “older” feminists that they didn’t accomplish anything. But I also don’t like being asked to pretend that they “made sacrifices so that I could have all the things I have today”. They didn’t do it for me. They did it for themselves, as we are doing it for ourselves: either because it benefitted them directly or because they believed in the cause deeply. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, often the best activist work comes from a sense of the personal advantage, but I’m really weary of being told that this was done for my personal benefit. While I love the idea of little girls benefitting from what my generation does and future generations of all genders reaping the harvest of seeds planted by my own, everything I do I do out of a sense of personal conviction and I certainly don’t expect to be kow-towed to or formally acknowledged before every step made in the future. I know for sure that mistakes are being made, tactically and ideologically, by my generation of feminists, and I would be gratified by the movement’s continued growth, rather than by some kind of “respectful” stagnation. I don’t for a second pretend that there isn’t some real pain in seeing things you worked for a valued reconfigured or reconsidered in ways that seem hostile or just misguided, but progress is not easy, nor is it seamless or even always a strict march forward; it has it’s meanderings and confusions.

    I actually think one of the reasons that the blogosphere has been such a hotbed of feminist discussion and activity in the past few years is, honestly, because most of the “older feminists” aren’t here yet. And the ones that are aren’t automatically put into positions of power and can therefore make their cases (whether they agree or disagree) without overwriting the work or blogging of “younger feminists”.

    I think that “younger feminists” feel like we can have a say here – I mean, the TOP BLOGS are primarily helmed by folks under 50, not so for feminist organizations. I think that, as technology becomes more and more integral to the lives of young people, that will continue.

    Because I actually teach technology to older folks in my real life, I think that, though a lot of people manage to break the barrier, many people who didn’t grow up with/get technology early (I started working on a computer on a semi-daily basis at about 18, so I have an advantage), do not find the forum accomodating. I think older folks are greatly inhibited from participating both by the financial issues discussed above (good point about how low-income students can access technology) and by the fact that little is done in our culture to make sure that older people have the same opportunities to learn and understand technology. I would imagine this is the most significant boundary. I sincerely wish that was not the case. But, in the meantime, I think great communities are being made here, with “younger feminists”, and sometimes those who don’t identify as “feminists”, and with those “older feminists” who join us.

    *This post absolutely reeks with generational generalizations. I didn’t know how else to do this. I think that the core of this is true, but that there are hard-charging, different-drummer-dancing feminists of every age who could inhabit and exhibit characteristics attributed above to others. There are some truly awesome “older feminists” out there who are supportive and encouraging and themselves working.

  33. 33
    Rachel S. says:

    Let me just respond to everyone generally because I think we need to make a distinction bewteen older women and older feminists. Many people in their responses are foucsing on older Second Wave feminists, but I think we need to think of older women–both those who came to feminism in their younger years and those who would never identify as feminists.

    See I haven’t given up on converting those older women to feminist. Even if they might have been minimally attached to the Second Wave or not at all attached, the issues that they face as women should be important to all feminists young or old. And since us young people are going to be old some day, we need to think about this for selfish reasons too. Think about the news anchor examples I gave. That should be something that all feminists take up, regardless of age.

    As feminists, I think we should be concerned about the problems that discrimination creates for all women, but as antigone points out a lot of us are naval gazing. So we get 10,000 posts on birth control and abortion and just one of social security (and it doesn’t even use a gender perspective). Of course, many of these issues are intergenerational–think about the number of 30 and 40 something women in the sandwich generation, taking care of their children and helping provide care for elderly parents. Many of the twenty-some bloggers are going to be in that position in a few years, and we need to address those issues as a feminist community.

    I should also note that one of the basic reasons that issues facing the elderly are women’s issues is because women out live men, so well over half of those older people are indeed women.

  34. 34
    EL says:

    I haven’t given up on converting those older women to feminist. Even if they might have been minimally attached to the Second Wave or not at all attached, the issues that they face as women should be important to all feminists young or old.

    Cool. :)

  35. 35
    Abyss2hope says:

    El, wow. You’re right about generalizations. And that tendency to generalize those we debate against is one of the reasons I don’t like framing discussions into debates. We become less than the sum of the participants when we start getting into a tit-for-tat mentality.

    Think about your last sentence and put any other label inside your quotations. Let’s start with this one since is seems to reflect how you think older feminists view people like you: There are some truly awesome “young feminists” out there who are supportive and encouraging and themselves working.

    It isn’t written, but I can almost hear, “But …”

    You seem to assume that older feminists are attempting to invalidate you when they say a debate you are involved in rehashes old issues. That may or may not be the intention. It’s as likely that they have a feeling of deja vu.

    What is true for all of us, irregardless of age, is that our attempts to communicate our POV can trigger others. Before I understood how my triggers were formed, heaven help the person who accidentally pushed certain of my buttons.

    Sometimes we’re the ones having our buttons pushed and sometimes we’re the ones pushing the buttons we didn’t know were there.

  36. 36
    AndiF says:

    I haven’t given up on converting those older women to feminist. Even if they might have been minimally attached to the Second Wave or not at all attached, the issues that they face as women should be important to all feminists young or old.

    It’s more than that — it’s also that older women also have the perspective of what they’ve experienced throughout a long life and from that perspective, it’s not that hard for them to recognize the truth and value of many feminist positions. Case in point, my 84-year-old mother recently asked me which pro-choice group she should donate to because “how dare those men try to tell us what to do with our own bodies.”

  37. 37
    Edith says:

    Great post. Something I’ve been thinking about for a while, now. I don’t have anything to add currently, because I’m still formulating my thoughts on this one. Just wanted to voice my support.

  38. 38
    Heart says:

    I know it’s not exactly good form to just post links, but what I blogged about today is so relevant to this thread.

    Heart

  39. 39
    Rachel S. says:

    I just got done reading that post Heart….We must be channeling each other.

  40. 40
    Mikko says:

    Ah, about the newsanchoring thing. I don’t believe anyone disagrees that unlike computer programmers or gourmet cooks, newsanchors and waiters/waitresses face signifact physical exposure, and therefore looks are a factor in their value as an employee (the underlying reason being the preferences of the potential audiences). Yes, just one factor – of course experience matters – but still a factor.

    What we most likely disagree is whether these factors are symmetrical between sexes. Symmetricity assumptions are nice and simple (one could argue that they are in fact an example of Occham’s razor), but I don’t believe they hold water in this context.

    If your blood pressure can handle it, I recommend Nikolas Lloyd’s Why Arnie is worth More Than Sigorney. Warning: the guy is cuite provocative at times, but at least consider this: why are male models paid less than their female colleagues?

  41. 41
    Debbie Notkin says:

    Hi,

    Laurie has responded to this post on the blog she and I do together; you can find it here.

    Thanks for all the good work you do!

  42. hello, following my Elderblogger ronni bennett links, timesgoesby.net, i arrive here–a 72 year old, newbie to blogging. i’ve just spent a week at a women’s writing conference, all ages, etc. talked a lot about why i began to blog, why it was important for older women to use this technology–to read/respond to blogs as a writing discipline. [is it too edgy for me to say that my eyes glaze over when comments get long?]

    that’s all i’ll say for now. and thanks for starting the conversation. -naomi

  43. Our recent post on this on Body Impolitic has made some interesting ripples in the blogosphere.

    We had a very mixed reaction to elder blogger Ronni Bennett’s response on As Time Goes By to both our and Rachel’s posts.

  44. 44
    Rachel S. says:

    Laurie, Thanks for the links. When I post my grandmothers piece I’ll add these links.

  45. 45
    lynn h jones says:

    Okay gals, here I go. I just turned 50, ran my first marathon a month after my birthday and I am considering retiring from a job that is worked predominately by men after 20 long, and I do mean long, years. I was looking for concrete lawn ornaments, and through a variety of blogs involving some trailer park in Muncie nicknamed “Springerville,” I wound up here. I haven’t had the time to read everything because of a break policy in effect by my employer, but once I get my new laptop on line, (first time owner, long time user), I will be back and ready to roll up shirtsleeves/pantyhose/curlers and get to work reading and responding to issues that affect us. I think there is more to growing old than sitting on the front porch slowly turning into a “menopausal maiden,” and I’m sure others share this opinion. Lynn aka grahamcracker

  46. 46
    Wendy Lestina says:

    Great post and responses! Sorry it’s taken me two weeks to find it. I’m a progressive female blogger, 62, a writer and an editor (including, at one time, the editor-in-chief of a now-defunct women’s business magazine called Savvy). I’ve never left the “hear me roar” stage of life — and neither have my friends. Some of us are lucky enough to be very techie (e.g., I use professional Sony software to make documentary movies)…and others (like my friend, Giuli,who just returned from a tour of Malawi’s AIDS orphanages, and Nancy, who is touring with her playwright friends and their series of one-acts on aging) are out there, making stuff happen. It’s just one hell of an exciting trip at this end and you are are still on the upward climb have nothing but incredible opportunities ahead.

    Remember when we thought, in the late ’60s and early 70s, that we could change the world? Well, we were right. It’s just taking a bit longer than we thought.

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