Wednesday 30 January 2019

Age Identity: The Ageless Self and The Mask of Ageing

"While we generally consider old age and ageing as natural human experiences for those who live long enough, the category ‘old’ is infused with negative connotations and demeaning stereotypes in contemporary American society, where youth is glorified and valorised. Within this context, the process for older people to define their identities as ‘old’, a category that is arguably stigmatised and negatively valued, may result in their attempts to dissociate themselves from or exaggerate their evaluation of the distinguishing dimensions of the old category (Howard 2000)."
Rozario & Derienzis, 2009

Age identity can be seen as a social identity (vs. personal identity), i.e., it is constructed within a system of social interactions based on the membership in a social group where meanings about the self are developed.
Though chronological age appears to be an objective bureaucratic measure of the length of one's life, the relationship between chronological age and one's age identity is far from direct (Logan Ward and Spitze 1992), i.e. a person in her eighties does not necessarily think of herself as an old(er) person. Indeed, scholars have argued that many older people do not consider oldness pivotal to their self‐identity (Gilleard and Higgs 2000, Matthews 1999).
Hence, some researchers suggest the notion of "ageless self" which focuses on the continuity of an identity stating that later life is not really different since older adults see themselves as "the continuation of the younger identities". Others propose the "mask of ageing", which "embodies the lack of fit between the inner and outer experiences of the older person" and states that older adults are "youth trapped in an ageing body" (Rozario & Derienzis, 2009).
Late‐life identity remains a contested topic because many older adults claim a disjuncture between their internal experiences and their external appearances. Reasons for this disjunction might lie in our ambivalence and internalised ageist attitudes towards the category ‘old’.

- Rozario, P. A. & Derienzis, D. (2009). 'So forget how old I am!' Examining age identities in the face of chronic conditions. Sociology of Health & Illness, 31(4), 540-553, link
- photographs by the amazing Vivian Maier via and via

Tuesday 29 January 2019

Pygmalion in the Classroom

In 1965, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson conducted an experiment in an elementary school to study the impact teacher expectation has on student performance. The researchers told teachers that certain children were "growth spurters" based on their results on the Harvard Test of Inflected Acquisition.
But. The test did not exist. The children, in fact, had been chosen at random. They did, however, nevertheless show greater intellectual growth than the control-group children after one year (12 IQ points versus 8 IQ points). Why?

Expectations serve as self-fulfilling prophecies. Teachers expecting greater intellectual development communicate these expectations with reactions, words, looks, postures, gestures; they encourage their students. Particularly younger children, i.e. first and second graders, show effects of teacher expectations (Rosenthal & Jacobson, 1965). Seen from a different angle, this means that certain students are not encouraged and do not perform well due to the low expectations. This is particularly of interest when discussing the performance of children and their ethnicity, religion, gender, and socio-economic background.

-  Rosenthal, R. & Jacobson, L. (1965). Pygmalion in the Classroom. The Urban Review, 16-20, link
- photographs taken at Broadview Public School in 1959/60 via

Sunday 27 January 2019

I Always Knew, by Magdalena Klein

I always knew how much I loved you,
That I could never leave you behind.
My body may be a worthless worm,
But my soul from yours will never be torn.

Years were passing and the horrible curse came true.
They locked us millions in cattle cars,
And even to you, so faithful to the Almighty,
The murderers denied immunity.

I couldn’t do for you a thing.
Watching you my eyes were weeping.
I wanted to follow you everywhere – even
At the price of my life, I thought then.

But on a horrible night, as our train
Slowed down and stopped in the open plain,
They stole you from me, my only treasure.
And yet, I could continue on further.

When the snow fell, I worried about you only,
You were by my side at every step.
When I got tired, you led me ahead,
You stroked me, you held my hand.

This is how I survived the dreadfully big struggle
And I returned to the old abode.
Since then I always search to find you, to reunite,
I expect you morning, noon, and night.

I always knew how much I loved you.
My soul has never left you, followed you even then.
And down here, lifelessly, I play a farce – I mime,
This world is no longer mine.
Magdalena Klein

Magdalena Klein (1920-1946) survived the death camp but died very soon afterwards in summer 1946 (via). Klein's last poems were filled with survivors guilt. This one was dedicated to her mother (via).
She left her testimony in form of poetry. Her beautifully handwritten poems were kept meticulously in a notebook, which she entrusted just before being deported to a Gentile friend for safekeeping. Mr. Szabados returned the notebook to her after the war.
 Magda was born in Marghita, Romania, into a middle-class family, as the youngest of eight children. In 1938, she moved with her parents to Oradea and hardly started to enjoy life in a larger city when the anti-Jewish laws were introduced one by one. (via)
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photograph of Holocaust survivor (Theresienstadt and Auschwitz) Nina Klein (born in 1932) with the number 71978 by Beat Mumenthaler via

Thursday 24 January 2019

The -ism Series (31): The Two Components of -isms & Their Common Elements

"Every ism has two components. Something we value and something we do not. The subject of the isms can be negative or positive.

For example, ageism reflects the negative labelling and treatment of the elderly.We could equally call ageism youthism, which values the abilities of youth. Racism carries a double meaning: a value of one race over another and the discrimination against another race. Sexism describes (usually) the valuing of the male sex and the discrimination (usually) against the female sex. Ableism values certain abilities, which leads to disableism the discrimination against the ‘less able’."
Wolbring (2008:252)

"IT IS VIRTUALLY impossible to view one oppression, such as sexism or homophobia, in isolation because they are all connected: sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, ableism, anti-Semitism, ageism. They are linked by a common origin— economic power and control— and by common methods of limiting, controlling and destroying lives. There is no hierarchy of oppressions. Each is terrible and destructive. To eliminate one oppression successfully, a movement has to include work to eliminate them all or else success will always be limited and incomplete.
To understand the connection among the oppressions, we must examine their common elements. The first is a defined norm, a standard of rightness and often righteousness wherein all others are judged in relation to it. This norm must be backed up with institutional power, economic power, and both institutional and individual violence. It is the combination of these three elements that makes complete power and control possible. In the United States, that norm is male, white, heterosexual, Christian, temporarily able-bodied, youthful, and has access to wealth and resources. It is important to remember that an established norm does not necessarily represent a majority in terms of numbers; it represents those who have ability to exert power and control over others."
Pharr (2002:53)

- Pharr, S. (2002). Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism. Berkeley: Chardon Press.
- Wolbring, G. (2008). The Politics of Ableism. Developtment, 51, 252-258.
- photographs by Melvin Sokolsky (Bubble Series for Harper's Bazaar, 1963) via and via and via and via and via and via

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Bette Davis: Reading Too Much, Getting A Divorce

On 7 December 1938, the New York Times reported that the reason for the dissolution of Bette Davis' marriage with Harmon 'Oscar' Nelson was that she read too much (via):

"Harmon O. Nelson obtained an uncontested divorce today from his actress wife, Bette Davis.
Home life with Mrs. Nelson contained little of that close communion between husband and wife, Mr. Nelson's testimony in Superior Court disclosed. He said that he usually just sat while his wife read, "to an unnecessary degree."
"She thought her work was more important than her marriage," Mr. Nelson testified. "She even insisted on reading books or manuscripts when he had guests. It was all very upsetting."
The Nelsons were married in 1932 and separated a month ago."

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photograph of Ruth Elizabeth 'Bette' Davis (1908-1989) via

Monday 21 January 2019

"...symbolic violence, a gentle violence, imperceptible and invisible even to its victims". Pierre Bourdieu

I would probably not have embarked on such a difficult subject if I had not been compelled to do so by the whole logic of my research. I have always been astonished by what might be called the paradox of doxa -the fact that the order of the world as we find it, with its one-way streets and its no-entry signs, whether literal or figurative, its obligations and its penalties, is broadly respected; that there are not more transgressions and subversions, contraventions and 'follies' (...); or, still more surprisingly, that the established order, with its relations of domination, its rights and prerogatives, privileges and injustices, ultimately perpetuates itself so easily, apart from a few historical accidents, and that the most intolerable conditions of existence can so often be perceived as acceptable and even natural.

And I have also seen masculine domination, and the way it is imposed and suffered, as the prime example of this paradoxical submission, an effect of what I call symbolic violence, a gentle violence, imperceptible and invisible even to its victims exerted for the most part through the purely symbolic channels of communication and cognition (more precisely, misrecognition), recognition, or even feeling. This extraordinarily ordinary social relation thus offers a privileged opportunity to grasp the logic of the domination exerted in the name of a symbolic principle known and recognized both by the dominant and by the dominated -a language (or a pronunciation), a lifestyle (or a way of thinking, speaking and acting) -and, more generally, a distinctive property, whether emblem or stigma, the symbolically most powerful of which is that perfectly arbitrary and non-predictive bodily property, skin colour.

(...) Being included, as man or woman, in the object that we are trying to comprehend, we have embodied the historical structures of the masculine order in the form of unconscious schemes of perception and appreciation. When we try to understand masculine domination we are therefore likely to resort to modes ofthought that are the product of domination.

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- Bourdieu, P. (2001). Masculine Domination. Stanford: Stanford University Press, link
- photographs by Pierre Olivier Deschamps (1991) via and via

Saturday 19 January 2019

Once upon a time...

"Historically, older people were valued and respected members of society across cultures for their vast knowledge of the culture (...). Scholars have noted a contemporary shift toward a general devaluing of older persons in modern societies, especially in Western cultures."
Levy & Macdonald (2016:18)

- Levy, S. R. & Macdonald, J. L. (2016). Progress on Understanding Ageism. Journal of Social Issues, 72(1), 5-25.
- photograph by Elliott Erwitt (Ireland, 1962) via

Wednesday 16 January 2019

The Best Men Can Be

"Thirty years ago, we launched our The Best A Man Can Get tagline.
Since then, it has been an aspirational statement, reflecting standards that many men strive to achieve.
But turn on the news today and it’s easy to believe that men are not at their best. Many find themselves at a crossroads, caught between the past and a new era of masculinity. While it is clear that changes are needed, where and how we can start to effect that change is less obvious for many. And when the changes needed seem so monumental, it can feel daunting to begin. So, let’s do it together.

It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture. And as a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man. With that in mind, we have spent the last few months taking a hard look at our past and coming communication and reflecting on the types of men and behaviors we want to celebrate. We’re inviting all men along this journey with us – to strive to be better, to make us better, and to help each other be better.
From today on, we pledge to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man everywhere you see Gillette. In the ads we run, the images we publish to social media, the words we choose, and so much more.
As part of The Best Men Can Be campaign, Gillette is committing to donate $1 million per year for the next three years to non-profit organizations executing programs in the United States designed to inspire, educate and help men of all ages achieve their personal “best” and become role models for the next generation.
Our tagline needs to continue to inspire us all to be better every day, and to help create a new standard for boys to admire and for men to achieve… Because the boys of today are the men of tomorrow.
We’ve all got work to do. And it starts today."
"It is no longer enough for brands to simply sell a product, customers are demanding that they have a purpose – that they stand for something. Masculinity is a huge part of Gillette’s brand, and there is a recognition in this ad that the new generation is reworking that concept of masculinity, and it is no longer the cliche is once was." Mark Borkowski
In its latest advertising campaign, Gillette replaced the tagline "The best men can get" with "The best men can be". The new narrative about a different type of masculinity went viral, the company was bombarded with praise, abuse and calls for boycott (via).

Monday 14 January 2019

Quoting Miriam Margolyes

"Anti-Semitism is a rotten thing. It's an ignorant, stupid, horrible thing. As is anti-Muslim feeling. They have to be together."
Miriam Margolyes

"The curious thing is that I embraced homosexuality with as much joy and delight as I've embraced everything else in my life."
Miriam Margolyes

"People who were gay were pitied and ridiculed by my parents - they had no modern sense of people being allowed to be who they were."
Miriam Margolyes

"Although my parents both liked her, they just didn't approve of a same-sex relationship. Nowadays, people say that you must let children be what they are, but when I was growing up, the parents defined the child - and my parents had a definite vision of how they wanted me to be."
Miriam Margolyes

"Everything's harder for women: harder to start, to stay employed, to run a life with a family."
Miriam Margolyes

"I think Britain is a bit class-ridden. People tend to be judged by how rounded their vowels are."
Miriam Margolyes

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photograph via

Thursday 10 January 2019

The British Art of Queuing, Culture and Egalitarianism

"People usually choose to queue because it is fair. In fact, queues are places where people are obsessed with fairness, and where cutting in line is seen as a terrible crime that can lead to all sorts of scuffles, fights and frictions. (...) While the need to queue depends largely on the activity, a person’s willingness to queue occurs in varying degrees around the world. Britons, in particular, are renowned for their orderly and regimented approach to queuing. (...) The stereotype of the Anglophone countries is that queuing is something they specialise in. The more charitable view is that there is a strong tradition of egalitarianism in many of these places – and the queue is a form of equality, where if you seek a service first, you are served first, regardless of your social position."
Nick Haslam

“The British have a well-established culture of queuing and a very specific type of queue conduct, one that has been known to confuse many a foreign visitor. In a time when Britain is changing rapidly, and the ways in which we queue are shifting, the psychology behind British queuing is more important than ever – it a one of the keys to unlocking British culture.”Adrian Furnham
The least accepted "no-no", according to a survey conducted by Privilege Home Insurance, is queue skipping since it goes against the principle of "first come, first served", against the British social system of linear queueing and as it sparks a sense of injustice. Other "no-nos" are starting a conversation while queueing and accepting an offer to go ahead of someone in the queue. "In British queueing culture, not only will acceptance be perceived as impoliteness, it will also lose the individual the respect of the remaining queuers" (via).
"When humans encounter a queuing situation outside our personal and cultural expectations, we become dumb and anxious." (via)

photographs by Nina Leen (1958) via and via

Monday 7 January 2019

White Police Officers, Black Police Officers, and Their Interpretations of Events

"Six-in-ten white and Hispanic officers characterize police relations with blacks as excellent or good, a view shared by only 32% of their black colleagues. (...) only about a quarter of all white officers (27%) but seven-in-ten of their black colleagues (69%) say the protests that followed fatal encounters between police and black citizens have been motivated at least to some extent by a genuine desire to hold police accountable. (...) virtually all white officers (92%) but only 29% of their black colleagues say that the country has made the changes needed to assure equal rights for blacks."
Pew Research Center

The Pew Research Center national survey - one of the largest ones so far in the U.S. - was conducted by the National Police Research Platform. Attitudes and experiences of almost 8.000 police officers were collected and analysed. Here are some more findings:

"Black officers are much more likely than white or Hispanic officers to say they worry more that officers will not spend enough time diagnosing a situation before acting (61% for blacks vs. 37% for whites and 44% of Hispanics). Overall, blacks and department administrators (59%) are the only two major groups in which a majority is more concerned that officers will act too quickly than worry that they will wait too long before responding to a situation. (...)
Two-thirds of police officers (67%) say the highly publicized fatal encounters between police and blacks are isolated incidents, while 31% describe them as signs of a broader problem. Yet underlying this result are striking differences between the views of black and white officers – differences that mirror the broader fault lines in society at large on racial issues.
A majority of black officers (57%) say these encounters are evidence of a broader problem between police and blacks, a view held by only about a quarter of all white (27%) and Hispanic (26%) officers.
Black female officers in particular are more likely to say these incidents signal a more far-reaching concern. Among all sworn officers, 63% of black women say this, compared with 54% of black men."
Pew Research Center

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photograph by Vivian Maier via

Friday 4 January 2019

Outdated Stereotypes

Some of the most important barriers to developing good public-health policy on ageing are pervasive misconceptions, attitudes and assumptions about older people. Although there is substantial evidence that older people contribute to society in many ways, they are instead often stereotyped as frail, out of touch, burdensome or dependent. These ageist attitudes limit the way problems are conceptualized, the questions that are asked, and the capacity to seize innovative opportunities. As a starting point for policy-making, they often lead to great emphasis on cost containment.

These outdated stereotypes extend to the way we often frame the life course, assuming it is inevitably categorized into fixed stages. In highincome settings, these are typically early childhood, studenthood, a defined period of working age, and then retirement. Yet these are social constructs that have little physiological basis. The notion of retirement is relatively new, and for many people in low- and middle-income countries it remains abstract. The idea that learning is something that should occur only during the early stages of life reflects outdated employment patterns in which a person trained for a role and, with luck, worked at it for life, sometimes with a single employer.

One consequence of this rigid framing of the life course is that the extra years that accrue from longevity are often considered as simply extending the period of retirement. However, if these extra years can be experienced in good health, then this approach to how they might be used is very limiting. For example, the anticipation of living longer might allow people to raise children and then start a career at age 40 or even 60, to change career paths at any stage in life, or perhaps to choose to retire for a while at 35 and then re-enter the workforce. Retirement itself may evolve into choices that are less stark.

Excerpts taken from: WHO (2015) World Report on Ageing and Health, page 10

photographs by the great Vivian Maier via and via and via and via