Home Book Collections Problematic Stories of Youth Saviorism Stigmatizing Older Adults

Problematic Stories of Youth Saviorism Stigmatizing Older Adults

via Ashia

The Last Place You Look

There are so many great things about this book, undermined by this one shitty trope that just wasn’t necessary. So this one is complicated.

There’s an okay attempt at an inclusive holiday get-together. Our two lesbian grandmothers, Bubbie Ida Flora (depicted as feminine, with white skin), and Bubbie Rose (depicted as leaning toward masculine, also white) host a Seder dinner. There’s a bald white woman (her role is unclear), a person accompanied by a guide dog who codes as Blind, a child wearing a dress, long curly hair, and a headband who uses he/him pronouns, another child who uses they/them, some token people of color and a few multiracial families.

The illustrations are a little wobbly and unfinished (everyone looks like they are wearing flesh mittens). But you got some folks with darker brown and lighter brown skin. Some beige. I appreciate the effort, as books about Jewish holidays often leave out people of color. However it’s important to note that the book depicts the hosting grandparents as white, with only white or multiracial children of white people wearing kippas. The guests of color look like they married in or were…invited. It’s not quite Get Out-level obvious, but I kept searching for hints that the darker skin tones had some agency and didn’t find any. This is a problem, what with the great whitewashing of Judaism in kidlit.

But yay for normalizing lesbian grandmas! And a Blind character with agency who helps search for the afikomen! And a couple gender-non-conforming kids! And vaguely including/tokenizing people with alopecia and/or going through cancer treatments! (Unclear!)

Per tradition, Bubbie Ida Flora breaks the afikoman (Passover matzah) and hides it. All the young people spend an inordinate amount of time and effort searching for it. Because it turns out, Bubbie forgot where she hid it.

Actually, she didn’t even hide it, because she completely forgot to even do that, despite standing up and walking away from the table to do just that. Because she’s old! And old people forget things that happened just a couple minutes ago. So flighty, these old ladies. (/sarcasm).

It wouldn’t be an issue – if this wasn’t an intensely common trope that pops up over and over. Grandma is always the source of the humor in these stereotypes about ‘senior moments,’ and older adults are always butt of the jokes.

It seems light-hearted. Not a big deal. Until you realize how many older women are discriminated against employment, fired, forced into institutions, and refused medical care and life-saving support because they’re dismissed as batty and forgetful.

This shit is killing women. Stop.

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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?

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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.

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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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