Women of a Certain Age.
She may be a bit shy, her voice directed at the floor and coming out so softly you might reference your declining hearing as you ask her to repeat her words. She may deflect most any attempt at compliments headed her way. If asked about current issues she may reply that politics don’t interest her. She is careful with her appearance. Her eyes are often kind, with a hint of having seen it all.
I once had a stereotype of older women, one which incorporated many of these elements. That was before I sat in lifelong learning classes. Traces of those stereotypes still appear here and there but they are being replaced by strength and fierceness. Women who spent lives as lawyers, therapists, teachers, scientists have long spines standing tall, a decided sense of presence, voices made strong from conviction.
Now that women are speaking out, now that “Me, too” and “Time’s Up” are providing megaphones, I’ll wager there is not one amongst us who did not encounter harassment or much worse, who were bypassed for jobs or promotions despite superior performance or credentials, who were groped or demeaned while in public spaces, who were smart or funny or determined yet felt they were flawed and, possibly, unworthy. We grew into adults expected and expecting to be support systems to fathers or husbands, to children and community; the glue holding things together, often without recognition or praise and, most certain of all, without adequate remuneration.
As our heads gray the choice to let it “go natural” has signaled a readiness to fade into invisibility, whether we knew that or not, although regardless of the choice of hair color eventually the lines on our faces or the spots beginning to dot our hands had the same effect. Even force-of-nature elder women are ignored or bypassed. This has been our history.
Breaking news: the steel of aging women is beginning to show. At first it may emerge in the company of other aging women but new book displays and best seller lists will enlighten. In articles and blogs women’s voices, powerful and determined, are emerging almost everywhere. The women whose voices are coming forth are women standing on the hallowed grounds of resilience, strength, and pent-up knowing. While it might seem a subversive or sideline movement, it grows. Each individual is a voice with a clock running on limited time, and each path whacked through once forbidden territory will be taken up by others. Young women coming into their voices out of those “Me, toos”, or from survival of mass shootings, or through climate change demonstrations, will keep coming. The battles over racism, LGBQT and transgender rights, and those emerging from same sex marriage wins, are tributaries leading back to the mother source of gender inequality. Activism builds on the horizon. What is coming is the size of oceans not ponds or lakes, this flow carrying the power of rising water is unstoppable and it will flood the world, balancing and changing what is possible.