The Road Ahead

Let’s say, if only for the sake of argument, that once this coronavirus pandemic has passed — or at least loosened its terrible global grip — the road ahead could be better, fairer, and brighter for everyone. This, of course, will never happen automatically, as if some big, hovering fairy godmother were to take pity on us all and compassionately wave her magic wand. No. It will take some doing on everyone’s part. Especially, I believe, on the part of older women.

Oh, really? You may ask. You think so, huh? How?

I have one, strong, immediate suggestion (and I welcome WOW readers’ suggestions as well): Read the new book, In Our Prime: How Older Women Are Reinventing the Road Ahead, by Susan J. Douglas (W.W. Norton, NY, 2020), which has been called “required reading for those of us who are fifty or older – and everyone who (with any luck) someday will be” and labeled, “an informative and sharp call to arms.”

Author Susan Douglas is a professor of communication and media at the University of Michigan and the author of six other groundbreaking books, among them, Where the Girls Are: The Rise of Enlightened Sexism, and The Mommy Myth.

Now is the time, I believe — now that most of us older women are sheltering in place at home due to COVID-19 and we have more time to read books than we may have had in a long, long time — to read what Douglas has to say in this her newest book and to answer her call to arms.

“We [Baby Boomers] are women who changed history,” Douglas says, “women who are still changing history, women who now need to change the future, politically, economically, and culturally, and not just for us, but for those who will come after us.”

“And we also need to appreciate,” Douglas states, “how the anti-aging industrial complex […] is profoundly depoliticizing. It urges us to use a microscope to focus inward, when we need telescopes, to focus outward, as we did in the 1960s and beyond, to work, still, to make the world […] a better place.”

In her excellent New York Times review of In Our Prime, published March 10, Leslie Bennetts wrote, “[I]t’s hard to find anything here that a fair-minded reader could dispute — and also impossible to deny the political, economic and cultural potential of what Douglas describes as an incipient demographic revolution, albeit one that is ‘underappreciated’ and ‘undercovered’ to date.” She quickly adds, “Since the majority of older people [in the U.S.] are female, the demographic power of women in the second half of life is a sleeping giant that has only to be awakened to transform our society.”

Douglas’s words throughout this important book are sensible, sound, and in fact sisterly. She doesn’t ride a high horse. She doesn’t scold or wield a cudgel. She remains calm, and even at times, droll. Her voice is that of an intelligent and impassioned friend sharing coffee with you at your kitchen table. You hang onto her words because you want to. And need to.

In Our Prime was published just before the coronavirus struck with force, so there’s no mention of a pandemic in it. But the timing for Douglas’s call to arms couldn’t be better, in my view. The world needs to proceed on a new road ahead. Who better to bring heart, soul, life experience, energy, passion, compassion, time, and, yes, wisdom, to the task of finding our new way than older women? As Bennetts states in her New York Times review, “In this as in so much else, women are the logical candidates to lead us to a better world.”

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Excerpt from In Our Prime:

Reinventing the Road Ahead

Through all of this – talking back to gendered ageism and to male political orthodoxy, building bridges with younger people, becoming more politically active and engaged – we can and will pick up where the great Maggie Kuhn left off and reinvent the road ahead.

It is time for us, everyday women, to enact our own visibility revolts. Our coming of age is happening at a very distinctive moment, when a resurgent feminism is crashing against a newly acceptable, even celebrated brew of racism, misogyny, and rank cruelty. Because there are so few media images out there of engaged, happy, gutsy older women who want to make the world a better place, we need to step into that role.

Let’s reclaim aspirational aging from Big Pharma and other carnival barkers who equate it with blowing bubbles with grandchildren or mainly focusing on ourselves. Aspirational aging is about staking our visibility in the world, being proud of and owning who we are, and making that confidence contagious.

Then younger women today will be even less tolerant of gendered ageism, less willing to comply with its exclusionary edicts than we are, especially if we blow wind in their sails. It is time – individually and collectively – to rip off the invisibility cloak. It is time to talk back. It is time to hold hands. Let’s do it now.

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12 thoughts on “The Road Ahead”

  1. The WOW Factor? Today must be Friday.

    Convincing Big Pharma that older women do more than blow bubbles with their grand-kids will take some financial threatening. I look forward to reading about what ideas Douglas has to initiate change. Living here in the bubble of SMA it is almost hard to relate to. Older woman are very involved in pretty much everything concerning making a better planet. Possibly that is because SMA has attracted independent and proactive women. Maybe we need to look around and find some of our Sisters who haven’t found their voices yet? There’s a project to help unleash sleeping giants, or using another title Mama Bears.

    It has been pointed out that the countries that are handling the pandemic the best are lead by women. So, we know how to do this.

    The meme “We live in interesting times” is said to be a curse, but it is also an opportunity for the road ahead.

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

    1. Thanks so much, Toni dear, for your thoughts. I think you’ll really, really appreciate all that Susan Douglas has to say — and the way she says it. All I could do in this short review was point potential readers in the direction of this terrific book.

  2. Thank you for your post on this book. I was not aware of it. I will read it. I am sorry we didn’t see each other while I was here, maybe when I return from Colorado (assuming I get to leave May 20th). I hope to return in September if I can vote early.

    1. You’re so welcome, Kay. I know you’ll be really glad to have read this book. It’s so informative and motivating! Happy trails — and see you when you return. Stay safe and well.

  3. Dear Bon,

    This is brilliant. This is exactly the call-to-arms we all need to hear right now. I was just listening online to someone talking about the many groups protesting around the country. While these groups may espouse questionable beliefs, they are being listened to by the media. Progressive voices are staying home and being silent, when we should be standing up and voicing our concerns and ideas. We must stand up for what we believe or we will continually be disappointed and ignored. Or worse, we will continue to be derided by the media and laughed at because we are viewed as powerless.

    Keep writing Bonnie, we need you!

    Love,
    Paul

    1. Thank you, dearest Paul, for your thoughts, as always. My Mom used to be the president of my fan club; I think you have that title now! Mucho love to YOU. 🙂

    2. Paul, there are some active progressive groups but they are not as interesting to report on for the MSM. And there are a number of older folks groups. Angry Abuelas and Tias, is one group focused on the imprisoned migrant children. They may need to start wearing automatic rifles across their chests to get attention though. So getting media attention is always a progressive challenge. We need to start getting more creative.

      1. If I could jump into this conversation, I’d like to suggest — for creative ways of getting attention — that people read Douglas’s book! 🙂 She has some great ideas. I couldn’t, of course, do justice to all of her brilliant (and practical) ideas in my brief review.

        1. Thanks for reminding me to get back to Amazon, or maybe I should try BnN? When I attempted to add the book to my cart I got one of those msgs that they were verifying my id with an email which I never received. Perhaps a glitch and I’ll try again. Looking forward to it.

          1. It’s worth the pursuit, Toni dear. I think this book will really resonate with you and motivate you — even more than you already are!

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