Does a focus on ageism foster a victim mentality?

A university where I’ll be speaking in September is lining up co-sponsors, one of whom had a question for my colleague there. “He asks whether you present ageism as similar to racism and sexism,” she wrote me. “He mentioned that the seniors with whom he works are proud (of being senior citizens?), and I think he may be worried about the presentation making them feel like victims of prejudice. Have you run across this type of concern in your audiences?”

 

No, I haven’t, but it’s a good question. I do indeed compare ageism to sexism and racism, as they are all systems of oppression and compounded by class—not that I put it that way in the talk. “Ageism can indeed cause people to feel victimized. In a talk for elder abuse caseworkers, I point out that ageism makes their clients seem less deserving of respect, autonomy, and resources,” I wrote in my response. “That’s why combating negative stereotypes about old age—especially those we internalize—is so important, and why I’m doing what I’m doing. It’s why I say we need to “occupy old age” in the talk, and why I urge people to acknowledge their age on Yo, Is This Ageist?”   

 

That did the trick, although I should have suggested the “Not A Young Lady” clip on my bio page. The co-sponsor is in, kindly contributing towards my honorarium and to a dinner beforehand.  The high life awaits!

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