I appear to have reached a stage in my life where ‘younger feminists’ – not my phrase – are telling me what’s new and important. I think this is great. (Honest! not least because I also meet all too many younger women who simply don’t see feminism as being for them at all.)
But as I look to older women (60s/70s/80s) for their knowledge and experience, for their eldership, I wonder if the younger feminists are interested in the thought that went before, or must it all be new and young*? And is there any place then, for the middle aged woman’s experience?
As I approach 50, feeling, in many ways, stronger, more capable, more adept, more MYSELF, than at any previous time in my life, I am also aware of being dismissed as not getting it, not relevant, not seeing myself or my experience represented in its multiplicity, in the arts, in politics, in business, in the world … and I wonder, do I have to be 80 before what I think counts again?
(Which, given I was told I also didn’t count in my teens and 20s – in fact all of up to now – seems a bit unfair …)
*Yes, this has been the cry of age forever. Of course. Clichés are clichés because they’re true. Doesn’t mean they’re not worth questioning.
“the blog-poster as a young feminist”
Vital Statistics, NZ women’s theatre company, 1985
(I’m not the baby.)
Although there might be specific feminist resonances, surely the issue you’re addressing here is one of ageism? Surely any intellectual, moral, ethical, artistic endeavour will encounter this same effect.
To that end im not completely clear whether this is a call for a feminist reaction to ageism, or an age-equality reaction to feminism.
I do think its a good, valid and worthwhile question to struggle with. I know women in their early twenties who are ‘a bit fed up’ of ‘feminists’ who ‘just take thing too far’. Surely its all all right now, all you have to do is stand up for yourself. I find that reaction troubling. Im convinced that theres much more to do. I dont want feminism consigned to a back water ( csn I even use ghetto?). I want it main stream. Current. Active. Relevant.. …
But as to whether feminism has a unique answer to the age old problem of passing wisdom down generations while still nuturing new thinking… I really dont know the answer to that.
Im not remotely qualified to go any further, but a book of esays from a mixed age collection of contributing authors addressing this question. Now that I’d go out an buy.
I like the idea of a collaboration between different generations of feminists about this. I’d buy it too! I’ve seen far too many instances on forums of women dismissing other women’s views because they’re out of date (either because they ‘take things too far’ or because they’re not au fait with the most current terminology or writing), or because they weren’t around in the 70s when we (apparently) invented feminism. Each group is prone to telling the other to go away and read and learn before they engage in the discussion. That’s so not helpful, the last thing we should be doing is alienating women of any age who are engaging with these issues.
As i say on Twitter, I am a complete believer in the vital importance of women from across generations coming together, listening to each other and learning from each other. Thanks to feminism I have met women in their teens, 20s, 30s, 40s , 50s, 60s, even in some cases in their 70s. From them I have learnt so much about the struggles and the achievements of the second wave that have helped shape my life and the feminist movement today. From me they have learnt about the same and different struggles young women face today (although at the grand old age of 28 sometimes I go to events like Fem School and feel like I’m one of the oldest there!!).
I think we do definitely see real problems between generations (I wrote this about one instance: http://sianandcrookedrib.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/some-thoughts-on-solidarity-and.html – it really bothered me) and this goes both ways – i.e. older feminists undermining or denying the work being done by younger women, younger feminists accusing older women of being out of date or not ‘down’ with the latest discourse. But I hope that the links, friendships and relationships that I see in my experience of the feminist movement is stronger than those upsets. I know that I am proud to know so many women of all different ages – women who are endlessly inspiring me, teaching me and learning from me. And also who are just great friends.
I don’t want the ‘generation wars’ of the USA to happen here and I don’t believe it will. Yes there are problematic areas with second wave feminism just as there are with 3rd/4th/whatever-wave-this-is but we are stronger when we listen and learn from each, question each other, debate with each other and celebrate feminism with each other.