Sunday 27 February 2022

Designing cities for the mythical average person, erasing older people from urban planning

"Design of public spaces can exclude groups of people. Whyte (1980) calls this a drowning out of certain groups by designing for one group over another, or simply overlooking the needs of one group. Studies on gentrification have examined how the needs of people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds get dispplaced as investment is put into developing an area. This can also be felt by older people, expecially in many areas where older people have lived for a long time, but new younger families, perhaps from different backgrounds and cultures are encouraged into an area. Older people feel somewhat displaced and that their needs are unmet (Kelley, Dannefer, & Al Masarweh, 2018; Lewis, 2017; Phillipson, 2007); as Yarker (2019) notes, 'older people can often be 'erased' from urban planning and rendered invisible in their own communities' (p. 12). (...)

There is also the issue that if spaces are designed for other groups, then the space contains infrastructure that might not just be inappropriate for older people, but might actually physically or psychologically exclude older people. On some occasions, the exclusion is deliberate; increasing privatisation of space can design elements of the public realm to create more commercial interactions and comercial intersts of the landowner and tenants are placed above those of the individual. (...) An example might be a shopping centre or mall, to encourage use and spending, a sense of busyness is created, lack of benches and places to stop and dwell are found to drive people into shops and cafes and spend money. Ageist stereotypes may also work to keep older people out of certain public realm spaces that the landownder wants to keep looking young, vibrant and fresh. Across many western and developing cities, redevelopment and redesign of city centres, for example, are often geared around economic growth with the stereotypical view of a vibrant young wealthy workforce. Hence, homes and commercial space are at best developed for a mythical average person, a hypermobile worker with no dependents and at worst developed for the younger affluent wokrer, excluding the older person from living in that space." (Musselwhite, 2021)

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- Musselwhite, C. B. A. (2021). Designing Public Space for an Ageing Population: Improving Pedestrian Mobility for Older People. Emerald Publishing Limited.
- photograph by Vivian Maier via

Wednesday 23 February 2022

Save the date

The Vienna University of Economics and Business is organising "THE WU Gender and Diversity Conference 2022 Diversity, Diversity Management and Intersectionality in a Global Context - Dynamics and Realignments" where I will be presenting my paper: 
Woman or old? On the intersection of age and gender and the gaze of youth in Western feminism. 

24- 25 March, conference programme: link

Abstract: The concept of intersectionality is intertwined with the critique of white feminism’s tendency to treat women as one homogeneous group turning a blind eye to the impact of other identity factors and the complexity of discrimination. Gender on its own is regarded as an insufficient explanation of the discrimination women experience. While questioning the monolithic understanding of the feminine has become more common in debates, discourses are rather about heteronormative, cisgender, white ideas. Age is not part of the public discussion, academia shows little interest. 

This paper examines the intersection of age and gender. Both are primitive categories and rapidly evaluated, but they differ in weight. An old woman is more old than woman, it seems, which has implications. It makes her invisible as a woman – for the general public and for Western feminists – and less protected. When older women die from homicide, for instance, the cases are not treated as femicide but gender neutral elder abuse which is not followed by a strong emotional response, calls for action or hashtags. Western feminism mainly focuses on aspects like childcare, abortion, gender pay gap, objectification. Eldercare in the family is not identified as a feminist issue even though it disproportionally affects women, neither are lower pensions although women constitute a massive part of the elderly poor, just to mention two examples. While there is awareness concerning the male gaze, the gaze of youth is ignored. Finally, cultural aspects are discussed to better understand how deeply ingrained ageism is. 

Using an intersectional lens is a chance to make Western feminism more inclusive. A concept of the whole life is needed to make sure all women benefit from feminist advances, no matter what age. (Moazedi, 2022)

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- Moazedi, M. L. (2022). Woman or old? On the intersection of age and gender and the gaze of youth in Western feminism. THE WU Gender and Diversity Conference 2022 Diversity, Diversity Management and Intersectionality in a Global Context - Dynamics and Realignments, 24th to 25th of March, 2022.
- photograph by Garry Winogrand via

Monday 21 February 2022

"Please don't create another old person." Yoko Ono's Open Letter

At my age I should be in a certain way. Please don’t stop me being the way I am. I don’t want to be old and sick like many others of my age. Please don’t create another old person. 

So even when I am rocking on the stage, they are totally hard on me. They demand the musical standard of a classic musician and attack me for the rhythm or some notes which are not precisely in tune. I am not concerned with what my voice is doing. If I was, what you experience would not be. My voice will be dead, once I am concerned about it, in the way you are asking me to. Go to a classical concert, if you want to hear a “trained” voice. What I escaped from when I was very, very young. I created my own niche. If I tried to present you classic music it won’t be what I created. You don’t get that way, with Iggy for instance, a grand rocker, who is creating his own brand of Rock, just as I am.  

Let me be free. Let me be me! Don’t make me old, with your thinking and words about how I should be. You don’t have to come to my shows. I am giving tremendous energy with my voice, because that is me. Get my energy or shut up. 

A critic of my show I did on my 80th birthday. You wanted me to be coming in at the same time on the top of the bars with the tracks. Well, I like to syncopate my voice to come in before or after the music notes, not right on top of the tracks, you see. That’s done in classical music, also. Remember? Yes. I don’t mind using what I learnt from classical music. 

Just let me be free, so music will come out as my voice in the way it wants. Otherwise, it will not be beautiful. My music is unworldlily beautiful. It is a mixture of all the generations I went through on this planet: when I was born seeing the world with wonderment, when I was a wise infant, full of original ideas with not too much intimidation yet, when I was a energetic and rebellious teenager, when i was a sexy twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, seventies and now. Plus all the folk music of the world, the Voice of people, never intimidated – and plus some music coming from another planet or planets! I respect that, cherish it, and am always thankful of note by note that comes in me and out of me. 

Another criticism: That my short pants in my video BAD DANCER was very short. Was that bad? You are not criticizing other dancers whose pants are worn short. Do you have a separate standard for a person of my age even in the way our outfits are cut? 

I am afraid of just one thing. That those ageism criticism will finally influence me, I would succumb to it and get old. So I am covering my ears not to listen to you guys! Because dancing in the middle of an ageism society is a lonely trip. Don’t stone me! Let me be! Love me plenty for what I am!

Yoko Ono Lennon, 18th of February 2015

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photograph (AP/Allen Tannenbaum) via

Thursday 17 February 2022

The Jena Declaration and the decency not to use the term "race"

Excerpts: From the beginning, the idea of human races and their existence has been linked to an evaluation of these supposed races. Indeed, the notion that different groups of people differ in value preceded supposedly scientific work on the subject. The primarily biological justification for defining groups of humans as races – for example based on the colour of their skin or eyes, or the shape of their skulls – has led to the persecution, enslavement and slaughter of millions of people. Even today, the term ‘race’ is still frequently used in connection with human groups. However, there is no biological basis for races, and there has never been one. The concept of race is the result of racism, not its prerequisite.

On 9 August 2019, we marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Ernst Haeckel, former professor in Jena, dubbed the ‘German Darwin’ and probably the best-known German zoologist and evolutionary biologist. With his supposedly scientific classification of human ‘races’ into a ‘family tree’, Ernst Haeckel, the founder of phylogenetics, made a fateful contribution to a form of racism that was seemingly based on science. The position of human groups in his tree of life was based on arbitrarily selected characteristics such as skin colour or hair structure, presented from a phylogenetic point of view. This resulted in these people being viewed in a particular sequence, which implied that some groups had higher or lower status on biological grounds than others.

(...) Despite, or maybe precisely because of the close connection between racism and the supposed existence of races, it is the duty of science and thus also of a scientific society such as the German Zoological Society to evaluate the possibility of human races being a reality. The question is whether races in general, and races of humans in particular, are a biological reality, or whether they are pure constructs of the human mind. For the influential taxonomist Ernst Mayr, the existence of human races was a ‘biological fact’ (Mayr 2002), at least before the colonial age. The justification for his view is still reflected in the common concept that human races correspond to ‘geographical types’ that we also find in other species and that are based on many criteria. An alternative to geographical types of humans that correspond to races did not seem possible to Mayr, although he came out clearly against any kind of racism.

For geographical races (or subspecies), Mayr generally emphasised the necessary ‘taxonomic difference’ between geographically separated populations of a species. This places the concept of ‘race’ somewhere between the concept of population (which due to its existence as a reproductive community, actually corresponds to an individual in the philosophy of science) and that of species. Today, this taxonomic difference is predominantly determined through genetic distances. However, determining which taxonomic difference or genetic differentiation would be sufficient to distinguish races or subspecies is completely arbitrary and thus also makes the concept of races/subspecies in biology purely a construct of the human mind. This does not mean that there is no genetic differentiation along a geographical gradient. However, the taxonomic evaluation of this differentiation (as race or subspecies, or not) is arbitrary. This is even more strongly the case for humans, where the greatest genetic differences are found within a population and not between populations. (...)

The division of people into races was and is first and foremost a social and political classification, followed and supported by an anthropological construct based on arbitrarily chosen characteristics such as hair and skin colour. This construct served – and still serves – to justify open and latent racism using supposed natural circumstances and thus to create a moral justification. (...)

The linking of features such as skin colour with characteristics or even supposedly genetically fixed personality traits and behaviours, as was done in the heyday of anthropological racism, has now been soundly refuted. To use such arguments today as seemingly scientific is both wrong and malicious. There is also no scientifically proven connection between intelligence and geographical origin, but there is a clear connection with social background. Here too, racism in the form of exclusion and discrimination creates supposed races.

However, racism continues to exist among people. In the 20th century, racial research, racial science and racial hygiene or eugenics, as seemingly scientific disciplines, were only some of the excesses of racist thinking and action.

Simply removing the word ‘race’ from our daily language will not prevent racism and intolerance. A feature of current forms of racism is precisely the tendency in far-right and xenophobic circles to avoid the term ‘race’. Racist thinking is perpetuated through terms such as selection, maintaining purity or ethnopluralism. However, the term ethnopluralism is nothing more than a new formulation of the ideas of apartheid. Designating ‘the Africans’ as a supposed threat to Europe and attributing certain biological characteristics are also in the direct tradition of the worst racism of our past. So, let us ensure that people are never again discriminated against on specious biological grounds and remind ourselves and others that it is racism that has created races and that zoology/anthropology has played an inglorious part in producing supposedly biological justifications. Today and in the future, not using the term race should be part of scientific decency.

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photograph by Garry Winogrand (1965) via

Sunday 13 February 2022

World Radio Day

"Radio is a powerful medium for celebrating humanity in all its diversity and constitutes a platform for democratic discourse. At the global level, radio remains the most widely consumed medium. This unique ability to reach out the widest audience means radio can shape a society’s experience of diversity, stand as an arena for all voices to speak out, be represented and heard. Radio stations should serve diverse communities, offering a wide variety of programs, viewpoints and content, and reflect the diversity of audiences in their organizations and operations." UNESCO

photograph (Tony Blackburn, Stuart Henry, Ed "Stewpot" Stewart, John Peel, Dave Lee; Radio 1 first airing on 30 September 1967 with the inaugural disc "Flowers in the Rain") via

Thursday 10 February 2022

Interprète. Jennifer Jackson. Inappropriate Behaviour.

"8 mature dancers from UK and Australia respond to a set of movements choreographed by myself as a student at Laban in 1987. These dancers are part of the primary research for the PhD thesis: Ageism and the Mature Dancer. They also form part of the creative practice for the PhD: 'Inappropriate Behaviour' - 8 short films of their responses to a set of movements where the dancers can choose to interpret, ignore, embellish, fragment - the choice is totally individual." Vimeo

Interprète - Jennifer Jackson - Inappropriate Behaviour from sonia york-pryce on Vimeo.

Tuesday 8 February 2022


"When I’m in the UK, I’m a post-colonial subject. I have very clear ‘meaning’ on the street in London, because my relationship to British racism is a very direct and inescapable one. When my parents were in school in Nigeria, they were colonial subjects under British rule, second-class citizens under white supremacy. And so, my relationship to being in London is already defined by that. When I’m in Paris, it’s a version of the same thing. Even if I want to be anonymous on the street, for French people – for white French people – I have a meaning already. And, of course, in the US, I have an inescapable meaning too. I’m presumed to be either African or a black American. Each of those has a clear and fraught political meaning, and I have to participate politically in that meaning. Which means that there’s a certain kind of relaxation that I can never really engage in while in the US, what with the cops or the well-meaning liberals, or the racist right-wingers or the fellow black people in America who want me to be attentive to the struggles that are going on. All of which is, you know, fine. But I don’t want that to be my only experience of life.

And Switzerland? 

If I’m hiking in Valais in Switzerland and someone meets me on the hiking path, I think their first thought is, ‘Oh, here’s a hiker’. If I’m in a hotel in Lugano, people see that I’m black or I might be a bit unusual, sure, but they’re not thinking, ‘Here’s a post-colonial subject’, or ‘Here’s someone who’s moved to my country’. They’re probably thinking, ‘Here’s somebody who can afford to stay at this hotel’. Yes, you stand out, but the meaning of your standing out is not quite the meaning it has in other places. That’s my experience of the place. I’m sure it’s different for other people.

(...) What is this elsewhere that one is longing to be in? Part of the answer to this question, for me, is Switzerland. It is the place that, when I’m not there, I long to be there. But it is also a conceptual container for such longing. It is the object of the longing, but it’s a theoretical shape that I can use to think through the question of longing. I’m also thinking about farness in general, as a desirable, as a restorative. And that’s a farness that could, in theory, happen elsewhere as well. My years of revisiting Switzerland have been, I’d say, a lucky instance of putting that theory into practice. And now that I’ve put it into a book, who knows what will happen?"

Teju Cole

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photographs by Teju Cole via and via

Thursday 3 February 2022

Eyes as Big as Plates

“We need to learn to see not just with Western eyes but with Islamic eyes and Inuit eyes, not just with human eyes but with golden-cheeked warbler eyes, coho salmon eyes, and polar bear eyes, and not even just with eyes at all but with the wild, barely articulate being of clouds and seas and rocks and trees and stars.”  Roy Scranton

"Eyes as Big as Plates" is a project launched by Karoline Hjorth and Riitta Ikonen. It began as "a play on characters from Nordic folklore" searching ways how modern humans belong to nature. People participating are fishermen, opera singers, artists, farmers, academics... In 2011, the artist duo started portraying seniors in Norway, Finland, France, UK, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Sweden, Japan, Greenland, the Czech Republic, the US and South Korea. The photographs show them wearing sculptures they create symbolising how they inhabit the landscape (via).

"As active participants in our contemporary society, these seniors encourage the rediscovery of a demographic group too often labelled as marginalized or even as a stereotypical cliché. It is in this light that the project aims to generate new perspectives on who we are and where we belong." (via)

photographs by Karoline Hjorth and Riitta Ikonnen via 

Tuesday 1 February 2022

The Stop AAPI Hate Report

Stop AAPI Hate (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) received 3.795 reports from March 2020 to February 2021. The types of discrimination reported are verbal harassment (68.1%), shunning (20.5%), physical assault (11.1%), civil rights violations like e.g. workplace discrimination (8.5%), and online harassment (6.8%).

More findings of interest: Women report hate incidents 2.3 times more often than men, Chinese are the largest group to report experiencing hate, and businesses (35.4%) are the main site of discrimination, followed by public streets (25.3%), and public parks (9.8%) (Jeung et al., 2021).

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- Jeung, R., Yellow Horse, A., Popovic, T. & Lim, R. (2021). Stop AAPI Hate National Report, link
- photograph by Dorothea Lange via