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SCF: You’ve pointed out that ageism has gotten worse at the same time American society has been celebrating increased longevity. MMG: One of the reasons is that there are more people who need to capitalize on ageism.You could start with the people who get money out of frightening people about getting older.(“They” refers to people causing or benefiting from the “subjugation” of older people.) “They destroy confidence in our own powers, lessen our autonomy, and make many accept, willingly or not, an unnecessarily dependent or abject life.” To begin to reduce ageism, Gullette calls for “a revolution in perception and empathy” across all ages and throughout society.
And I would be encouraging them to look at their own circles—listen for ageist comments from their roommates.
Teachers—once you give them the concepts, they can run with it themselves.
So, through her book, she’s hoisting the revolutionary flag again, calling for people of all ages to join the cause.
But to put much-needed passion into the movement, first things first: like the American Revolution, this one, she says, must begin with a detailed, pointed declaration.
SCF: What are some of the effects of all these different types of ageism on older people? That younger people, but also ourselves—we are intolerant about our appearance.
We lack an audience for our subjectivities and our grievances. MMG: When being invisible means that you are likely to be knocked down—that public spaces are not safe for you—I think that’s violent. There are examples in the book of Internet hate speech. People who think they know, better than you do, what you want—I think their attitude toward you is violent. You are suffering from the affect that somebody else is imposing on you. It is their contempt that is the violence that is causing you to feel shame.” SCF: Why do you call things that don’t physically hurt you violent? You know, “Boomers will change aging the way they changed every other phase of life.” They were born, and they needed more schools, and so the schools got built.
The uglification industries include the fashion magazines and a lot of the portrait photography, and so on, that try to get people to believe that they need help with their appearance as they get older, which could be anything from hair dye to Botox to surgery.
There’s a kind of rule in critical age studies, and that is, look for the money.
Then there are the people who want to cut out the social safety net—the entire Republican Congress right now.
They want to cut Social Security, Medicare—what I call the first-generation solutions to ageism. SCF: You want to start a revolution against ageism. MMG: Children should be where families start in anti-ageism.