Sometimes, when I look through the paper, I come across articles that may be loosely related to many people but feel deeply connected to me. In his month’s book/article post, I’d like to share three such articles. They are all about women, older women, one of whom is much older than I imagine most of my readers to be. Each of these articles spoke to me, on several levels. They were inspiring and comforting at the same time. Two of the accounts are about women of a “certain age” who are making their marks on the world in very different ways. The third is a more reflective piece about women and growing older. I think they go together well.
The past few years have ushered in a new age for women. With the Women’s March and the #MeToo Movement, more women are finding their voices and using them to combat age-old notions of how we can be treated. The #MeToo Movement has brought attention, on a wide scale, to the issue of sexual harassment. Too many of us have, unfortunately, grown up with such harassment and may even have accepted it as the norm. No more!
Societal Attitude Adjustment
One upshot of the #MeToo Movement is that there has been a societal attitude adjustment. And that change can be seen in the way we, as women, think about ourselves, about what we will tolerate, and about what we believe we can accomplish. Whatever your party politics, for example, it is impossible to deny that women of all ages, races, religions, and sexual orientations have become a new force in governance. Just this past November, record numbers of women were elected to office in the midterms, and I have no doubt that they will “persist.”
“I Am (an Older) Woman. Hear Me Roar”
What interests me most is the number of “older” women who are finally being recognized and are coming into their own. In her article in the January 8th issue of the New York Times “I Am (an Older) Woman. Hear Me Roar” (don’t you just love the title? I am hearing Helen Reddy’s voice right now, taking me back to 1971), Jessica Bennet highlights several women over 60 who are not new to the national stage but who have recently come or returned to high power positions in male-dominated professions. This article made me want to get up and cheer! https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/08/style/women-age-glenn-close.html
Unashamed and Unafraid!
The women Bennet highlighted are unashamed of their age and unafraid to wield their power. It seems the country as a whole is less afraid of their power, too—and may even welcome it. More power to them, I say! It’s been a long time coming!
Bennet mentions Susan Zirinsky, 66, who was recently chosen to be the next president of CBS News—not only the first woman to hold that position but the oldest person too! (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/susan-zirinsky-cbs-news-president-replace-david-rhodes-march-2019/)
“We Have to Follow Our Dreams”
On the same night as CBS announced Zirinsky’s new position, 71-year-old Glenn Close won the award for best actress at the Golden Globes for her role in the film The Wife. Here’s a slice of her an incredibly inspiring and personal speech: “I feel what I’ve learned through this whole experience is that women, we’re nurturers. That’s what’s expected of us. We have our children. We have our husbands — if we’re lucky enough — and our partners, whoever. But we have to find personal fulfillment. We have to follow our dreams. We have to say, ‘I can do that and I should be allowed to do that.’” Amen to that! September will mark Close’s 45th year in the business!
Pelosi Takes the Gavel
Nancy Pelosi, just days before the awards, was re-elected Speaker of the House at age 78 (https://www.speaker.gov), and Maxine Waters, at age 80, became not only the first woman but the first African American to chair the House Financial Services Committee! (https://financialservices.house.gov) Did anyone else see Pelosi’s adorable and ecstatic granddaughter as she took the gavel? What a legacy for the young girls of the world to see!
We’re Living Longer, Healthier Lives
Bennet considers the changes from a demographic perspective. According to a report from the U.S. Census bureau, women are living longer, healthier lives today than they have in previous generations—and are working longer too.
Older men in the workplace have long be thought of as distinguished, while older women have been cast aside, invisible. Today, we are coming out of the shadows and into the light of day!
Not Out of the Woods, Though
Of course, there’s still much work to be done before the playing field is level. Ageism is real, and the intersectionality of ageism and sexism can be a powerful obstacle. Add to that the factor of race, and the odds become much more daunting. But things are changing. And we can be a part of that change.
Here’s to Longevity and Health!
Being heard doesn’t have to be so public. Some statements are much quieter. Here’s where I’ve connected the second article, an opinion piece by Bari Weiss published in the January 4th issue of the New York Times. “Try to Keep Up With Australia’s Fastest 92-Year-Old Woman” is a lovely, inspiring portrait of one bad-ass dynamo, Heather Lee!
When 34-year-old Weiss met 92-year-old Heather Lee on the track, Weiss had most definitely met her match! She could not keep up with the race-walker who has five world records under her belt. Lee puts in at least 10,000 steps on an average day, and according to her fitbit, she’s clocked at total of 3,057,374 steps is 2018. Not bad for a woman of any age!
Why Does Lee Do It?
Lee began race walking after her husband died, in 1996. Before he passed, he left her with this life-changing message: ““Now is the time to show your mettle,” he said. She has certainly taken his words to heart.
As a new widow, Lee felt the need to walk—fast! “I had a compulsion to walk,” Lee told Weiss. “The faster I walked, the better I felt.” Lee did not crumble when she lost her husband. She made her pain work for her, and she became stronger because of it.
Resilience, Resilience, Resilience
We’re ready now to connect to the third article “The Joy of Being a Woman in Her 70s” published in this past Sunday’s New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/12/opinion/sunday/women-older-happiness.html ). Mary Pipher, the psychologist and bestselling author of Reviving Ophelia (anyone with a daughter remember reading—and falling in love with—that one?), wrote this lovely piece about sorrow and growth and about our increased ability to be resilient as we age. By the time we are 70 (Lee was in her 70s when her husband passed), “we have all had more tragedy and more bliss in our lives than we could have foreseen,” Pipher contends. “We may not have control, but we have choices. With intention and focused attention, we can always find a forwards path.”
Age is No Barrier
Lee found her path forward after a great loss, and she is not looking back. She thinks that 2019 will be a great year for her, that she will break her own records. Yet, Lee is not solely focused on the track. She hopes that her accomplishments will inspire others. Lee wants very much to “‘be a role model for women in their middle years who are putting on a few pounds or thinking of slowing down,’” she told Weiss. “‘Age is no barrier to anything, really.’”
Who can argue with a 92-year-old who’s walked over 3,000,000 steps last year?
I’m starting to believe that age really isn’t a barrier to the things that are most important—and age offers some pretty wonderful opportunities as well. Just ask Susan, Glenn, Nancy, Maxine, Mary, and Lee. All unashamed and unafraid—and looking ahead!
A Few Questions
Where can you move forward this year? What will you do to empower yourself or other women? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment or send me an email! Let’s empower each other!
Finally … I’d like to let you know of an opportunity offered by my school’s literary journal! Here’s the official word:
Lunch Ticket’s project “Amuse-Bouche: Spotlight” is now open for literary and visual art submissions for our 3/2019 to 8/2019 content. The journal of the Antioch University MFA program, Lunch Ticket strives to balance literary and visual art with conversations about social justice and community activism. “Amuse-Bouche: Spotlight” showcases one writer every other week and welcomes submissions in CNF, Fiction, Flash Prose, Poetry, Literary Translation, and YA (13+). Submissions always free. Deadline: 1/31/2019. Guidelines: https://lunchticket.org/about/submission-guidelines/
Have a wonderful week, everyone!
See you next Friday!