Conversations on Aging ~ Kelsey Maddox

Kelsey Maddox

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Older women in power

Posted on February 2, 2019 by Kelsey Maddox
The last few years have finally seen women in responsible elected positions nationwide, moving toward a number that’s more representative of their portion of the population. Nancy Pelosi, at 78, was re-elected Speaker of the House of Representatives and established her place in American history as the most powerful elected woman of our time. Maxine Waters, at 79, is the first woman and African-American to lead the Financial Services Committee. Then we have Senator Dianne Feinstein re-elected to the Senate at the age of 84, making her its oldest member. The list of qualified older women in government is remarkable and it’s delightful that all three hail from California!

We’ve lived in a world where women tend not to be seen after a certain age, while men are revered as they gray and wrinkle. This double standard speaks not only to sexism but also to ageism. Nevertheless, older women have come to power. There are many – men and women – saying, “It’s about time!”

As women are traditionally associated with nurturing and the well-being of the family, isn’t this a time when those skills are in high demand on a governmental level?

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s taught us that if one group in our society is oppressed, none of us are free. This also holds true in gender politics and equality. If women aren’t represented in the percentage they exist in the population, then the over-representation of men is less meaningful. If women cannot be honored at every age, how will we ever realize a truly representative form of government? What are we missing by under-representing one side or the other? Until the worn out gender and age roles and biases cease, we’re not taking advantage of the full range of gifts that everyone has to offer.

As women are traditionally associated with nurturing and the well-being of the family, isn’t this a time when those skills are in high demand on a governmental level? As we observe a nation more divided over ideology than at any other moment in our lifetimes, the opportunity for women to bring us together and redefine the political landscape is at hand.

In a recent New York Times article, Susan Douglas, a Michigan State University professor of Communication Studies who is writing a book on older women and power, shared that “a demographic revolution” was occurring both in the number of women working into their 60s and 70s and the perception, in the wake of #metoo, of their expertise and value.
She went on to say, “Older women are now saying ‘No, I’m still vibrant, I still have a lot to offer, and I’m not going to be consigned to invisibility.’ These women are reinventing what it means to be an older woman.”

It’s time to celebrate this forward movement for women and for our society. It’s time to tell our daughters and granddaughters that neither their gender nor their age will hold them back from expressing the life they choose or the contribution they want to make to society. Women of every age are valued. We should welcome and embrace this change.



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