Wednesday 26 January 2022

Feminism Ignoring Ageism

 "... we discussed the ageism that permeates our knowledge, our culture, and our daily lives. That this ageism appears among scholars should surprise no one. However, some might assume that those of a more critical bent, particularly feminist scholars, would be more aware of age-based oppression. 

Nevertheless, feminists are not necessarily any more attuned to ageism than are other scholars. Despite their attention to power relations, their work, for the most part, also ignores age relations. On those relatively rare occasions when they do mention age, they either avoid old age or fail to theorize age relations as a unique inequality. Indeed, age-based oppression is treated as a given, mentioned in a way that is meant to indicate some lovel of shared understanding that "we all know what that is" - a black box to be taken for granted rather than opened and understood. Such theories of inequality imply but never declare who benefits from the oppression faced by the old." (Calasanti & Slevin, 2001:187).

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- Calasanti, T. M. & Slevin, K. F. (2001). Gender, Social Inequalities, and Aging. Walnut Creek et al.: Altamira Press
- photograph by Diane Arbus via

Saturday 22 January 2022

Disability. A byproduct of society.

“Limits on people's capacities to conduct activities that are essential to everyday life are imposed by structural and systemic barriers. These barriers are part of a social system that regards some bodies as "normal" and some as "other", rather than considering a broad range of bodies and possibilities, for example when designing a building or piece of furniture. This relegates people with disabilities to the status of lesser citizens because of their lack of access. Disability is a byproduct of a society which is organized around only certain bodies which are defined as "normal", in laws, education, institutions, and in popular culture.” 
Meg-John Barker

photograph by Richard Sandler via

Tuesday 18 January 2022

Age Representation in Online Images

Photographs of people aged over fifty are usually missing and if they are not, you might wish they were. Using natural language processing technology, Thayer and Skufca (2019) reviewed more than 1.116 online images (randomly drawn from more than 2.7 million images) posted in 2018 by brands and opinion leaders on sites and social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, blogs, news sites) with at least one million followers.

The results:

46% of the adult population in the US is over fifty but only 15% of the images contain people in "that age segment".

The images suggest homogeneity and exaggerate stereotypcial and outdated characteristics. While 31% of adults over fifty colour their hair, only 15% of the images show nongrey hair. 73% of images of the so-called "50-plus" show people with wrinkles, 12% have age spots, only 15% have clear skin.

Snapshots of those over 65 become less varied and vibrant.

Seven in ten photographs of people over fifty show them in isolated situations, seated, alone, dependent, with a partner or a medical professional receiving care. Younger adults, however, are often "standing in the workplace, giving speeches, or actively participating in the world".

While 30% of the labour force is fifty or older, only 13% of images involve these adults at work settings. The contrast: 55% of photographs of people under fifty show them at work.

Only 5% of images depict people over fifty interacting with technology. And if they do, the photographs usually involve a younger person teaching the older one how to use it.

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- Thayer, C. & Skufca, L. (2019). Media Image Landscape: Age Representation in Online Images. Wahsington, DC: AARP Research, link
- photograph by Richard Sandler via

Saturday 15 January 2022

Stereotypes... Does age outweigh gender? Spoiler: Yes.

Abstract: Stereotypes of age and gender are examined with 35-yr-old and 65-yr-old men and women as target persons. Age stereotypes were more pronounced than gender stereotypes; respondents offered more elaborate free-response descriptions of older targets than of younger targets and described same-age targets more similarly than same-sex targets. On the rating scales, older people were judged less likely to possess masculine characteristics, but ratings of feminine characteristics were largely unaffected by age. Older people were not uniformly devalued on the age-stereotypic characteristics, but when negative evaluations occurred they were of the older targets. Results attest to the importance of a multidimensional conception of age and gender stereotypes. (Kite, Deaux & Miele, 1991)

- Kite, M. E., Deaux, K., & Miele, M. (1991). Stereotypes of young and old: Does age outweigh gender? Psychology and Aging, 6(1), 19–27.
- photograph by Richard Sandler (NYC, 1985) via

Friday 14 January 2022

Thursday 13 January 2022

Pandemic Depression + Age

Using telephone and web survey data to study the impact of social determinants and health-related factors on depressive symptoms during the initial lockdown that started in March 2020 in Canada, Raina et al. (2021) came to the conclusion that overall, older adults had "twice the odds of depressive symptoms during the pandemic compared to pre-pandemic". Further factors having an impact were. lower income, poorer health, loneliness, caregiving responsibilities, separation from family, family conflict, and gender (women were more affected).

"The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionated impact on older adults, with groups of people who were already marginalized feeling a far greater negative impact.Parminder Raina

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- Raina, P., Wolfson, C., Griffith, L., Kirkland, S., McMillan, J., Basta, N. Joshi, D., Erbas-Oz, U., Sohel, N., Maimon, G., Thompson, E. &  CLSA team (2021). A longitudinal analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of middle-aged and older adults from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. Nature Aging, 1, 1137- 1147; link
- photograph by Harvey Stein via

Wednesday 12 January 2022

Ageing Dancers and the Shift from the Outer to the Inner Body

Youth being an essential condition for a dance career is a notion that is still widely unchallenged in cultures obsessed with youth. Once in their late thirties, dancers are expected to retire. Only recently did "mature" dancers become more visible on stages "emphasising the boundless waste of artistic talent and embodied knowledge".

Choreographers responded by developing works for mature dancers. The Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, for instance, reinterpreted "Kontakthof" - originally created in 1978 - in 2010 using dancers in their sixties. The aim was to confront the audience "to face up to its ageist society". Several works were developed by different choreographers in the 1990s celebrating the dancers' maturity, showing effort, emotion, and vulnerability instead of dazzling technique. Involving them was seen as an artistic need and the question arose whether "the older dancer has a stronger message to voice as opposed to the youthful one". Seeing professional dancers still working in their fifties was - and still is - rare.

Years of knowledge and wisdom stored within these older bodies go to waste and audiences lose transformative experiences as we, as a society, revel in the virtuosity of youth and fail to see physical feats as merely one aspect of an artistic investigation. Jillian Harris

Dancers notice a shift from the emphasis on physicality to the thought process of and about the movement, a shift from the outer to the inner body. The dancers' passion, however, remains unchanged. 

The transformation moves from quantity to quality of movement with perceptions of agility over ability and maturity over youth. There is an inner subjecivity and honouring of experience that can only be perceived or embodied by a mature dancer. (York-Pryce, 2014)

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- York-Pryce, S. (2014). Ageism and the Mature Dancer. Conference: time space & the body 3 inter-disciplinary /probing-the-boundaries/making-sense-of/time-space-and-the-bodyAt: Mansfield College Oxford University UK, link
- photographs of Pina Bausch via and via

Wednesday 5 January 2022