Skip to content

Can older women be seen as wise?

by on August 30, 2012

Speaking at a ‘Question Time’ session at the Edinburgh Television Festival, Harriet Harman was asked if people were “too obsessed” about gender and age on TV.

As reported yesterday on the Mature Times website, her answer was: “The reality is that there is a particular form of discrimination against older women which doesn’t apply to older men who are regarded as venerable, experienced, sage and doesn’t apply to younger women but uniquely applies to older women”.

This reminds me of a 2009 paper by Sari Irni in the journal Gender, Work & Organization, entitled ‘Cranky Old Women? Irritation, Resistance and Gendering Practices in Work Organizations‘. It examines the gendering practices in various organizations which produce ‘cranky old women’ and which rather excludes women from the stereotype of older age as a time of wisdom.

From → In the news

  1. I haven’t read the article but I can assure you from personal experience that crankiness and wisdom in older women are not mutually exclusive characteristics. Irritation and resistance are perhaps our strongest weapons in the face of being overlooked and devalued and are fine qualities that older women should aspire to cultivate!

    • Yes, good point about them not being mutually exclusive.

      Irni’s (2009) paper concludes with this observation which also addresses the issue of resistance.

      “As the analysis of the food factory suggests, the position of midlife women
      workers is however, not merely oppressed or restricted through the figure of
      the cranky old woman. The gendering practices that subject midlife women
      to this figure may also offer possibilities for resistance. The position of an
      older woman may also mean the possibility, offered by oncoming retirement,
      of raising difficult issues that others do not dare to express (Charpentier,
      2006, p. 188). However, the figure of the cranky old woman subjects midlife
      women to interpretations that individualize their irritation and resistance.
      Through this process their resistance of unsatisfactory practices in the organizations
      becomes interpreted as part of women’s bodily ageing.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: