Old and Tired of Ranting Against the Same Old, Same Old
Who Am I Now That I’m Old?

Generations of Feminism

[EDITORIAL NOTE: BlogHer.org contributing editor, Nina Smith, has posted an interview with me in her "10 Money Questions" series. It was personally enlightening to think about these issues and you might find them interesting too.]

category_bug_journal2.gif [Reposted with minor revisions from blogher.org] I have recently been taken to task via private email by a Time Goes By reader. For the second time in as many months I am accused of being “defensive” about feminist ideas.

Among my various sins this time was including men in an important ageist issue. (“There are always women who need to come to the defense of men.”) Another transgression, apparently, is not giving elderblogging a feminist spin. The writer says she is feeling discomfort with elderblogging because ”it's [sic] primary mode is reflection on the past, being ‘nice’ in traditional ways, and not raising the hard questions.”

Aside from the absurdity of excluding men from the issue of age discrimination in the workplace, the word elderblogging (coined by BlogHer founder Elisa Camahort) describes the age of certain bloggers and nothing else. There is no political agenda, feminist or otherwise, except as individual elderbloggers care to apply one. Or not.

Although anyone who has known me for any length of time would put “nice” at the bottom of any list of descriptive adjectives, despite the fact that reflection on one’s life is a critical task of aging and hard questions are regularly raised on this blog – I’m not here to defend myself.

I’m here instead to remark on the unreasonable requirements some feminists place on other women. (To be clear, I’ve come to think of all women (and many men) as feminists. I mean, could there possibly be any who still believe women are not entitled to all the rights and privileges men enjoy?)

At the final, general session of the first BlogHer conference in the summer of 2005, I stood up to say that although I had avoided all girl clubs most of my life, the 300 smart, accomplished, friendly, witty women attendees had changed my mind. I was feeling unexpectedly warmed, enlightened and engaged by new friends and acquaintances – so much so that saying it in front of everyone in a big room had made me a bit weepy.

Yes, there had been the exception that morning of a highly-visible, well-known executive who looked at me like I was a worm and walked off while I was telling her how much value and pleasure I get from her company’s software. And I took some minor licks a few days later from two bloggers who made mirth of my weepiness. But it wasn’t enough to sour me on my newly-felt sisterhood. Men don’t have a hammerlock on bad behavior, and some women are unkind to other women.

Which is my point about some feminists. Too frequently, women argue about the minutiae of their personal versions of feminism, branding others as insufficiently committed. Too frequently, women, as my blog reader did in her email, ascribe motives and experiences to other women about whose lives they have no knowledge. And it is an unfortunate trait more common to women than men, in my experience, that disagreements are often fatal to friendship.

My email correspondent is not the first feminist I’ve met through blogging with this point of view. They see every issue through a feminist prism and have judged me deficient for not making elderblogging more feminist. I, on the other hand, while aligned with the feminist cause, am concerned at Time Goes By with aging which is, by natural law, gender neutral.

No wonder so many young women reject the feminist label when old women are carrying on cat fights about who is the better feminist. With apologies to Bill Maher, here are my old New Rules:

  • They may need some more education and we’re working on it, but men are not the enemy.
  • My style of feminism is as valid as your style of feminism.
  • Just because we disagree doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.
  • I won’t tell you how to run your blog; don’t you tell me how to run mine.

Do we really need to say these things this late in the game? Please set me straight if I am wrong, but these rules are so redolent of my grammar and high school days that perhaps they are an issue only with women my age (I’m 65). Maybe younger women have overcome this adolescent cattiness. If so, how disappointing that some of my generation haven’t.

But we sure did kick ass with second wave feminism in the 1960s and ‘70s. All of us, of every feminist stripe. We’ve come a long way, baby, as those cigarette commercials once said, and made it possible for baby boomers, gen-Xers, gen-Yers, and millennials coming up behind us to be the doctors, lawyers and corporate chiefs that were impossible for women to aspire to when I was making career choices.

If you “young ‘uns” can get past our elder bickering, it’s your turn now to finish the job of knocking down the remaining barriers to equality with men. I may not burn my bra this time around (a tough thing to do since I don’t wear one), but I’ll help in any other way I can. Just not on my blog about aging.


Comments

Right on, Ronni. YOur correspondent reminds me of a few I've had who tell me what my blog should be about. Well, I always think, this isn't public broadcasting here. In the blogosphere, malcontents should just click away to one of the other 50 million or so blogs out there for the reading. Or start their own.

Well, you're right and she's so wrong.
"...disagreements are often fatal to friendships." So unfortunate, but that's women all over. (Shall I be flayed for this?) That's why, since childhood, I've wanted to avoid closed groups of women. Gotta hand it to the guys on this one! They can disagree and even abuse each other and still get along!

I'm sorry, but I am reminded of the neo-cons redefining American patriotism and the theocrats redefining religion to suit their purposes. Is their purpose to remove barriers or to reinforce them?
Who are these people to define you?

I think while reading while reading Marianne Williamson's "A Woman's Worth" I gained a better understanding of the reason females disagree... Some folks just believe there is a limited supply of happiness in the world.

I, on the other hand, think there's plenty to go around. If you have it, share it. If you don't have it, find someone who does and share theirs.

I once read a book called, "Meet me in the Middle" by Charlotte Clinebell back in the seventies which helped formulate feminism for me. We have to include men. If we exclude them we are doing what was done to all women and minorities through the ages, and that's no way to change the world - by repeating old, dominant, patriarchal patterns! And while women can sometimes be our own worst enemies, men can be theirs too - denying themselves the right to emotional expression, nurturing qualities and anti-dominance stances. We must clearly ALL be in this together to make any worthwhile change.

This post is courageous, Ronni. So important.

As bell hooks (my all time favorite author on the subject) from her book: "Feminism is for Everybody" says:
"Imagine living in a world where there is no domination, where females and males are not alike or even always equal, but where a vision of mutuality is the ethos shaping our interaction ... Feminist revolution alone will not create such a world; we need to end racism, classism, elitism, imperialism [ageism?]. But it will make it possible for us to be fully actualized females and males able to create beloved community, to live together, to realize our dreams of freedom and justice, living the truth that we are all 'created equal.' Come closer. See how feminism can touch and change your life and all our lives. Come closer and know firsthand what feminist movement is all about. Come closer and you will see feminism is for everybody."

I remember arguing, back in the 70s, over whether it was all right to wear makeup and fix our hair, or whether that was pandering to men's image of us.

I see there's still a lot of the same-old-same-old going in.

It's sad, really, that each generation has to reinvent the wheel.

I would rather be equal in freedom to live as we choose, write as we choose, say as we choose, than have us all be equal in LACK of freedom for those things. Both are equality, but one is desirable and one most definitely is not.

The brand of feminism that thinks that women should have no choices save to live a life such as a man might have had (and a woman not) before feminism is just a reversal of position - it gives women no more freedom, no more choice, overall. It's true it gives some women (those who want that) more, but it closes out so much else.

I don't want to be just a liberated female. I want to be a liberated human, among other liberated humans. Free to choose what I will, whether it is the "traditional" roles or something else.

I was really too young to participate in the bra burning craze (especially since I never had anything to put in 'em until I had a couple of kids), so I think just for the hell of it, I'm gonna grab one out of my dresser and toss it in the barbecue grill next time Kman fires it up.

What? You say it was just "symbolic?"

Hmmm, makes steaks tastes funny, too.

In all seriousness, Ronni, I am in your corner on this one.

Ronni...

You're right. 100%. Progress and evolution make no room, take no time, have no place for tribes... ageist tribes, gender tribes, spiritual/religious tribes, racial tribes, fat/thin tribes, economic tribes, cultural tribes, class tribes, profession/job tribes, childbearing/childless tribes, generation tribes ... what did I leave out?

Ronni, I think you’re right on track. I think the mature stance, as others have stated here, is an all-inclusive “humanness.” Being human as we are, I doubt we’ll ever live in a “perfect” world. I think the best we can do is to earnestly make changes within the scope of our own lives, one small change at a time.

I grew up in that era, but then again,,,I was never cool! I read all the books, but I never could understand why men were the 'enemy'..and I still don't.I always felt that women were their own worst enemy and we treated each other like that.

I never burned my bra,,,,good Lord, maybe if I was flat chested I might have, but my cup overfloweth, and so I needed them dang things.
I never believed in 'free love',everything had a price. I don't look at myself as a feminist...I consider myself a woman, I don't like labels.

Thought-provoking subject matter. In my experience, my women friends are my friends, whether we agree, disagree, or disagree strongly on issues. (Ronnie, you and I have disagreed on several issues, but I still consider you a friend--and--you treat me as one!)

As you have many times mentioned the power of terminology, I would like to see us delete "cat fight" from our lexicon. To me, it is demeaning to women. 'Nuff said, and thanks for the posting.

P.S. The women's groups to which I have belonged, over the last 69 years, have been nothing but delightful--full of intelligent, world-experienced, thoughtful, kind women. It sounds like I may have been seriously lucky!!

You've said it all, Ronni. Wisely and articulately. There is nothing more to add...so instead of commenting, I stand and applaud! Oh, by the way, Hub is standing and applauding as well.

Cop Car: while I take your point and agree about "cat fight" in general, in this instance I think it applies perfectly.

I strongly agree with many of the points made here, as I commented on your post at BlogHer. That said, I might add my experience with women and in women's groups has been very positive. If there was backbiting of the type you describe, I do not recall any directed my way, nor did I engage in it with others. Had there been any, I'm sure I and others would just have overlooked it as junior highish, childish and petty. I've never lost friends from disagreements. We've always been able to say, what my brother said to me once, "We agree to disagree."

I do know, I was a young mother, just having left the workplace during some of the heyday of loud active feminist protests. I found myself having to do a lot of strong hard persuasive talking to many younger, contemporary, as well as older women and men who found the strident rhetoric of some feminists espousing anti-male gender attitudes and critical views of women who chose a motherhood track unacceptable. I found those to whom I talked inclined to reject identifying themselves as feminists as a result of the divisive rhetoric. Having lived on both the professional and mother track I saw and found such restrictive feminist either/or views destructive to the feminist ideals and movement. I proudly said the majority of feminists, of which I was one, were inclusive despite press coverage of those who demonstrated to the contrary.

While I think that there's lots of need in this world for loud feminist voices that champion the cause of women's liberation, your blog is your place to champion the causes you choose, and issues related to "elders" are what you choose. And yes, those issues are gender neutral. I have found that both men and women can be the enemies of "feminism." I also have found that the best criteria I can use in choosing my friends is to notice whether or not they live by the Golden Rule.

I just got back from vacation, so am getting to this late. But something in the above leapt out at me: that while I fervently hope that what you say is true - that you count all women as feminists because what woman in this day and age wouldn't think women should have same privileges and rights as men? - I can't agree. Unfortunately, in this day of resurgent religious fundamentalism, I can't be so sanguine. I have a friend who's a nun, and she believes the pope is infallible, that his teaching that women should not be allowed to be ordained, that women are not made to be heads of anything, is correct. She's not alone. Think of how Bush got elected, the many fundamentalist Christians out there, and what they believe about men and women, and - you get the picture. This makes me sense that there's still much feminist work to be done.

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