2Blowhards
The Internet and older folks

Casual Ageism

category_bug_ageism.gif Ageism is defined in part by Robert Butler who coined the term in 1969, as the “systematic stereotyping of and discrimination against people because they are old.” It is every bit as wrong and demeaning as racism and sexism, but is so deeply ingrained in American culture that it is perpetrated with impunity every day in the media and hardly anyone objects.

Catching up on my magazine reading on an airplane yesterday, this short book review, written by Barbara Kantrowitz in the “Snap Judgment” section of Newsweek, snapped me to attention. In its entirety, it reads:

Confessions of a Bigamist, by Kate Lehrer

You’ve got to feel a little bit of sympathy for Michelle Banyon, Lehrer’s 47-year-old heroine. She’s torn between two lovers: her high-powered Manhattan husband and a passionate Texas naturalist she meets when she literally runs him over and then nurses him back to health. Who will she choose? The title’s a hint. Her romantic juggling act is a middle-aged woman’s fantasy tale – hardly realistic, but a great escape.

That is the kind of “systematic stereotyping” Butler is referring to. In fact, Ms. Kantrowitz delivers a twofer with this bigoted review – ageism and sexism.

Imagine her review just as it is but with the protagonist of the book a 47-year-old man instead of woman, and substitute the male adjective and noun in the final sentence of the review so it would read:

“His romantic juggling act is a middle-aged man’s fantasy tale – hardly realistic…”

Oh, yeah? Tell that to Harrison Ford, Sean Connery and a slew of 60-plus movie idols. Of course, Ms. Kantrowitz would never write such a sentence about a man. But in her blind age prejudice – which holds in most of the media – no woman who has reached the advanced age of 47 could possibly be attractive, smart and sexy enough to inspire the romantic interest of one man, let alone two.

This kind of casual ageism enrages me, reinforcing the already deeply embedded belief that any woman older than 25 is ugly, unattractive and sexless. It is a lie, repeated every day in hundreds of ways as small and seemingly innocuous as this one, and no one questions it.

Let Newsweek know you think this is unacceptable bigotry. You can send a complaint online or email them at letters@newsweek.com.

Comments

I love what you're doing. No longer surprised at being middle aged which I see going on and on until I'm at least 70, I'm in my late 50s and I like to think I'm in my Prime Time. Only now am I able to make sense of my life experiences and begin to create something from all of them.

Until I found yours, I came across very few sites that talk about aging. Hurrah for your banner.

I'm fooling with 2 blogs right now, but they are not quite to go live until I get my links fixed and my first blogroll done. They have to do with the Business of Life and Legacy Matters.

And just why is it that society (let alone the journalists) agrees that middle-aged and older men can still be a "catch" but women can't? Is it simply the procreation thing? Otherwise, they're aging every bit as fast and hard as we are.

Why not trophy husbands? And, instead of bimbos, boy toys?

hmmmm -- if you were a single woman in your 40s - 50s - 60s, and you wanted some male companionship, and you had two men showing interest in you:
male number 1 is under 25 years old, very cute & a healthy handsome body (like an Orlando Bloom or an Ashton Kutcher or Jude Law . . .), and kind of fun to talk to but . . .broke, working at the local WaWa, and can be self-centered and, well, kind of dumb sometimes.
Male #2 is your age, and also good looking (let's see -- looks like Johnny Depp for the 40 somethings, Richard Gere for 50s, Harrison Ford or Sean Connery for 60+ -- fill in whomever you wish), and he is also in the top 10% income level in his field, is intelligent, well-educated, experienced, loves children (& knows how to change a diaper!), very honest -- he's quieter than the young guy but just as, if not more, passionate (WITHOUT Viagra.) Oh and he IS single, not a conniver with some poor wife hidden away somewhere.

Hmmm -- wouldn't most of you women take the guy your own age? As a matter of fact, doesn't he seem too good to be true?

HOWEVER - I sincerely believe that if we rewrote the above gender-reversed:

female number 1 is under 25 years old, very cute & a healthy beautiful body (like an Britney Spears or a Jessica Simpson, maybe Natalie Portman), and kind of fun to talk to but . . .broke, working at the local WaWa, and can be self-centered and, well, kind of dumb sometimes.
female #2 is your age, and also good looking (let's see -- looks like Julianne Moore for the 40 somethings, Susan Sarandon for 50s, Candace Bergen or Catherine DeNeuve for 60+ -- fill in whomever you wish), and she is also in the top 10% income level in her field, is intelligent, well-educated, experienced, loves children (& knows how to change a diaper!), very honest -- she's quieter than the young guy but just as, if not more, passionate (WITHOUT hormone supplements.) And she is single.

So, men, who do you want to make some future romantic plans with?
Of course, the men on this particular blog are probably a cut well above the average American male -- but, as a high-earning good-looking intelligent and HONEST 40-something woman, I can say, from experience, that most males act like I am not even there when some 20-something in tight clothes walks by. Actually, most act like I am not even there ALL of the time.

just another wonderful observation about what it is like to grow older . . .

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