The wisdom lost in ageist societies

ageism Dec 30, 2023

There's a myth that lives in the subconscious of every inhabitant of an ageist society; that visibility ought to be exclusively dedicated to the young and attractive.

Let's take a moment with this.

Many of us live in ageist societies which are founded on the idea that the older you are, the less useful and important you become to your community. In the West, this is directly connected to capitalism where your usefulness in society is attributable to your perceived capacity to contribute to the economy.

Patriarchy too loves youth. Youth correlates with desirability, which is why young pretty women are the most visible women in patriarchal cultures.

It's also why, as women grow into maturity, they become less and less interesting to an ageist, patriarchal, capitalist system.

In fact, they start to become invisible to it.

And so, it becomes a radical act - as you age - to defy the inexorable slide into obscurity and keep showing up, sharing your ideas, sharing images of yourself, and choosing to take up space.

Not because the ego is bruised by the invisibility. (As a middle aged woman myself, I take great pleasure in the absence of pressure that comes from being less and less visible to systems that aren't designed for my benefit.) But because of what is lost when we collectively narrow our focus toward one sector of society.

In short, I worry about the loss of wisdom inherent in ageist communities.

I know how badly we need to hear from the women who are becoming invisible and I worry that ageism creates societies that are doomed to make the same mistakes over and over.

I want our communities to heed the voices of women who are in their middle and elderly years.

I want our communities to value the lived experiences and embodied knowledge that comes from:
✿ parenting and grand-parenting, or
✿ living through very difficult circumstances and finding a way to survive them, or
✿ being disappointed, or having your heart broken, or
✿ living with a body that's suffered from chronic pain or illness for years, or
✿ finding your life unfolding in a totally different way to what you expected.

These are voices I want to hear from.

I want to learn from people who have struggled and overcome.

From people who have had at least one dark night of the soul and learned something critical from it.

From people who've lived through social change and understand the benefits of both revolutionary action as well as sitting quietly and waiting for change.

This is the wisdom we lose when our gaze is taken up only with what is shiny and new. And we are all the poorer for it.

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