On Women Aging
May 28, 2019
I don’t feel old. Maybe it’s the word, what the word “old” conjures up in people’s minds, what the restrictive thinking and attitudes are toward “old”. But I guess I am getting up there in age. Late 60’s. Not really old, but not young. I love my age. I don’t love what people have been taught about age, especially about women as we age, especially about old women. I don’t love how old women are treated, and I don’t love being underestimated, dismissed as out of date, or worse, disrespected, reviled, hated, seen as a dispensable burden on society. Not only me. I rage and weep at the way old women are treated. Thrown out to the street, kept indoors as indentured labour, forced into widows huts, beaten, kicked, spat on, ridiculed, labeled a witch, labeled outcast, murdered. Silenced.
I do love what aging really is. To be able to look back on my life and understand experiences, see patterns of how each step has led to the next, how each step has led to what I do now, what I know how to do now. How each chapter and change has led to deeper understanding of who I am, what I have to offer, what I am capable of doing, what my purpose is in this life.
I love how I can look back, and see how far we have come. I love discussions with old women. I love that I can sit with a woman older than me who can describe changes over the past 200 years from the stories of her mother and grandmother. I love that we can also question with knowledge and experience how far we have not come, and could have come, were we not up against such resistance. I love being able to see and understand more deeply this resistance and figure out how to undo it. I love that old women are here to be part of the change we are creating together, not hidden history that stands a small chance of being found by a young woman wondering if respect for women had been fought for in the past. I love being alive to be part of this continued change that we are creating together.
It pains me deeply to read about the miserable living conditions old women face. My heart goes out to women facing public scorn, torture, banishment from community, death, from being seen as unnecessary, unappealing or threatening to men. Old women have perspective, stories, experience, ideas, love to give. Old women deserve respect and love from the community. Communities suffer from the hatred and fear of old women.
My hair turned grey in my mid forties. I cringed at first as I began to experience the dismissal of “older” women. But then I embraced this change, and found new ways to counter patriarchal responses to age in women. I recognize the enhanced dismissals, the assumptions, the disgust, the scorn. What matters more to me is the fear I see in young women. I am still learning what this aging is. Looking into a mirror I surprise myself. I look different. My face, my skin, my body has changed and continues to change. Some things I used to do physically I don’t now. But inside I am still that seven year old girl running in joy along the shoreline of a lake. I am still fourteen, pouring into stacks of books. I am still twenty one, learning how to formulate new plans.
The celebration of all of us at every point in our lives, including our own ageing, is a strong and necessary stand, a personal and political act against the silencing of women. It is a strong and necessary stand against the pressure to look young, to be young and available to men as our main purpose in life. The celebration of, recognition of, and inclusion of old women and old women’s perspectives is what brings to our discussion the full story of this time period that we have been born into.
I celebrate my sisters in World Pulse who are writing about, exposing and acting to stop the cruelty. I celebrate news and photos of old women being freed, loved, listened to. I celebrate the important conversations taking place about how long it has been that we have been taught to fear ageing as women.
For myself, I continue to grow, and marvel, and be grateful for what each year brings. I am grateful for the love across ages that exists here within World Pulse. I am grateful for the freedom we are collectively creating, as women of every age live to enjoy and explore our lives, our bodies, our ideas, our changes, our metamorphosis, celebrating each year for what it is, living to enjoy freedom at every age. I am grateful for these discussions we can have openly with each other from all of our perspectives, our ideas gathered from however many years we have each survived. These, in all of their forms, with all of our ages, with all of our ideas as they take form, and change, and grow are the full celebration of womanhood, and of this powerful and intergenerational sisterhood that we are building together.