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Elder Feminist Bloggers

In the weeks surrounding my move to Portland, a number of women who are apparently unconnected with one another, have emailed about feminists, older women and the blogosphere.

So when Laurie Toby Edison of Body Impolitic contacted me a few days ago, I took it as a sign from the topic gods that Time Goes By should think about these things. Because I haven't done much of that, what follows is a rather untidy rumination.

In her post titled, “On the Internet Nobody Knows You’re a Dog”, Laurie quotes at length a young woman named Rachel S who, on a blog titled Alas, wonders how many “second wave feminists” are active in the blogosphere. The point both women are making, it appears, is that there aren’t enough older women blogging - particularly older feminists - or, at any rate, they can't find many.

Before I go any further, it is important to make this distinction: feminism is a social theory, a philosophy, a political movement and a moral position that can be (and is) supported by men as well as women. So when Laurie states that we have no idea how many “older, feminist bloggers” there are, I would like to think we are speaking about people of both genders.

Whether or not that’s so, I don’t believe the number of feminist bloggers is important to the general community of elderbloggers. I am much more concerned with the marginalization of elders by the culture at large and with the pressure on elders from the youth and beauty police to spend small fortunes attempting to hide the inevitable physical changes aging brings.

It is also important to address age discrimination in the workplace and insist that corporate America obey employment laws. The medical community needs an overhaul too, to treat elders’ diseases and conditions as aggressively as they do young people’s.

And I care a lot about promoting the positive differences blogging can make the lives of elders.

Rachel S, whom Laurie references in her post, has this to say about elder women:

“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.”

I’m not sure what constitutes a “feminist blog” and I certainly don’t know how old a second wave feminist is, but I suspect Rachel S means people who are as old as I am – 65 – or Millie Garfield who will be 81 in a couple of months, or Golden Lucy who is 84. And so on.

We’re here, Rachel and Laurie, hundreds and most probably thousands of us, blogging and/or reading blogs every day about the issues you raise and many more.

If, as you say, young feminist bloggers are marginalizing their elders, they aren’t behaving any differently than the culture does generally. But too much, I think, is being made of looking for aging feminist bloggers?

I have considered myself a feminist since reading Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique for the first time in 1963. I did my share of marching, petitioning, lobbying with millions of others, and I produced a lot of radio and television programs promoting feminism. Our activism waned as it become less necessary.

In recent years too, I have found it less necessary to wave the flag of my feminism in public, particularly since starting Time Goes By two years ago.

Here’s what I find really interesting in thinking this over: all elderbloggers and elder blog readers I’ve gotten to know appear - in the attitudes, beliefs, interests and passions revealed in their blogs, comments and email to me - to be moral and philosophical feminists. Among elders (or those who have arrived on the shores of TGB) equity among all people is a given - as a goal if not yet a reality.

Yet, I have never heard any of them refer to themselves as a feminist. Two reasons come to mind. One, because we are old enough to know that we won. Sure, there are still some inequities between men and women, but to the extent that it is possible to be fair to everyone, those remaining wrongs will be corrected in time.

The second reason is more radical: I propose that elders are natural feminists. As we age, the external differences between men and women become less evident. Hormone production declines allowing men and women to bypass some of the sexual tension of youth which, in age, makes real friendship possible. Men become less competitive. Elder women often find strengths they hadn’t, in youth, been aware they had.

Could it be that these, along with other changes and attributes, put men and women on a more equal emotional and intellectual footing than they’ve ever been in life, closer to the ideals of feminism?

Maybe, maybe not. And that brings me full circle to an earlier point. It is disturbing to read young feminists who assume that only women can be part of the “sisterhood.” Had men not embraced feminism in its mid-20th-century incarnation, all the young women who today are doctors, lawyers and CEOs would be home cooking dinner and having babies one after another like the women of my mother’s generation.

The world doesn’t need any more divisiveness than it’s got. Let us please give men their due on this issue.

Comments

Totally agree. Less divisiveness - the right wing produces enough of that.

Hi Ronnie
I'm I guess one of those youngers (39). I don't always agree with you but I read you everyday. Give men their dues by all means, but Congress is still sadly lacking in women and as yet no women president. In the UK they are not close to 50/50 men and women and the list goes on. Our voices Elder or Younger, we still need to continue with what has been achieved .

Hi, Ronni. "Marginalization of elders by the culture at large" caught my eye becauseit is such an important subject and I alluded to it in the blog I just wrote. I am what you call an "elderblogger" and write about caring for my elderly mother, 96. Bea was a career woman in the 30s, when most American women stayed home. I have been thinking this over and have decided you should use "senior" rather than "elder." You are 65? That is not elderly. 96 is. Yesterday I recorded a note Bea wrote in 2001. If my mom was tech-savvy and had been blogging as recently as five years ago, one could have considered her an "elder" blogger.

I think the key to this is what you said and the comment above that we have too much divisiveness in the country right now.

Betty Friedan was a big influence on my life also, and at a particularly good age where it could change my choices. She was bashed by some of the more strident feminists for not being radical enough. There have always been feminists who were positive examples (for me that has included Gloria Steinem).

There has also been a voice in feminism trying to say that what women don't have is the fault of men. If a woman isn't elected president, it's because women aren't voting for her as women are in the majority. Too often the reason women are not empowered is due to other women.

I like to read books by women authors because I like the female take on life. If asked, I'd say yes I am a femininist but wouldn't put it in a string of words defining myself. My favorite words are those that combine strength for both sexes-- the yin and the yang of life.

as usual, read ronni--new first thing in the morning habit. my responses to today's blog is "yes" and "yes" and "maybe. later, i return to read responses that tell me how important the second wave was to many of us. gave us a voice. the "f" word is always volatile. as alice rossi wrote in 1968, the equality of women is an immodest proposal.

Elderblogger works for me, as apparent in my own words today, somewhat influenced by comments here.

I'm a 70s kid, myself. I front-lined my way into engineering, and fought my share of the equality battles there. And the battles are most definitely not over. Perhaps in your field women were treated more as equals (although since we're still fussing over women hosting the evening news, I guess not), but it's not that way in every field, not by a long shot. And still they are trying to take away women's rights, pushing back against Roe v. Wade.

The only way to obtain and retain euality is to demand to be treated as equals. Sometimes, that gets divisive. Most men will stand with us, I think. Anyone with a brain knows this is not just about women, it is about leveling the hierarchy, and all men get their share of being abused by that hierarchy.

The country isn't just made of rich white men, and it shouldn't just be run by and for them. That's the real issue.

My hands were poised over the keyboard to churn out my longstanding opinion that, much as I do give many men their due - oh, I definitely do! - to me feminism means women standing up for our rights, so men can support feminism, but can't be feminists.

You know what? I think I've mellowed even in the past few months. More and more, I really don't care about labels, only about what people have in their hearts. And I'm sure our hearts are on the same side.

What a superb and well written post. I never think of the word "feminist" anymore...possibly, because as I got older, I realized that the "action" was indeed stronger than the "word." So that in living it, it became a reality.

Afternoon Ladies….

I am trying to think back….

With regard to you ladies who are around the age of sixty-five or so, it seems you were still a part of the “A Woman’s Place Is In The Home” generation and it was actually your children who dragged you out the front door and onto the pavement. I think that would be correct to say? And it was probably the men of our generation who were to feel the impact of the initial shock and perhaps react adversely to the feminist movement the most. Seems like that anyway.

Our generation has grown up to partake and witness two major social transformations of some significance. That being both the feminist movement and the demise of segregation. I think both men and women can agree that neither has reached its final conclusion as they were both major changes in what was the social structure in those days and times and had been for a gazillion years.

From this man’s standpoint, I am very happy that these injustices have been addressed. But they are indeed, still works in progress and the only thing that continues to upset or irritate me from time to time on topics such as this are those who expect these major social changes to happen like flipping a light switch. No matter what has been accomplished, there are those who have to throw it in your face that it has just not been enough. They are quick to remind that much is left to do. There reaches a point in social change where those wheeling the hammers of change really start to damage to the movement in my opinion. They come across in a very irritating manner giving their audience the impression that nothing has really changed because the ultimate goal has not been reached. Issues such as “right to vote” are resolved by simply signing a ‘bill’ into law – flipping the light switch if you will. The goal of women to achieve equal rights in the work place, politics, etc., does not come that quickly even though laws are passed removing obstacles to those changes. Regardless of the seriousness of the injustice, these type changes require paddling up stream for a considerable distance and that is simple fact. Not saying that is good – just stating fact. It is a social and cultural change.

Perhaps all that has to do with the “fact” that those of us who have been apart of it since the beginning have been so for what?......forty some odd years? The young adults who are say nineteen or twenty years old see a completely different “norm” that what “norm” was for us forty years ago. We understand how far things have come – the younger folks understand how far things have come from a different starting point. So when they start complaining or calling for drastic change – I’m thinking, “Well what in the Hell do you think has been happening you little twerp?” :) :)

It seems our generation has always nurtured the movement but has done so with less volatility and more sensibility and for that, I applaud all of you ladies. And the majority of your comments reflect that. It makes me proud to be both a part of your generation, a supporter of the cause, and oh yes….an elderblogger.

Wonderful bunch of interesting responses to something I haven't thought out thoroughly. Thank you for not dismissing it altogether. But I must take issue with Alan G on one point. He wrote:

"With regard to you ladies who are around the age of sixty-five or so, it seems you were still a part of the “A Woman’s Place Is In The Home” generation and it was actually your children who dragged you out the front door and onto the pavement. I think that would be correct to say?"

Ahem - Alan. Not hardly. We who are 65 now are what I have long thought of us as a transitional generation. I was 22 when The Feminine Mystique was published and no one younger dragged me or my friends into the streets. We did it ourselves. And the leaders of the movement - Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, et al - were often much older than we were.

What interests me about those of us who are in our mid- to late sixties now is our membership in that transition generation I mentioned.

We were raised to get married, have babies and no one ever said what came after the babies grew up. But Friedan's book and the subsequent battle for women's rights came along just as we were beginning to marry and have those babies.

So we were raised in one atmosphere, but adopted another in our youthful adulthood - so we're definitely an interim generation between those who were old and settled enough not be able to start over, and the younger ones who were never indoctrinated to wife and motherhood as their only choice.

For decades, I was pulled in both directions; it's hard to lose that eons-old indoctrination. But I noticed just recently that it's been a lot of years since I felt any remaining attachment to pre-women's movement beliefs.

And, of course, much younger women have no idea what it means to live in a world with no choices which, of course, is what we fought for and as it should be.

For others of you who mentioned it - certainly there is more to be done, but it's in the order of cleanup. As Alan G points out, social change is always gradual and for women's rights, I think we have accomplished a hell of a lot in my lifetime. The rest is happening every day.

Ronni, this post needs highlighting in some way, for you have succinctly described all the reasons why I was, and continue to be, attracted to this blog. I have read no other person's writings who has stated so definitively and so clearly the issues I believe to be important for me, my children and my grandchild as we age.

The reasons you state are precisely where the focus for change in our social structure and cultural attitudes and beliefs needs to be.

I couldn't agree more that the last thing we need is more devisiveness in this country. The technique has been over-used and abused. We do need strong healthy debate of critical issues. If there was ever a time when as women, as men and women, and as a nation we needed to find common ground for common goals in the best interests of all of us and our country, it is now!

As an unabashed elder, age-wise, I, too, see a significant increase in the support of men for the philosophy of most feminist objectives. I see no reason why that cannot continue within the framework of the objectives stated here.

While I ardently supported the goals of feminists in those past years, I parted company with any who collectively denigrated all men and the women who chose to follow a traditional roll as wife and mother. As far as I'm concerned those two positions did more damage to feminism acceptance than outside attacks.

I am reminded of a cartoon which only elders will likely remember, called Pogo. I can't recall the exact lines, but the essence was a Pogo observation that the enemy is here ... the enemy is us. Let "us" not shoot ourselves in the foot in such a way again with devisiveness.

The suggestion that there might be some scientific basis due to hormonal reasons, other evolving adaptive type factors effecting male/female relationships as we age, I find to be quite plausible, ultimately beneficial for all.

As for the benefits of blogging for elders, I can personally whole heartedly endorse that concept though I am not a blogger myself. I can speak only from the point of view of someone who has had the privledge of being able to express myself on others blogs. I would be remiss if I did not say that has made a positive difference in my life. I anticipate as I age, as circumstances in my personal life change, the potential for even greater benefits.

For what it's worth I continue to dislike the term "senior." The sooner our society eliminates it's usage, the better I'll like it. The language which has been proposed here in earlier posts addresses a uniform terminology I can support.

My final comment is that the language we and others use does define who and what we are, like it or not. The sooner we can educate everyone to using more accurate, respectful words in association with aging individuals, the sooner equity will occur. The need for equity exists on the personal, social, academic, business/corporate, political, government, international levels.

I cannot stress too strongly the men and women in all types of media bear a responsibility in seeing that the language they speak or write reflects the positive attitudes toward the aging as described above. We can help educate them, by bringing to their attention our appreciation when they use the appropriate language just as they need to know when they have not.

Always remember, we are all aging all the time. If anyone reading this now, does not consider this applicable to them because they're not older or in the elder bracket -- YOU WILL BE!

Uh-oh…..

Well Ronni, there I was feeling like the Star Trek’s ship “The Enterprise” – you know....“to boldly go where no man has gone before!”

Whew – thanks for being gentle with me. For a minute there I thought me and the Enterprise were about to become toast! :) :)

I do stand corrected of course. I really did not realize that you all were reading these books on this issue at that age. Your point is well made. You would have certainly been in a generational position to be pulled and twisted in both directions. In fact, if memory now serves me correctly, seems I remember many women my age actually professing to reject the movement at the time. Primarily, I assume, out of fear of the unknown and the fact that they had been raised to believe their security and well-being rested in their man and his abilities.

At any rate, it was a commendable post and thought provoking in these many years past. And it goes without saying that indeed, much has been accomplished to your generation’s credit.

Was busy writing my comment, posted it and just now came back to discover a vital issue was added even before my words got posted.

If Ronni hadn't addressed it, I surely would have. I do appreciate your subsequent comment, Alan, but I must make a statement for any others who might have missed the point.

Alan, you really hit a sore spot with me. Not only you, many younger women believe the same thing about my generation and I'm here to tell you they are blatantly WRONG!

I am here to tell you at 70 years of age, we layed the ground work, as did many in the generation before us, so that when the loud and boisterous numbers (and I don't mean that derogatorily) came on the scene to garner all the attention, many forgot or ignored what some of us went through from which they ultimately benefited.

I don't ask for personal accolades, but let's give credit to other generations, including mine, where credit is long overdue.

Ronni, what an excellent post! followed by an especially high quality group of comments. I do agree that 'most' people now recognize the necessity of gender equality even if we aren't always sure how to implement it. Racism reared its ugly head after Katrina and more recently in relation to immigration debate. Women have yet to be accepted on merit alone (just look at the shoes) or paid a fair salary for all jobs. While we keep our eye on those on-going social issues, I support the fight, if fight we must, for senior/elder rights and respect. I'm not satisfied to let the Boomers do it for us once they reach the grey ceiling. We would still be misunderstood or invisible so let us blog on, speaking for ourselves, with such clear and balanced voices as yours!

"all the young women who today are doctors, lawyers and CEOs would be home cooking dinner and having babies one after another like the women of my mother’s generation."

Ronni,
May I assume that you meant no disrespect for those of us who chose and some who still choose, if they are fortunate enough, to stay home, cooking dinner and raising a family. After almost 55 years of a good marriage, 3 grown children and 6 wonderful grandchildren, I still do consider mine a profitable life.

Thank you for making the distinction that feminism is, as you said, "a social theory, a philosophy, a political movement and a moral position that can be (and is) supported by men as well as women." In the 70s my feminist role model was a man, a CEO of a large organization who took the moral position that all of us (men included) should have choices and that to have only half of the population make decisions in the workplace, government, churches, schools, and even about what we do at home, was wrong. (Remember Darren's boss Larry on Bewitched? He often disrupted family life to dictate that Darren and Samantha host dinner parties, and he came to their home to rouse Darren into some work project. A TV sitcom (and a SciFi comedy no less) but it often rang very true in that respect.

It's not just women doctors, engineers, scientists, race car drivers, and these days the stay-at-home mom, who can thank feminist philosophy for being able to exercise their choices....it's also the man who chooses to stay home with the children, or just to help with the kids' homework or read to them, and the couple who make financial decisions together, and, yes, the woman who buys her own home.

I am stunned when I hear the thirty-something female vice president I work with say, "I'm all for equal rights, but I'm not a feminist." Well then, I think, what is her philosophy?

Thank you Ronni and your Topic Gods for bringing this up. What great a great discussion today in your salon.

I want to respond to all this but I'm thinking. I'll comment tomorrow.

Ronnie, you hit the nail on the head when you called us a "transitional" generation. My daughter takes for granted all the things we fought for in the "good old days". I was one of those women who was pulled in two directions, feeling the need to be a helpmeet to my husband, and yet have an identity of my own. Frankly, I'm glad those days are over.

This piece would be a welcome re-post at Lyssa Strada - http://lyssa-strada.blogspot.com/

Pandora’s Box!

I read the original post and am immediately drawn to the keyboard... but experience has taught me some things, so I read all the comments first. Which is definitely not a task, by the way - informing, insightful, persuasive - and I reach the end with a head full of things I want to add...

Earlier this year, here in Australia, a very popular morning TV program had an item about how much more ‘girlie’ youngs girls are today. To support this claim, they told us that the girls of today are returning to the old-values past-times, and taking up cooking; knitting; crochet and quilting - with much reference to, and interviewing of, what they (the TV progam) called grannies.

I am 61, my son, at aged 39 produced my first grandchild 2 years ago. I am a grannie.
My younger sister, on the other hand, had children who married early, and had children early, with the result that my sister has been a ‘grannie’ ... since her mid-30s. There is every chance that my grandmother did knit and sew and be girlie, but around my peer group of grannies, not too much of that goes on.

I happen to work with many people much younger than me... and I shamelessly enjoy my favourite past-time of people watching and instigating conversations that give me some insight to the way these young people think and act today.

Most of them seem to have absolutely no idea of what the feminist movement really was, or of what it achieved, or even of how much it was needed. I found myself the other day giving an account of our fight for ‘equal pay’ - they do not recall a time when equal pay was an issue.

If we can sort out who we regard as ‘elderbloggers’ ... there is a good chance that the current crop of elderbloggers would not be the ‘grannies’ of the young people I work with, but probably more likely the ‘eldergrannies’.

This goes some way to explain the wide range of comments regarding feminism; those who stepped up to the front line, their daughters and sons who lived through it (that would be me)... we fought our own battles - same war, different battles, and then we passed on different perspectives, and different things we wanted for our sons and daughters.

- And now our mothers are teaching our grandchildren to be ‘girlie’? -


I am having just as much fun, cruising the blogs, reading and commenting as the topic takes me, as I do when I am creating content for my own blog. I have no discipline - and go back and forth between both without regard for time.

I am not so sure we have won yet. I see that younger women are being turned down for jobs because they have children. I was turned down for a job in my late 20's because I had children. For each generation the feminist issues may be somewhat different but we don't have equality yet.

However as a blogger of age (65) I did not look for my age cohort I looked more for shared interests and as a way of letting friends keep up with our travels. It has only been lately that I observe that if people know my age they disregard my opinions. If feels the same as when I was ignored because I was female.
I appreciate your specialization in blogging about concerns of aging and always find your words interesting.

I was surprised to find out that Live Journal does not keep statistics on any of their members over 50. I went looking for member my age and older and found very few much to my surprise. I think there may be many people our age and older who are blogging but are keeping their age a secret. I was raised not to reveal my age because I might face discrimination because of it. My Mother was in her 80's before she started letting people know how old she is. I think we need to get over hiding ourselves and speak out.

To Alan I certainly did not get into feminism via my children. They were toddlers in the late 60's. I was not raised to stay home and be a good housewife. My Mother had a college education and I was expected to get one also and use it. I think people's notions of the 50's are skewed by the media. We were fomenting equality.

Hello, Ronni-- I'm here via your comment at Alas. I love reading older women.

I am 54, the mother of 11, ages 8 through 34, all born one at a time from my body, a grandmother of 4. I have to strenuously disagree -- strenuously, strenuously, strenuously -- that feminists won. I think we need feminism now more than we did 40 years ago when I was a political radical at the University of Washington. I think we still inhabit male heterosupremacy, this has not changed, and in some ways things are much worse for women.

I don't think all elders are feminists -- at all. I think elders give up. I think they resign themselves to what seems inevitable-- that nobody really cares what they think, want, or the experiences of their lives. I think they get to thinking, who cares, whatever, I've only got a few years left, if that, I can't be bothered anymore, I gave it my best shot. I think old men are the worst, absolute WORST, misogynists EVER. I refuse to give them any sort of pass. I think *they* won, and I think that SUCKS!

And I think it's SUCH a loss that old women give up. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, the Woodhulls, Simone de Beauvoir, Emma Goldman, Alice Paul, Gloria Steinem, now 70, Germaine Greer, nearing 70, so many others-- they kept kicking and fighting and keep kicking and keep up the good fight. That's what I intend to do. The battle is far, far, far from won. It's barely, barely begun. Come on. Think about it.

Heart

Change is Here To Stay

What-the-hell.
This is my current
and final
modus operandi.

How else explain spending over fifty dollars
on a paperback.
A paperback, for heaven's sake!

I'll try to be careful with what-the-hell.
Well, not too careful.
I should not cloak myself in the mode
too lightly, too loosely, too frequently.
The only rule is
any object in question
must be one of desire and impulse.
How else can I perversely and wantonly
give in to
What-the-hell!

(The unreasoned opinion fell upon me when I became 88 years elder.)

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