[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.]
[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.