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.