Home Book Collections Problematic Stories of Youth Saviorism Stigmatizing Older Adults

Problematic Stories of Youth Saviorism Stigmatizing Older Adults

via Ashia

[Image description: Illustration from ‘Rain!’ by Linda Ashman and Christian Robinson. In the illustration, a young child with brown skin tries on an older white dude’s hat. The man is shocked to see the child mocking him, wearing a frown and shouting “You!”]

This season, we’re exploring bias against older adults and teaching our kids to identify harmful assumptions about age

This article & book list is a part of the anti-elder ageism series. Start from the beginning: Why Young Activists Depend on the Fight for Elder Rights.

I’m trying a new thing here where I break this loooong infodump into multiple pages. I’ll come back and cut out all the fluff later – but…time, I do not have enough of it.

Leave a comment and let me know how the multi-age thing is working for you. Particularly if you’re using a screen reader.

Keep Books For Littles (BFL) free and accessible for readers who can’t afford a paywall. Posts may contain affiliate links, which allow me to earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Check out the full affiliate disclosure along with the BFL statement of accountability. If you’re into supporting libraries (please do!) more than consumerism, you can also support my work on Patreon.

Only You Can Prevent The Arrogance of Mediocrity

My five year old enjoys explaining things to me. His brain has spontaneously combusted with imaginary facts, taking that “anything is possible” nonsense, transposing it to mean if he can imagine it, it’s a fact.

Which sounds very….post-truth. Everything about social media, climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers, and our government makes more sense now. No one told these bloviated windbags that no matter how many times you repeat bullshit, that doesn’t make it true.

Somewhere along the line, this five-year-old decided he had the authority to give me instructions.

He tells me how to gently turn the pages of a book. He tells me how life started on earth. (Aliens. He’s firm on this.)

It started out cute. I’d nod and smile and be like “Oh wow. Really? Aliens, you say?”

Now it’s just annoying. He tells me how to cut his apples, how to sweep the floor, and how I should wear my mittens. Sometimes he insists I stop and re-do it his way.

He’s starting to notice that he’s the littlest in the family, the littlest in his school. He can’t reach the sink, he can’t tie his shoes, he can’t pronounce his own name, but everyone around him can.

The whole world bosses him around and tells him what to do. Letting him bullshit me about aliens makes him feel confident. Speaking with authority on things he knows little about makes him feel smart and capable and in control of something.

This new discovery of the world + quest for confidence + me humoring it = makes these kids a little arrogant

His older brother is seven, and the seven-year-old has recently hit peak mansplaining.

(At least I hope it’s a peak. Good gracious it’s awful.)

We parents don’t do anything right. His teachers are in his way. His classmates play all wrong. No one knows how to do anything, except for him!

That angst! Thick with condescending sighs, frustrated whining, and eye-rolls – normal for seven. But the paternalism – that’s concerning. While he could maybe grow out of it on his own, I’m not gonna leave that to chance.

I see my part in this. I played along pretending he’s the smartest person in the room when he was little. In kindergarten, it was fun and adorable. Now that he’s huge, and it just comes off as arrogant and rude. Time for us to cut that nonsense out. My bad.

As the folks raising this next generation of kind and brilliant humans, it’s our job how to prevent the arrogant, mainsplaining nonsense of mediocre white dudes. Of all folks with privilege who blow smoke about why they deserve power, but are not responsible for sharing it.

It’s time to teach our kids about intellectual humility.

You might also like:

Add Your Thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

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.


This website uses cookies to improve your experience. Accept Read More

Skip to content