A Short Ageism Rant

Every once in a while, you run into something that blows your mind a little. Nothing to get really angry about, unless you’re the type of person who’s easily triggered into anger. Just enough to make you heave a deep sigh and wonder if things will ever change. And realize that, no, they probably won’t.

So this rant focuses on an example of ageism that was probably meant kindly, but betrays the belief that there are classes of people, whether it’s the handicapped, people of color, or whatever, who are admirable simply for being able to do things that “normal” people do.

This morning, I left a comment in a discussion on a website that I read regularly. When I went back to see how the discussion was progressing and, possibly leave another comment, there was the one that provoked this rant. It was out of the blue, and totally irrelevant to the discussion. It was addressed to me and praised me for still writing and speaking about things that I believe in, at 70. So the person knows something about me, but is a bit behind on the age thing. If 70 is amazing, maybe 77 is just too unbelievable to mention publicly. Or maybe the person doesn’t really know me that well.

As I said, it was probably meant kindly, but was a perfect example of the condescension that people display, quite unconsciously, toward anyone who differs from their concept of “normal.” And believe me, I get just as annoyed when it’s aimed at other classes of “exceptional” people. Ageism isn’t even the worst of it.

Rant over.

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8 thoughts on “A Short Ageism Rant

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. The concept that one’s worth, ambitions, capabilities – or anything else – automatically decline or disappear at a certain age is both inaccurate and marginalizing. When someone makes a comment like this, there’s something of an unstated follow on of “you may even be doing well at it – for your age.”

    Very unfortunate and troubling.

    1. Yes, as if an older person is a peforming monkey, and it’s amazing that they can do the tricks at all. Oscar Wilde put it in terms of a dog walking on its hindlegs. The post will probably make a few people think I’m oversensitive, but it’s such a universal way of thinking, and it harms in all kinds of ways. Maybe bringing it up will have a slight consciousness-raising effect for someone.

  2. Yes, it’s interesting, Catana, how well meaning people who would never wish to offend can fall into this ageism trap. I’m in my 70s, but I didn’t encounter it until I stopped dying my hair. Then, to my amazement, I found people condescending to me.

  3. This is what we disabled people call ‘inspiration porn,’ which is us being inspiring for merely getting out of bed in the morning.

    I’m getting up there in age, though I’m heading toward 67, not 77 (not my choice – I had nothing to do with picking when I was born). And I’m rather severely disabled by CFS and some real spinal problems (I’m working on both). But I don’t think I’m inspirational because I’m trying to write in spite of all this – it’s what I do.

    I always planned to write in retirement. I’m retirement age. I write. The life has been different, so the writing is different, but it still embarrasses me when someone praises me for – being me. After all, I don’t have a choice.

    I can’t imagine what a life of watching TV and eating bonbons would be like, but I’m sure it would result in me being a much larger size and being bored out of my mind.

    I say, use what you have. If people condescend, use a phrase such as, “I BEG your pardon.” When someone is an idiot to you, stare them down and make THEM uncomfortable (they started it). DON’T be diffident.

    You are an elder statesperson with a lot to offer; act like it. If you don’t have the hang of it, go read Miss Manners or Emily Post until you do.

    1. Inspiration porn! I like that. Thanks for adding to my vocabulary. I’ve never encountered it in real life (maybe because I don’t interact with humanity that much). Only on the web, and most recently on the Write On forum. I’ve talked back about it, but didn’t bother that time. I don’t remember whether it was the performing monkey or the miracle crone attitude, but it was too, too typical. Along the lines of “Blessings on you, performing monkey/miracle crone.”

      1. “Inspiration porn” is deliberately chosen to remind people it’s WRONG. Sometimes only shock tactics get through.

        (If this is a problem for your blog, just replace the ‘o’ with a zero or an asterisk – sorry – I didn’t think about that on the previous one.)

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