Ageism in Silicon Valley has been all over the news lately. The New York Times Magazine ran a cover story titled “Silicon Valley's Youth Problem.” Male engineers in their twenties are getting botox and hair transplants before key interviews. “The Brutal Ageism of Tech,” a feature story in the New Republic, described a swelling cohort of “highly trained, objectively talented, surpassingly ambitious workers” sidelined “for reasons no one can rationally explain.”
Disability rights activist Simi Linton’s memoir, My Body Politic, shook up my thinking on topics ranging from sex to suicide, and got me comparing ableism and ageism. We act as though old people aren't disabled and disabled people never grow old, despite the fact that one third of disabled Americans are sixty-five or older, and that the same medical advances that have swelled the number of people with disabilities are keeping more and more of the rest of us alive long enough to join their ranks.
Every speaker on the tour gets a two-page spread in a fat print program. Some entries are formal, others touchy-feely. Mine’s below. How refreshing not to have to soft-pedal my bio or my politics; the choice of the pull quote (in bold) was theirs.
In October 2010, demographer Philip Longman warned of a “’gray tsunami’ sweeping the planet." The phrase summons a frankly terrifying vision of a giant wave of old people looming on the horizon, poised to drain the public coffers, swamp the healthcare system, and suck the wealth of future generations out to sea. Journalists jumped on it, and “gray tsunami” has since become widely adopted shorthand for the socioeconomic threat posed by an aging population.
As the Affordable Care Act rolls out and some healthcare costs spike, conservatives have a scapegoat and an unrelenting message: old people are responsible for rising costs and will not pay their share. It’s an all-too-familiar alarmist forecast: a “gray tsunami” of greedy, needy olders will drain the public coffers and consign the next generations to indentured servitude.
Sex After …Women Share how Intimacy Changes after Life Changes is a new book by journalist and author Iris Krasnow, who interviewed over 150 women ages 20 to 88 to get the skinny on sex after pregnancy, divorce, infidelity, breast cancer, coming out, and menopause. It’s the last category that’s generating the buzz, with eyebrow-raising all around at the possibility that women in their 70s and 80s could be having the best sex of their lives. Takes on the finding range from progressive to retrograde.
I suspected that I might find a kindred spirit in Anne Karpf, and her excellent article in the Guardian about why we shouldn't fear getting old confirms it. Karpf writes of the turning point in our twenties when disdain for those younger than us turns to disregard for our elders, and the consequent body dysmorphia, “propelled at least partly by a fear of ageing, [that] has become a cultural condition.” So many adolescents are getting Botox injections that there’s a name for it: “teen toxing!”
I stole that line from Lynn Parramore, whose excellent piece about age discrimination in the workplace just came out on Alternet. According to Parramore, ageism may be more common than other forms of bias, like ethnic discrimination, and job insecurity is the number-one source of financial stress for Americans over age 50.