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…gettin’ older over here

Posted by pocochina on April 23, 2008

Oh my God.

I didn’t want to do this.

I really, really, REALLY didn’t.

But I’m so fucking pissed off about it that I just CAN’T not talk about it any more.  Linda Hirshman is fucking right.  Okay, she’s not totally right, but she’s talking about something important that nobody fucking wants to hear.  I know it would be totally cool to just focus on the criticisms and why she is a total bitch and we hate her and don’t want to sit with her in the cafeteria, I am going to DARE TO AGREE.  I am not saying there are no critiques of Hirshman that can be made, I am not saying there are no valid critiques of the second wave.  But I am calling bullshit  on some of my fellow young people.

Yes.  Looking at the demographics, younger women are slightly more likely to vote for Senator Obama, older women are slightly more likely to vote for Senator Clinton.  And what I see here, in the discussion of the campaign – from feminists, non-feminists, and anti-feminists – is another -ism that nobody wants to talk about.  AGEISM.  Ageism is wrong too, assholes.  If you assume that an older woman is myopic and out of touch and selfish, but you, the younger woman, are de facto more aware of intersectionality or are Magically Above Vagina Voting, that’s not just non-feminist, it’s also ageist, and it ignores the reality that women are punished more for daring to age – YOU KNOW, THE WAY LIVING BEINGS DO – than men are.  When you think of being “scolded by [your] mother,” (I seriously wish I were making that gem up, and yes, it’s from a feminist writer who thought this ageist, sizeist, anti-feminist cartoon was a real freaking laugh riot) when Senator Clinton goes off on one of her cranky bad-day-at-work rants about getting people health care or some shit, that is part of a systemic framework that punishes women for being adults, and that connects adult women with that which we do not like about the domestic sphere.   I, for one, like older women, and in fact hope to be one some day.

Maybe I am really lucky.  My mom’s neither a feminist nor a HRC supporter.  I’m the Ms. reader in the house, not her.  So I get to feel all warm and fuzzy and rebel-y voting for Hillary.  Hell, my being a Democrat is upsetting enough to my parents.  I saw this interview that LH talks about in the article.  “In an interview on PBS’s NOW with Maria Hinojosa*, Ms. magazine founding editor Letty Cotton Pogrebin and her Obama-supporting author daughter, Abigail, discussed their personal quarrel over the election.”  The daughter spit all over the camera for twenty freaking minutes about how – I SWEAR TO GOD I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP – her mother’s feminist movement was “only about abortion” and younger women “care about more things.”  I’m lucky I didn’t break the fucking treadmill.  How could anyone possibly be so ignorant about the accomplishments of the second wave of feminism?  By purposeful ignorance, that’s how.  Again, I’m not saying there are no valid critiques to be made, I’m saying that disappearing the work those women did and are still doing is bullshit.

And Robin Morgan’s article was, yes, problematic because comparing racism to sexism is impossible, and for a lot of women, unnecessary because they live both.  But the “some younger feminists women” stuff should have a huge freaking “IF THE SHOE DOESN’T FIT, DON’T FUCKING WEAR IT” neon fucking flashing border around it.  I could have very easily taken offense – I am a younger feminist, and dammit, I did vote for Clinton – but I could tell that she was not talking about women who honestly and in good faith consider their preferences for one candidate or another.  She was talking, in a nutshell, about some – NOT ALL – young women who see rejection of Senator Clinton as a way to show that they are So Over That Feminism Crap Already.  “I’m not a feminist, but….” has become “I mean, I’m a woman and I didn’t vote for her.”  It is a convenient way to make oneself non-threatening to a dude-dominated social scene.

And JESUS MARY AND JOSEPH.  This “change” and “old politics versus new politics” and “same old, same old” crap?  ARE AGEIST AND ANTI-FEMINIST.  I don’t want to hear one more fucking word of defense for it.  They are key phrases for the Obama campaign for fucking good reasons.  (Hey, I never said they were dumb.  Wrong, yeah, but not dumb.) Youth is a valued position in our society, and age is not.  Partially, this is our capitalist standard of physical attractiveness, and partially of course, it’s the fear of death – if we act young, we are young, we won’t die.  Therefore, the Obama campaign is reminding us that as far as age goes, he has more privilege than her.  It’s not quite as heavy-handed as “periodically feeling down,” but it’s there.  And this “young and attractive” versus “old and…..well, old” is especially pernicious because women are judged more than men are based on our physical appearance, and this is especially true of Senator Clinton, paradoxically,  because she’s performing work outside of her gender role, and that’s how our society punishes powerful women.

More importantly though, in the context of politics, age means something different for women than it does for men, because it is new for women to be in politics.  When we get old-skool on our masculine-coded politics, we think of the Founding Fathers in their boots and wigs.  When we get old-skool on our feminine-coded politics, we draw a blank.  Because there is no such thing.  But rather than face that fact, and grasp that we are living in an era where that is changing, we fill that blank in with older women, who are explicitly not a privileged group in our society.  We code older women especially as grandmas baking cookies.  Being a grandma who bakes cookies is a totally awesome and valid thing to be, and certainly not dispositive of many other identity components – again, I love my grandma, she makes great cookies, and some day I might be a cookie-baking grandma myself.  But we correlate age in women as belonging to a previous generation, one in which women weren’t demanding to actually be taken seriously and stuff.  We consider it as a time of unpaid labor – like, I don’t know, baking cookies for someone because you love them and not because you’re going to get money (which in our society connotes financial independence and thus personal autonomy) or going on state visits because of your husband’s job.  We pretend this hypothetical grandma didn’t want to be taken seriously so that we don’t have to take her seriously.  Hillary Clinton demands to be taken seriously – maybe we shouldn’t have taken those cookies for granted.  “Old politics” doesn’t just connote smoke-filled rooms, when you’re talking about a woman.  It also connotes “hag” and “crone” and “witch” and all of the other terrible thoughts about humanity that we project onto older women.

Now, it’s a smart campaign strategy.  But for feminists to dismiss the older women who call out the bullshit because they are older – LIKE DISMISSING FEMINIST CONCERNS WHEN THEY COME FROM A WOMAN – is also bullshit.

Don’t tell Mom I said this, but sometimes she really has a point, you know?

(For the record – I do find the ageism directed at Senator McCain to be reprehensible as well.  If HRC were 72, you’re damned right I would still have voted for her.  And I expect Senator McCain’s supporters to do the same.  It’s not as loaded with him because he’s a man and this country has a tradition of voting for old white men, but it’s still ageist.  Shit, my great-grandma lived to be 105, let’s not be acting all like we’re voting in his VP, okay?)


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