April 10th 2011
Before going back to Volver, my blog today deals with instances of ageism that I have mentioned occasionally but that I would like to put together.
I took Morganroth Gullette’s Agewise to read while away on holiday. As usual I had only little time to read seriously but a cursory glance gave me a shock. It was like reading Simone de Beauvoir at 18. All these feelings and thoughts that I considered peculiar to me and slightly abnormal are justified after all. It is mainly the anger. This anger that has recurred again and again only to be told that I overreact or that my perception is personal and has no general validity.
Anger at the film lecturer. When I retired at the age of 60 the City Lit organised a course on ‘older people and the media’. The person who talked to us about the press predicted the changes due to new technologies, the internet and the web. He saw us with a future. The person who talked to us about films showed us “Brief encounters”. However good the film is in its own way and however touched were the majority of the audience, I felt insulted by being seen as only deserving nostalgia.
Anger at the Film and Society Professor . When spurred by this event I decided to study for an MA on Film and Television and asked him to supervise me for a PHd on Older Women in Film, his response was “Who is interested in older women?”.
Anger at the video tutor. Our informal group of ‘older women in films’ entered a competition called “My London”. We were assigned a professional video maker. She thought she knew better than us what we should express in this 5 mins. video and the result was more her view of us in London than our own view of London.
Anger at the cinema programmer who did not even reply to our suggestion of having an older women in film season.
I thought that as the years passed attitudes would change. But I felt angry again when a misogynistic and ageist film “The Mother” opened the London Film Festival and was acclaimed as a great British film and no dissenting voice was heard , when “Cloud 9” was generally praised on the grounds that old women ‘do it’ like young ones ‘do it’ and when the trite “Mid August Lunch” was lauded by a large audience.
I feel angry when Joan Bakewell ‘the voice of older people’ in 2009 states “I don’t want to wear sensible skirts, I don’t want to look like an old frump. I mix with active people, so I don’t want to look like I have come from a pensioner’s meeting. My life is somewhere else, my skirts and dresses hover around the knee” .
I feel angry when The Guardian week-end supplement in 2011 features a picture of media women aged from 53 to 77 perfectly coiffed and dressed, wearing shoes with stiletto heels that would not permit them to walk next door . The title? “Who are you calling past it?”. When The Guardian – again- headlines their supplement on February 26th 2011, Still got it. Welcome to the pageant for pensioners. It treats us to three pages dedicated to the finalists of Ms Senior America . Ms Senior America? Where has the anger of the 1970 Miss World Competition feminist protest gone?
I feel angry that a well funded academic project is called “Look at me” and shows “Still doing it” as its launch session.
I do not want to be the object of anybody’s ‘look’.
WE ARE HERE, white-haired, and wrinkled , disabled and able-bodied, sensibly dressed for an active life, caring or being cared for.
WE ARE HERE funny, sad, active or relaxed, contributing to society or not, sexually active or not.
WE ARE HERE more interested in changing learning BEING, than in our appearance.
This anger has indeed been very useful for me. It drove me to form an older women in film group, to make my own video about London, to research and read about ageism, to programme a monthly screening of films featuring older women for the local U3A and to organise a workshop “old feminists -young feminists- getting to know each other” at the Feminism in London Conference (2010).
Writing does not come naturally to me but this anger also motivates me to write this blog that expresses my personal thoughts. Until reading Agewise I felt disappointed that I had to work so hard and not very successfully to share my anger with my contemporaries. Now I have good ammunition.