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Author Topic: Ageism in Paganism  (Read 4199 times)

veggiewolf

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Ageism in Paganism
« on: August 14, 2012, 12:47:27 pm »
Recently we've discussed racism, sexism, fatphobia, and a host of other topics that involve stereotyping, and I figured it was time to bring up another item in the same vein: ageism.

I'm willing to bet that almost all of us have experienced ageism to one degree or another - from "post-menopausal women represent the Crone" idea to "young pagans have no valid opinions", these things pop up over and over with little to no repercussions.  In addition, people who don't tolerate stereotyping in other circumstances seem to overlook or ignore ageism.

So, with that in mind:

1. Do you think ageism is an actual issue?
2. Have you experienced it, in either paganism or daily life?
3. Why do you think ageism isn't as hot a topic as other stereotyping?
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Re: Ageism in Paganism
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2012, 01:06:32 pm »
Quote from: veggiewolf;69027
1. Do you think ageism is an actual issue?
2. Have you experienced it, in either paganism or daily life?
3. Why do you think ageism isn't as hot a topic as other stereotyping?

 
1. I have a hard time with this one. On one hand, age does determine the amount of life experience one has, but age doesn't equal wisdom. I don't think it's a really huge issue because...

2. ... I haven't really experienced it too much (directed towards me, that is). Take this board for instance. I have no clue how old anybody really is. I know there are a bunch of older people, and that I am on the younger side at 18.

3. I don't think it's as hot a topic as racism because age is one of the ways we can legitimately determine how credible somebody is, and for good reason. If a 4 year old and a 30 year old say something, I think most people will doubt the 30 year-old less. As I said before, it's not a perfect criteria at all, but it does help.

And when it comes to paganism, I think what matters more is the number of years you have been practicing rather than your age. I trust a 20 year old who has been practicing for 5 years more than a 50 year old who just found paganism several months ago.

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Re: Ageism in Paganism
« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2012, 01:14:21 pm »
Quote from: veggiewolf;69027
Recently we've discussed racism, sexism, fatphobia, and a host of other topics that involve stereotyping, and I figured it was time to bring up another item in the same vein: ageism.

I'm willing to bet that almost all of us have experienced ageism to one degree or another - from "post-menopausal women represent the Crone" idea to "young pagans have no valid opinions", these things pop up over and over with little to no repercussions.  In addition, people who don't tolerate stereotyping in other circumstances seem to overlook or ignore ageism.

So, with that in mind:

1. Do you think ageism is an actual issue?
2. Have you experienced it, in either paganism or daily life?
3. Why do you think ageism isn't as hot a topic as other stereotyping?

 
To answer your three questions:

I really do think ageism is an issue in both directions (young and old). I have had some tell me I'm too young to KNOW anything of use. I have come across others that are thinking (some are rude enough to say) "well that person might be creepy cause they're old. I don't want anything to do with them." Please, since when should it be too old or too young for anything? I saw a post asking if 30's was too old to start? In my opinion, if people are coming in to this "scene" thinking that it's a "young, hipster" crowd, boy are they in for a shock. The same goes for "creepy, spinsters". We're not a bunch of angry, old cat people either. The mold is what we make of it, because we are it.

We have such a variety of people and their experiences, ageism shouldn't be happening and like other stereotypes, relies heavily on "labels". I think there should be some attention on ageism and unfortunately I think it's widespread and unchecked because people don't think it's "as bad as everything else". It's a silent stereotype because some believe that biological age has to do with what actions people take. I've met enough people to know that biological age has nothing to do with the "labels" we attribute to "old" and "young".

Here's a scenario:
If someone is sensitive to their age based on experience or lack of experience it can be socially and psychologically damaging. This is bullying and stereotyping. The best case scenario is it would just piss the person off to the point of not wanting to take that person seriously. Bigotry is bigotry not matter what spin is put on it. The definition doesn't change.

veggiewolf

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Re: Ageism in Paganism
« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2012, 01:16:47 pm »
Quote from: veggiewolf;69027
...
1. Do you think ageism is an actual issue?

Yes, I do.  I noticed it when I was a child - my mother and father would make comments about my grandparents that were age-related and I always wondered why adults would say things about other adults.  I was used to adults having idea about what children could and couldn't do, but was amazed that it seemed to apply in the opposite way as adults grew older, health concerns aside.

Quote
2. Have you experienced it, in either paganism or daily life?

Yes, and yes.  I experienced it in my work, where I started supervising people at the age of 19.  It continued even after switching industries and I used to say, only semi-jokingly, that I couldn't wait to turn 30 so that people would take me seriously.  

I also experienced it when I wanted to get a tubal ligation after my son was born and no doctor would do it until I was 35 because I "might change my mind".  I had my son at 20 and didn't change my mind.

When I started exploring paganism in my twenties, I went through a lot of "you're too young to know X" discussions.  Some of these are what led me to leave practicing in a group environment.

Later, I experienced it from the opposite end - when I had my hysterectomy I was told by several of my Wiccish pagan friends that I could now enjoy experiencing the mysteries of the Crone.  I replied that (1) I don't follow a path that includes Maiden, Mother, Crone, and (2) 38 was hardly old enough, IMO, to be considered a Crone.  They laughed it off.

Quote
3. Why do you think ageism isn't as hot a topic as other stereotyping?

I think ageism fits in with fatphobia, honestly.  Until people experience it directly, they're not aware that anything's amiss.  Look at all the fat jokes and age jokes that exist in the media - TV, movies, music, and books all contain them.  Until a majority of people in these areas grow old enough to be concerned, or until it is brought to people's attention as an actual issue, I don't think things will change.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2012, 01:18:14 pm by veggiewolf »
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Lokabrenna

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Re: Ageism in Paganism
« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2012, 01:33:19 pm »
Quote from: veggiewolf;69027
Recently we've discussed racism, sexism, fatphobia, and a host of other topics that involve stereotyping, and I figured it was time to bring up another item in the same vein: ageism.

I'm willing to bet that almost all of us have experienced ageism to one degree or another - from "post-menopausal women represent the Crone" idea to "young pagans have no valid opinions", these things pop up over and over with little to no repercussions.  In addition, people who don't tolerate stereotyping in other circumstances seem to overlook or ignore ageism.

So, with that in mind:

1. Do you think ageism is an actual issue?
2. Have you experienced it, in either paganism or daily life?
3. Why do you think ageism isn't as hot a topic as other stereotyping?


I don't have any experience with ageism among Pagans irl, but from reading the literature, I'm always struck by how the Crone is always made out to be "sexless" as if, when you become post-menopausal, you suddenly stop wanting sex (and also the implicit assumption that sex = procreation). I think all "isms" are issues, it's just that some make certain isms a priority over others. I think it definitely is an issue when someone implies that people of a certain age don't enjoy sex, or that young people (especially teenagers) are controlled by their hormones and can't think of anything but sex (when I was in high school, I was so not thinking about sex that I thought I was asexual).

I think ageism isn't discussed as much because of the idea in (Neo) Wicca that "we don't push the elderly (especially elderly women) aside, they are Respected and Wise Elders" and we don't usually examine what we say about the elderly with a critical eye. It's the same with sexism. How often have you heard that "Wicca is women-friendly/feminist?" when that's not necessarily true?

Outside of Paganism, my mom unfortunately makes ageist comments all the time. She apparently thinks that elderly people don't understand technology and need one-button devices for everything, and my biomom thinks that old people shouldn't be driving, nor should they have backyard pools. (I'm serious, an elderly couple came to look at her house, and she starts griping to me about how they shouldn't be thinking of buying it because they're old, and what do they need a pool for?) Yes, I know, they're both horrible and their idiotic comments fill me with shame.

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Ageism in Paganism
« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2012, 02:08:44 pm »
Quote from: veggiewolf;69034
I think ageism fits in with fatphobia, honestly.  Until people experience it directly, they're not aware that anything's amiss.  Look at all the fat jokes and age jokes that exist in the media - TV, movies, music, and books all contain them.  Until a majority of people in these areas grow old enough to be concerned, or until it is brought to people's attention as an actual issue, I don't think things will change.

I agree entirely. I study disability studies, and a similar thing happens there – people simply don't believe disabled people about the levels of abuse and discrimination we face, I think mostly because they can't imagine life with a disability, or because they wouldn't be ableist themselves. I've lost count of the number of times I've been told I'm exaggerating a situation, when mostly I'm downplaying. No one's accusing me of lying – they just can't imagine that people can be that cruel when they wouldn't.

I've never experienced ageism that I'm aware of/can remember, but I don't think that's a reason to deny it exists. I haven't personally experienced several forms of discrimination – they still exist. I don't get harassed on the street like a friend of mine does - I still know that street harassment of some women is a major problem, even if I never experience it myself.

I wonder if there is an 'unsexiness' factor here. People who don't have disabilities forget that one day they probably will, because it's difficult to think about. Similarly with ageism - some young people, especially, don't want to think that they're going to get older. It means facing their mortality and some of them don't like that. Not all, of course – I was desperate to get into my 30s, and I look forward to my 40s and 50s and as far beyond as I'm blessed enough to be able to reach. But I don't think that's the prevailing outlook in our culture.

Ageism towards young people seems to be a slightly different phenomenon, although there are things that the two have in common. I'm not quite sure why that happens - everyone should be able to remember being a child or a younger person. Maybe it's hubris that makes us forget we were once young and inexperienced too. Who wants to admit to having been new at something, making mistakes, not having the wisdom we hopefully gained in the experience of something...?
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Re: Ageism in Paganism
« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2012, 02:26:02 pm »
Quote from: veggiewolf;69027
1. Do you think ageism is an actual issue?
2. Have you experienced it, in either paganism or daily life?
3. Why do you think ageism isn't as hot a topic as other stereotyping?

1. Yes.
2. There was a time that I felt stigmatized by my age far, far far more than I ever did or could from being female, colored, poor, and mental. Combined. And yes, that popped up everywhere. But that's maybe mostly because I was born and bred in Asia.
3. It's probably less of a hot topic, I think, because, in most cases? Individuals outgrow it. Sure, maybe it's more like, growing into another stereotype, but apparently that's enough of a change?
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Re: Ageism in Paganism
« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2012, 02:39:04 pm »
Quote from: veggiewolf;69027
Recently we've discussed racism, sexism, fatphobia, and a host of other topics that involve stereotyping, and I figured it was time to bring up another item in the same vein: ageism.

I'm willing to bet that almost all of us have experienced ageism to one degree or another - from "post-menopausal women represent the Crone" idea to "young pagans have no valid opinions", these things pop up over and over with little to no repercussions.  In addition, people who don't tolerate stereotyping in other circumstances seem to overlook or ignore ageism.

So, with that in mind:

1. Do you think ageism is an actual issue?
2. Have you experienced it, in either paganism or daily life?
3. Why do you think ageism isn't as hot a topic as other stereotyping?

 
There's a lot of assumption in the world that somewhere between 16 to 25 is "the" best time in one's life.

Personally, I think that's crap.  The idea that you hit your peak and spend the rest of your life going downhill is .. abhorrent.  Plus, I hated being in high school.

I think the biggest problem with ageism is that "everyone" goes through all those life stages.  As kids, it's "when I'm older I'll ..." - when we're older there's fond memories of when "we were that age" - or not so fond.  So "I'm not ageist - I REMEMBER!" etc.  Or "yeah, but when I was that age" ....

and, of course, in the other direction.  Degrading people based on age is far easier than actually seeing them as people.

One of the best things about my knitting group, IMO, is that it's a wide variety of ages.  I'm not the oldest or the youngest.  My best friend there?  I'm the age of her oldest son.  Doesn't matter worth a damn.

I've met adults that acted like the worst of stereotype dumb teens and teens that I've had enjoyable conversations with and thought of as adults.  Age matters when you're talking about kids - but after that?  It is what you make of it.

(doesn't mean I haven't considered dying my hair silver to get more street cred.  never done it - but have considered).

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Re: Ageism in Paganism
« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2012, 02:46:30 pm »
Quote from: veggiewolf;69027

1. Do you think ageism is an actual issue?


Yes.

Quote
2. Have you experienced it, in either paganism or daily life?


Yes.

On the Pagan side, there's a reason why my group website includes, among a bunch of other items on the list of "You might find this group interesting if..." the item "you're fine with a HPS in her mid-30s."

I've worked with some people in their 60s who were awesomely fine with that. (I didn't try to tell them how to run their lives, they didn't tell me I didn't know the trad and Craft specific stuff they wanted to learn).

I've had some people who turned every disagreement into what was clearly "You're the age of my daughter, I don't need to listen to you." (I know her daughter, too, and she's an awesome human being with some stuff I'm glad to learn from.)

And I've hit it a few times from people who (actually, not that unreasonably) are a little suspicious of anyone in their early 30s or younger identifying as a HPS. (I got my 3rd degree when I was 32, which is admittedly rather on the young side.)

There are a number of groups who won't take students under a certain age, and for a long time I've had a "no one under 21, and preferably not under 25" rule myself. (The reasons for that had to do with the fact I was working for a long time in a high school, and needed to both keep a space for professional reasons - and because I had firmly installed filters that made it very tricky for me to talk about personal topics - religion, magic, spirituality - with people near the age of the kids I worked with.

Now I'm working in a college setting, I've eased off a lot on that: I still wouldn't train anyone to initiation until after they finished college/lived independently for a bit (roughly age 22ish - there's a *lot* of change going on in a very short period of time, and I think it's better for everyone if we don't pile on that), but I'd much more gladly work with them in other ways.

On the professional side, I'm fairly sure that one of the reasons my previous job went as badly wrong as it did was that I was a fair 15 years younger than almost everyone else that that level of responsibility, and it did some weird things to some of the dynamics around help/support/professional development appropriate at that stage in my career, etc. (There were a lot of other things messed up about the situation, but those didn't help.)

In my case, it's also not helped by the fact I'm visibly graying - people have a hard time pegging my age, and tend to assume I'm somewhat older than I am.

Quote
3. Why do you think ageism isn't as hot a topic as other stereotyping?

 
I think because a lot of it is more subtle: a lot of the situations where I've been aware it's happening have only become clear over time (the "I'm going to treat you like my daughter in terms of what you know and don't know") or otherwise not easy to point to.

I also think it's the one people are least comfortable discussing because it's one everyone faces, weirdly. (You can't readily change your gender or gender appearance. You can't change your race. You can't change who you love. But everyone's going to age if they aren't dead, and even if you don't hit ageism on the early side, you fear you're going to hit on the later side.)
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Re: Ageism in Paganism
« Reply #9 on: August 14, 2012, 04:25:45 pm »
Quote from: veggiewolf;69027
1. Do you think ageism is an actual issue?
2. Have you experienced it, in either paganism or daily life?
3. Why do you think ageism isn't as hot a topic as other stereotyping?

1. YES.

2. YES, hard. Less so in paganism than in life, particularly the workforce.

With Paganism, most people respect experience and knowledge, and those two things often coincide with getting older, but everyone's aware that it's not a direct correlation. There is definitely a tendency to poo-poo at teenagers, which disgusts me, but that's not a problem with paganism specifically - it's just common attitude carried over.

I actually think a bigger problem in Paganism directly stems from our awareness that experience != age, because it ironically leads to a NEW bias, the need for everyone to state "I've been pagan for X years"  or "I've been pagan since age X" and lord it over each other. It's funny because it's a misinterpretation, because experience != years either. I could say I've been pagan for like fifteen years. Have I been "practicing"? Have I been delving deeply into the knowledge, working daily with it as a part of my life, for all those years? Hel no.

3. Because people feel it's "First World Problems" and "Privileged Problems", if you catch my drift. If they even think it exists. (Sometimes people are being ageist unconsciously, and think, "Oh, that's just selfish young people whining.")

(If you want non-Pagan examples of ageism, let me know.)

EDIT: Note that all of this was ageism directed towards the younger, because, having been young most of my life so far, it is what I've experienced. Lol. But dittoing everyone's observations towards older ages. I look forward to being elderly, personally.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2012, 04:29:08 pm by wadjet »

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Re: Ageism in Paganism
« Reply #10 on: August 14, 2012, 08:17:47 pm »
Quote from: veggiewolf;69034

When I started exploring paganism in my twenties, I went through a lot of "you're too young to know X" discussions.  Some of these are what led me to leave practicing in a group environment.

 
Related to this, one of the things that seems to me to be related to this is the way people address the concept of paganism.  Pretty much every book I've seen is geared towards "young adult with minimal responsibilities" in its approach - which is often both infantilising of younger seekers and dismissive of people who have concerns about incorporating the new material into lives that contain more extensive Stuff.

Most of the stuff I've encountered in a pagan context has been sort of at that level of subtle.  Most of the stuff I've encountered in other subcultural contexts has not been subtle at all.
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Re: Ageism in Paganism
« Reply #11 on: August 15, 2012, 12:20:38 am »
Quote from: veggiewolf;69027
1. Do you think ageism is an actual issue?
2. Have you experienced it, in either paganism or daily life?
3. Why do you think ageism isn't as hot a topic as other stereotyping?


1. Yes.

2. Hells yes. Not so much here, but my parents sheltered me until twenty. When your Asian friends are surprised that you don't know certain things, you know you've been subject to ageism of the "You're too young to do stuff on your own" sort.

3. As someone mentioned before, it IS a lot more subtle than other forms of -isms.
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Re: Ageism in Paganism
« Reply #12 on: August 15, 2012, 01:58:09 am »
Quote from: veggiewolf;69027
1. Do you think ageism is an actual issue?
2. Have you experienced it, in either paganism or daily life?
3. Why do you think ageism isn't as hot a topic as other stereotyping?

1. If people are experiencing it, then yes.

2. In daily life there are so many assumptions about the young that cloud the judgement of authority figures (of a wide variety of ages) and make it harder to find solutions to problems. I could go on for pages about the stupidity of banning ubiquitous technology instead of employing it effectively. But I am not at work yet so I ain't gonna.

I mostly see the young getting a bad rap. And even the ones who brains are not yet fully developed do not deserve the character assassinations they often get for doing crazy things. They are supposed to be doing those at some point. And IME that bad rap isn't given as much by the elderly as it is by those who are only 10-20 years away in age from those they are disparaging.

In the little local pagan community, there are far more older people though. And I have been guilty of a subtle agism in regards to them. I get frustrated at the lack of much beyond the 101 Wiccan supplies, books and ideas and am more harsh in my mind toward the older people who I assume should know better. And that's not fair to them. I hush that feeling, but try to channel it into maybe getting more info to them, so I can support local shops more frequently than Amazon. And I have to learn to approach it correctly because I do NOT want to talk down to them.

I call myself old for context and I don't think it is a disparaging thing to do. For example, I know who opened for The Go-Gos in '84. I'm old.


3. It isn't such an issue because at some point in life a person just stops paying full attention to stuff like that or caring at all. The younger people can't take it lightly because they have more to lose in being disparaged. More life left to wager.

There are big problems that only come with age and screwing those up is humbling. It puts a slight about age into perspective and actually such things often encourage older people to seek out the young for wisdom. I see that often. Even locally, those with whom I have had frustrations are apt to know of new things even if it can be overwhelming. They are also apt to admit it is overwhelming. And then there is this for older people: at some point all/most of their doctors and attorneys and people they need in a pinch are younger than they are and know more. So it is easier not to assume youth=fluff. Even at 44, many of the people I rely on for their expertise and knowledge are much younger than I am.

An issue has more significant air time if there are more people who are invested in it, and depending on how you divide the age brackets, there's a good portion on either end who aren't invested in agist issues (unless it touches them financially or messes with their toys).

Plus, the issue can be trumped almost immediately with knowledge and skills and experience. It doesn't matter how old the person is that has them in the end. So as an issue, in many circumstances it takes care of banishing itself.

I am certain there are circumstances where it is an overriding issue that needs to be addressed though on both ends. People can be neglected and dismissed erroneously and cruelly due to agism and that can cause real damage. I think it has to hit hard though, for it to be a large issue with much air time, and ego issues about who has more wisdom just aren't going to hit as hard as things like elder abuse or child neglect.

I didn't keep it only to paganism because I recently had my eyes opened a bit about how all societies' issues are likely going to be a part of any subcultures too. The fatphobia thing got me thinking about that. It seems like a false sense of security to think that a pagan community would be immune to something that exists in the larger society just because it is pagan. And accepting that also validates the pagan community in a way as being part of the greater whole with the same issues.


Oh man. Sorry for the length.
« Last Edit: August 15, 2012, 01:59:57 am by Annie Roonie »

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Re: Ageism in Paganism
« Reply #13 on: August 15, 2012, 03:07:23 am »
Quote from: veggiewolf;69027

1. Do you think ageism is an actual issue?
2. Have you experienced it, in either paganism or daily life?
3. Why do you think ageism isn't as hot a topic as other stereotyping?

 
Oh hell yes, it is an actual issue! The comments of 'You're too young to know any better' or 'you are too old to understand' are all too common. My personal favourite 'you are too young to be so old!' drives me nuts (ok, nuttier). Just because someone is physically younger than you does not equate to them being stupid or less knowledgable. Nor does it equate to them being less well behaved or with worse manners! It goes both ways, too- young about older and older about younger. Any age can be guilty of it, and frequently are.

It's just as prevalent an issue as other stereotyping, but it seems to be brushed under the carpet more. It's usually ignored as more of a social faux pas than an actual problem.


P.S I will step off my soapbox now before I really get started and bore everyone to tears! :whis:
"No matter how dark the fur, the bunny is still fluffy." (Melamphoros)
AKA Thundercougarfalconbird..... (Thanks Nyktipolos!)

Jezebel

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Re: Ageism in Paganism
« Reply #14 on: August 15, 2012, 05:57:09 am »
Quote from: veggiewolf;69027
So, with that in mind:

1. Do you think ageism is an actual issue?
2. Have you experienced it, in either paganism or daily life?
3. Why do you think ageism isn't as hot a topic as other stereotyping?

 
I can only really speak from my personal experience (which is the younger end of the spectrum) and from what I've seen online, and I think the older generations in the community and those that have been in it longer regardless of age, tend to get fed up with the same set of newbie questions. And unfortunately this can come across as perhaps not hostile but not as accepting as some people might expect.

I can see perfectly where this lack of patience comes from, experiencing it from others myself when I first started out and it was why I withdrew from the group community until I knew a bit about what I was talking about and managed to answer a lot of my questions with my own research.

I don't think ageism is taken so seriously because it's transitory, you either tend to grow out of a certain age group or give up caring about what people think.

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