“Your power as a younger woman is measured by the distance you can keep between you and older women.”

A friend recently put me in touch with Sharon Raphael, a gerontologist and Professor Emerita of Sociology at California State University and an early member of Old Lesbians Organizing for Change. Their primary mission, Raphael wrote me, was “to fight and educate about ageism as it affects women and Lesbians and others within and without the lgbt community.” I’d heard of the organization, was pleased that Raphael thinks my work is on the right track, and am grateful for a lengthy email “about our herstory so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”


Raphael pointed me towards two books that inspired her and her colleagues as they organized politically and personally, “rejecting the stifling values and negative pressures that affect all women as we age.” They are Look Me in the Eye: Old Women, Aging and Ageism by Barbara MacDonald and Over the HIll: Reflections on Ageism Between Women by Baba Copper. I’d heard of Look Me In the Eye, ordered them both, and already got my money’s worth from the blurb on the Amazon page. There, radical feminist Lisa Weil identifies MacDonald as “the first to identify ageism as a central feminist issue . . . to point out that young women’s alienation from old women, their dread of becoming them, their revulsion toward old women’s bodies, is the direct result of society (‘Your power as a younger woman is measured by the distance you can keep between you and older women’).”


So much to learn about what creates identity and makes a movement. (In a similar vein, I’m immersed at the moment in the disability rights movement.) So much to learn about where ageism and abelism and sexism converge—and don’t. That research will come in particularly handy in September, when I’m speaking at a women’s conference in Los Angeles. MacDonald’s quote will show me who’s really paying attention.

4 thoughts on ““Your power as a younger woman is measured by the distance you can keep between you and older women.”

  1. Ashton, I am simply delighted to have found your blog. I just began blogging last Sept. at Refined by Age and one of the topics I discuss is ageism along with the Eight Dimensions of Wellness. We need more people speaking out about one of the last prevalent, and insidious forms of discrimination. Dr. Robert Butler’s Report, “Ageism in America,” woke me up and made me feel passionate about the cause. People are still generally in denial because it’s been so accepted for so long. Keep up the fight! 

  2. Oh, I forgot to mention that I think the title should include the word “perceived” power….. I work in a Senior Center and see more power in these women than I ever had in a younger woman who is still being “Refined by Age.”

  3. I think it is all about critical thinking. Critical thinking can define and refine your approach. Well, I have witnessed discrimination against people of a certain age group. http://poweredmanagement.com/ It is a form of prejudice, mostly experienced by seniors.

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