Home Book Collections Problematic Stories of Youth Saviorism Stigmatizing Older Adults

Problematic Stories of Youth Saviorism Stigmatizing Older Adults

via Ashia


Also see: Floaty, for another inexplicably grouchy older man rescued by a dog.

Older Adult’s Problem: Bad attitude & general curmudgeonlyness.

Youth Savior Solution: Mockery.

The Moral: Be a dick to older people. That will cheer them up.

This list is going to get harder as we go on, because we’re getting into the books I actually like. I adore Christian Robinson, and Linda Ashman’s books are often inoffensively solid in validating childhood challenges.

We actually read this book frequently to the kids, it’s particularly wonderful for the 4-6 age range when kids start to see every inconvenience as a grave insult and injustice. I like that it normalizes a kind and gentle boy of color. It helps us unpack the concept of perspective – how we have agency in seeing the things that happen to us, choosing our response to it, and how that informs what happens next.

But okay, here we go. This older man. He’s so grouchy. Why is he so grouchy? We don’t see how maybe, his dog died. Or his wife died of cancer. Or how he just got laid off from his job ‘to make room’ for younger (re: lower paid) employees.

He’s just grouchy. And that’s a problem – because the Grouchy Curmudgeon is a trope in kidlit that needs to die. It’s a stereotype that we grab when we’re too pressed for time (or lazy) to come up with scaffolding or back-stories on what causes an upset person to be upset.

For those of us who have been dismissed because we’re ‘getting too upset’ – due to our gender, our race, our disabilities, whatever, we recognize the way our identities are used to silence us when we have very valid reasons to speak up. People aren’t just naturally grouchy.

I mean sure, my default disposition is slightly to the left of irritable, compared to say, Santa Claus. But also Santa is a rich white man who grew up beloved and believed in despite multiple facts to the contrary…wait I’m just proving my case, never mind.

I mean to say – we can’t teach our kids that some folks are just grumpy and need to get over themselves. The solution isn’t to be super-duper cheery at them, nor is it to mock them until they get a sense of humor and catch up to the youths. We need to listen and then work for radical change that gets to the root of that curmudgeonlyness (this is a word now, I’m making this a word and you can’t stop me.) Or at the very least, hand the man his hat and just leave the dude alone.

If you know it’s rude to tell a strange woman to smile, ’cause she looks prettier that way, then you can see how expecting this guy to cheer up to make everyone around him happy is kind of problematic.

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3 observations

Adelaide Dupont February 6, 2020 - 1:21 PM

Intellectual humility – a great virtue I learnt late and I learnt hard.

It’s all about letting your self be vulnerable; trusting people know more than you do or at least different things that you do. And not blaming or shaming.

I didn’t really have a handle on humility until I was 28 and in the early 2010s on a site exploring feminism. I think intellectual humility recognizes that you’re in a community of equals that you had a hand in creating too.

And for a long time I thought it was only about appearing/sounding humble and not trying to make other people feel more stupid than they may have felt already.

As as the Eartquakes are realising it is also about experiencing pain and powerlessness and not covering for it.

And kids do start out intellectually humble. You can also just know a little more than them and fight knowledge poverty together and close gaps.

Yes, the ways we do this for and with kids are very often contrived and artificial.
sometimes there is a fear – or the kids experience the fear – what if I really am the smartest person in the room and I don’t know what to do? What if I can’t use this privilege well according to my values? What if my community is cutting me down.

Our elders experience these things too. Still!

And I liked the way you pointed out the ways in which post_truth is analogous to normal developmental experiences of five and seven year olds.

PAternalism/maternalism – and a lot of kids start to be parentified or take on parentified roles at this age. They see their parents’ capabilities decline/that the rents are less empowered in other spheres. And their empathy/sympathy develops.

We do need to find ways to be on the kids’ sides without encouraging paternalism or saviorism. Our seniors take on long and deep views.

Do the Eartquakes spend time with seniors in the neighbourhood?

Ashia February 6, 2020 - 1:55 PM

Lots of thoughts to noodle on! Thank you!

For us – the Earthquakes don’t spend time with _anyone_ in our neighborhood. Because of our disabilities, and our lack of local family or social support, we can’t even go to the grocery store. Their grandparents are too busy for us and don’t have time (or patience) to deal with the hyperactive earthquake. I gave up on leaving the house except for private meetings and picking kids up at the bus stop years ago – the cutting remarks and gasps and evil looks just wear me out. The social calculus is just too much, and I end up having meltdowns. These days, if we’re really in a good space, I can take _one_ kid to the library with me, or both kids to an outdoor event for kids, but only if we have both parents – also hard with both of us working overtime.

If it was more accessible, I’d start with attending intergenerational events at our local library – but those same events aren’t accessible for folks with social disabilities. It would be lovely if we had opportunities to interact with older adults who know and understand neuro disabilities, but alas – the median mortality for folks with our disability is 36. If they haven’t died yet, they’ve survived by becoming reclusive and hiding their disabilities.

Adelaide Dupont February 6, 2020 - 1:32 PM

And about being old and about being shitty – how being old is being used as code for being shitty.

One of the things I regret most int my writing is not promoting the circular economy – clothes and fast fashion are very easy to dismiss as being old.

Furniture is easier for me to represent as being emblatic of an era.

And the whole veteran and vintage circuit – for example, cars!

Then I think of J K Rowling and how she laughs at history. And all the historical fiction I have read/am reading.

And the 94-year-old Japanese woman whose children were captured in North Korea. WHy do I only pay attention to these awesome people when they are dead or dying?

It is ‘t about how we young and younger people can benefit from wisdom – it’s like a quarry if we think that way.

And all the 90+ year olds I have been privileged to live alongside. think too, how seniors are represented in rural and regional communities.


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