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  1. Sarah
    Sarah August 10, 2010 at 8:38 am |

    Well, I’m 25, and still get treated like a child, so I really don’t see any end in sight for it.

    And, I mean, it could be worse. . .you could stand up for what’s right and get fired for it. That’s what happened to me, and I KNOW that my age played a big factor in why the upper management disliked me.

    (Not playing the “My situation is worse than yours” game by any stretch. I’m just saying, the age discrimination thing is prevalent.)

  2. abby_wan_kenobi
    abby_wan_kenobi August 10, 2010 at 8:44 am |

    I can think of two things you may take into consideration in situations like this. (For perspective, I’m 25 and have been working for 2 years as an engineer. I’m the youngest person in my department by about 10 years)

    1) Method of communication. While Facebook is pretty much the best thing since sliced bread, and now heavily subscribed to by people of all ages, it’s not as universally accepted as we might think. I was a first generation facebook user and when I get messages, I still sometimes wonder why the sender chose facebook as their medium. Obviously in some cases this is the only point of contact you have for a person. But! what you say on facebook may get a less than open-minded reception because the reader doesn’t take the medium seriously. It’s like getting broken up with by text message. It doesn’t seem like the behavior of a person deserving of respect.

    2) The obsolesence of older generations. It’s hard to say if this is a factor in your stories, but it is a serious issue in my professional life. At some point a person goes from being “experienced” to “old, old-fashioned, no longer useful”. Most people can remember being young and thinking that people 20 years older than them were behind the times, doddering, silly old people. And then they get older and don’t feel doddering, silly or old. As technology evolves at an ever faster rate, the age of obsolesence seems to get younger and younger. It’s possible that the people dismissing you are doing so in self-defense. They view you as a threat. You are here to replace them. Keeping that in mind as you frame your views might get you further in earning their respect. Let them know you value their experience and respect their knowledge. You want people to join your team, you don’t want to push them out of the way of your revolution.

  3. nathan
    nathan August 10, 2010 at 9:06 am |

    I’m 34. I still experience this kind of dismissal to some degree, although it has lessened. It is very disappointing that some folks simply can’t see that anyone of any age can be their teacher. Or at the very least, is worthy of basic respect.

    I also think Abby’s point number two is very interesting. We are in odd times right now. Younger folks are more adept at technology, which is more in demand, and I do think older folks are threatened, sometimes rightly so. I’ve watched a lot of 50-somethings loose their jobs over the past few years, primarily because the companies they worked for wanted to hire cheaper, younger, more “flexible” employees.

    It’s a real bind because I feel that age and wisdom aren’t really respected either (at least in the U.S.). So we have this strange place where young people are dismissed as naive, and people over 50 are dismissed as “too old to matter.” Not too smart if you ask me.

    I wish I had some easy answers, but I don’t. I do believe in trying to act the way I want to see the world be. So, I do my best to remain open to people and listen, no matter what their age is.

  4. Meredith
    Meredith August 10, 2010 at 9:11 am |

    I’m 23 and have a baby face, so yes, this happens to me allllll the time. (Interestingly, once people find out that I’m in ZOMG!law school, they back off. I find it very interesting that this causes the transition.)

    I wonder (and have a feeling that it’s sadly true that they aren’t) if younger men are dismissed this way? I mean, we have Rep. Aaron Schock, who was elected to his local School Board at 19, his state House at 23, and is now a US Rep. at age 29 and the deputy minority whip in the House. However, he’s a Republican. It also makes me wonder if we’re getting dismissed because we’re challenging the status quo, and from what I know about Schock, he is most certainly not. From his Wikipedia: “Schock voted against amending federal hate crimes laws to include crimes where the victims were targeted on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, and disability. He also voted against the bill that would allow the repeal of the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.”

  5. Sisou
    Sisou August 10, 2010 at 9:13 am |

    I am 28 and I get talked down alot. I look much younger but find that people who even know my age respond to me like Im a teenager.

    I really wonder if there is ever a break from ageism? You not valued when you are young. You not valued when you older So how has the power in age? Do I get to be valued two years from now when Im 30? or is it middle aged? I would love to know ( seriously) when the smart age begins.

    Also, thinking of even younger adults is not really unhealthy that we teach that age automatically means respect. I was happy that my mother taught me that respect was earned. Older Adults abused, harm and corrupt young people all the time. The ability to stand for yourself is important at any age.

  6. Heather Aurelia
    Heather Aurelia August 10, 2010 at 9:15 am |

    I am 21, too and I have had my moments where ageism turned it’s ugly head on me: http://witchyfeminist.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/ageism-in-the-workplace/

    This was an old post of mine so it may be a little rough.

    I don’t think it could do any better than how you handled it. You seem to me to be an adult.

  7. Watch the Toes
    Watch the Toes August 10, 2010 at 9:38 am |

    It sucks that people are discrediting what you’re saying to them just because they perceive you to be too young to know anything worthwhile to them. It’s frustrating and not right that you have to go through that, and I hope you continue to speak your mind. And just in case you hadn’t already thought of these things, I do have a couple of suggestions that might help people be more willing to listen to you.

    1. Consider the tone you use when you’re making your case. No one likes to feel chastised or that they’re world views are wrong, and when someone calls them out in accusatory tone, their defenses will go up and they won’t be at all receptive to your message. Try and put yourself in their shoes (not that they’re right) and see how you would want to hear a message that’s not only coming from someone younger but also may be the complete opposite of what they’ve come to unquestionably believe to be true. Of course, it’s very possible that you’re already careful of tone and delivery when you’re defending yourself or another social injustice issue, and these people are just uber-defensive to begin with. If that’s the case, sadly there’s not much you can do about it – some people are just small-minded and fearful of change, and nothing will sway them. I know you said you don’t like the idea of sugar-coating things, and that it’s like pussy-footing around the issue. But if you learn how to still deliver your message without so much bite to it (and again, maybe you already are), then people might be more receptive. I know from personal experience that happened with me. At 21, I was bluntly honest and unafraid to speak my mind, which, unfair as it is, made people not want to hear what I had to say. However, the moment I began thinking about how others would more receptive to what I had to say, and the moment I wasn’t so accusatory in my language, the more receptive people were to what I had to say. Of course, some assholes don’t deserve your sugar coated response to their bigotry, so feel free to rip them a new one.

    2. Pick your battles, plain and simple. If you know remarking about something’s going to bring out the fisticuffs, ask yourself if calling the other person out on their shit is important enough to risk a fight. If it is, absolutely go for it – things will never changed if someone doesn’t rock the boat. But if it seems like the issue is small to let slide, then avoid a fight and let it pass so that you save your energy for more important things. As an example, for me personally, I wouldn’t have even have commented on the deodorant comment on Facebook, and would have just rolled my eyes at the stupidity of it all instead. Of course, that’s just me, coming from a different background than you, and also as a person who just flat out refuses to respond to stupid comments online, and I can see how the deodorant comment was important enough for you to comment on. But that’s neither here nor there, and I think you get the drift of what I mean by picking your battles. It’ll help you in the long run to preserve your energies.

    Anyways, I’m sorry about the novel this turned into, but I just felt compelled to offer a bit of advice that I know has helped me. But keep standing up for what you believe in, and I hope people will become more and more receptive to what you have to say. Good luck!

  8. scrumby
    scrumby August 10, 2010 at 9:39 am |

    At 21 maybe you haven’t quite mastered how to tailor your rhetoric to your audience yet or realized what’s a battle worth fighting…

    Or maybe these people are determined not to listen and will use any excuse not to do so. Where you’re too young someone else is too old, or too flaky, or not from around here. A closed mind came come up with infinite reasons not to change.

  9. marchioness
    marchioness August 10, 2010 at 9:44 am |

    I recently had a conversation with a co-worker about religion (I know, bad idea in the first place, right?) She asked me point blank if I was an atheist, and I’m not going to lie, so I said yes. She then spent fifteen minutes telling me how her husband, just like me, resisted, but learned the Truth when he went to church with her, and even though I thought I was sure, eventually I’d “see the light” too. She kept interjecting statements like “it doesn’t matter what you want, your mom will pray for you” (what’s up presumption) and “I respect the fact that you can have your own beliefs, but” while I was politely (and eventually not so politely) explaining to her that I don’t appreciate her proselytizing at me. She responded by saying, “Proselytizing is my hobby!” which, to me, seems to be the exact opposite of respecting my beliefs.

    The “you’re young, you’ll learn when you’re older” thing was played out when I was 13, and that’s coming from my 26-year-old self looking back on what a doofus I was. It’s just a piss-poor way to approach any kind of learning/listening. My mom has never taken that tack, and I’ve learned more from her than from any adult who laid out the wisdom wrapped up in ageist condescension.

    And in my experience, Meredith, yeah, it’s worse with older men, because I have the triple whammy of 1) being younger, 2) having a vagina, and 3) having an opinion that may be more informed than theirs.

  10. Kathy
    Kathy August 10, 2010 at 9:53 am |

    When I turned thirty, I was so happy to be out of my twenties because I often felt discredited and overlooked, which I chalked up to age, and now that I’m closer to forty I’m just starting to see the other side of it — feeling irrelevant and “out of touch.” I still get called”sweetie” (interspersed with the occasional “ma’am”), usually from older men, but not always. A lot of what I thought was pure ageism was actually ageism plus sexism.

  11. Lindsay
    Lindsay August 10, 2010 at 10:03 am |

    Wonderful post, Amelia. I’m 23 and still face this kind of resistance everywhere when trying to openly discuss my ideas/feelings/opinions. It sounds like you handled everything remarkably well.

    To #6 above, I get what you’re trying to say but it sounds dangerously like tone policing. I’m about as unobtrusive a person as there is, to the point where my politeness is a hindrance and I speak so softly that others can’t hear me, but others still fly off in a tizzy if I say a single word contrary to their experience. (It doesn’t help that I’m from a super conservative hometown too.) Some people are so staunchly convinced of their ways that discussion isn’t an option, and many of the people who “are hiding behind the idea that their years give them experience that no idea in my head will make up for” belong to this group.

  12. Jadey
    Jadey August 10, 2010 at 10:08 am |

    One of the things that bothered me a little when I worked with young kids (ages 4-12 depending on the week) at a camp that encouraged a lot of deep introspection and personal sharing (morning journalling sessions, self-discovery exercises, etc.) was the surprise, nay, shock of the other staffers and older campers (we went up to age 21) when the younger kids said something intelligent or insightful. And I don’t mean in the “kids say the darnedest things!” way – I mean that these kids could answer deep and personal questions about themselves, their lives, and the social contexts. Obviously kids, like older people, will also say silly, shallow, confused, mistaken, and downright ignorant things, but working with these kids I quickly learned not to be surprised by the fact that they are conscious, questioning entities who are constantly creating, challenging, and reformulating theories about their worlds and selves. Again, like older people, to varying degrees – but kids have opinions and ideas too, and, no, they don’t all revolve around candy. (Admittedly, candy can be a pretty big concern for a lot of kids. Then again, for older people too.) It also bothers me when the occasional child who is very assertive and convincing about their ideas and opinions is treated as an exception, not in their assertiveness but in their cognitive consciousness. All kids have thoughts, but not all kids are comfortable sharing them or standing behind them. Gee, I wonder why.

  13. Ageism Goes Both Ways « hepfat
    Ageism Goes Both Ways « hepfat August 10, 2010 at 10:41 am |

    [...] to apply this term to young people?  I was going through my aggregates this morning and found this post on Feministe, and I found myself getting kind of angry, to be honest.  Not because of how Amelia [...]

  14. rox
    rox August 10, 2010 at 10:43 am |

    Just to say, my conservative unprogressive father uses women’s deodorant. He admitted this at the dinner table when were talking about adverse reactions to deodorant and he said he started having reactions to deodorant and tried my moms “gentle deodorant” or whatever it was and didn’t have a reaction, so whatever.

    He did clarify for us that it IS unscented. I mean, we can’t have a man wearing a womans scent can we???

    NEverless I was proud of my silly conservative dad. If anything, admitting you have no problem wearing womens deodorant even when people will laugh at you is, to me, being a man about it. Of course, can’t we just change that phrase to being a human about it, or something of the sort?

  15. William
    William August 10, 2010 at 10:49 am |

    Amelia, there seems to be a lot of tone comments coming up and, I have to admit, that was one of the first things that ran through my mind reading your post. You seem aggressive, assertive, and I’d be willing to bet you don’t much bother to tailor your tone and rhetoric to your audience. I was going to make a comment about that but…then I thought about a bit. I wouldn’t tolerate that kind of response, I’d call out a tone argument for what it is. So shame on me for thinking it.

    At the bottom, tone arguments and talking about tailoring your rhetoric are purely pragmatic comments. What a lot of people in this thread (whether they know it or not) are saying is “See all these people that treat you like shit because you didn’t show due deference to their social power? Show deference next time and maybe you wont get stepped on.” Fuck that, its a losing battle and it ends with you sitting down and shutting up.

    I’m 28 and I have an old face. When I was 18 I got talked down to a lot for being younger. When I was 20 I got talked down to for not being out of college. When I was out of college I got talked down to for not having enough life experience. When I had a Masters and was half way to a Doctorate I found myself in an interesting bind. People who hadn’t gotten as far as I had either used the “life experience” line or they accused me of being an elitist, people further than me used that, and people at roughly the same level found something else.

    Being a petulant child isn’t about being younger, its about not obeying the rules of a social interaction. That kind of charge is a tool used to shame and silence someone from challenging whoever fancies themselves pack alpha. You’re young so right now the bristle is aimed at your age and (perceived) lack of experience. If it wasn’t that it might be your gender, or your race, or how long you’ve identified as queer, how you’ve read too little, how you’ve read too much (and thus become an out of touch academic)…it doesn’t end.

    Don’t change. People calling you a petulant child are doing so because you’ve disturbed them, because they feel their place in the social order is threatened, because they feel challenged. Its not about your age, its about them wanting you to roll over and bare your throat. The only way to satisfy that kind of person is to submit.

  16. ~s~
    ~s~ August 10, 2010 at 10:56 am |

    I’m 21 as well. Fortunately ageism hasn’t shown up too much in my personal life (maybe because even as a kid I always related very well to adults, and maybe because I’ve acquired a reputation for being really ridiculously smart). But I work as a tour guide at a historic site, which leaves me open for tons and tons of mansplaining, especially since most of our visitors are retired couples. It was really disconcerting to me at first that older men, and even women, assumed they knew more about the 1840s than I did because they were older–but they weren’t alive in the 1840s either! I’ve come to realize that some people, especially older men, have been trained to believe that they’re always right, and people who contradict them just don’t know anything.

  17. MeiYouMayo
    MeiYouMayo August 10, 2010 at 11:07 am |

    Blech, I get talked down to so much because I’m 18, though because of my height (under 5′) and relatively young-looking face, I get mistaken for younger. I get called “sweetie” a lot, adults tend to be dismissive of me when I want to talk with them about things other than how I’m doing in school, and I routinely have people asking me if I’m a little young to be doing X (watching R-rated movies, blogging, the list goes on).

    On the bright side of it, though, I love that at most movie theaters clerks sometimes automatically give me the child price for tickets, and it’s always fun to freak adults out when they think I don’t understand something they’re saying, when in fact I do.

  18. Ostien
    Ostien August 10, 2010 at 11:27 am |

    I’ve often have a similar issue when talking to my Uncle. For example, we were discussing economic reasons for higher crime rates and the relation to race issues (a big and complex issue yes, but my uncle has a tendency to extrapolate from one sensational news story onto a whole group of people and I feel the need to speak up to his often offensive generalizations). My Uncle was basically making a “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” argument, talking about cutting welfare and the like, also blended with some not so subtle racism, such as that these people (of course he focused on “these black people”) are just lazy even when given the same opportunities and more likely to be violent criminals and that’s why they were poor etc. I could go on but suffice it to say it was pretty bad.

    I was of course upset by his remarks, but I attempted not to get too animated and tried to calmly refute his claims with my knowledge against his exaggerated anecdotes so to avoid being easily dismissed because I was “too emotional” or whatnot. I was dismissed anyways and told that “you’ll understand how the world works when you’re older.” He just didn’t want to hear it and attacking my age (I’m 23) seemed like the easiest way to dismiss me and justify his position. The ageist idea that children (broadly defined) should be docile and respect their elder’s authority is a very socially acceptable and common basis (in our culture) to silence people and thus is often employed because there is little chance of any serious or effective challenge to it because it is so ingrained.

    Sadly, I don’t really have any practical solutions to dealing with this ageism beyond vague ideas of increasing acceptance of the idea that it is positive for children to question the authority of, for example, their parents and teachers. Though that would be a major pedagogical paradigm shift. So perhaps an endpoint of a solution but not the means to implement it.

    Clearly I just need more experience and wisdom.

  19. Jim
    Jim August 10, 2010 at 11:46 am |

    I agree there was a problem of tione, but I don’t thin it was on Amelia’s end of the conversation, both times. In the first instance her age was used as a way to shut her down, period. There were other ways of responding – look this is a private matter (really? – on Facebook?), look, there are aspects you’re not looking at (and even if that’s because you haven’t lived long enough to see them, but that’s not relevant right here) or whatever. Those people used age to shut Amelia down.

    There is a way to navigate this, but it requires cultural buy-in. The miliatry has a whole structure of customs around seniority and rank that ensure that less exerienced members don’t derail conversation and decision-making, but ensure that their input is put to good use. It doesn’t always work, but it works better than the free-for-all we have in the modern-day civilian world. But as I said, everyone has to buy in for it to work.

    “Eventually another woman commented and told me that using “homo” as a type of insult in this instance was not offensive because the person being called the “homo” was not offended by it. I replied that just because the person being insulted wasn’t offended doesn’t make the use of the word any less hurtful and that excusing this behavior was problematic. ”

    This is problematic. Words do not have a some inherent, immutable meaning and impact. A word cannot be “offensive” or have any menaing at all out of context. A word is offensive when it offends someone. Specifically psych adjectives (like verbs) are transitive – they imply an object. A word cannot be hurtful if there was no one there to be hurt, or who was hurt. (That may not have been the case here; who knows what the man actually felt?). I personally find nothing wrong with the word “homo” iused by a middle-aged straight man. I would be considerably more touchy about it from a straight woman, because my personal experience is that in that context it is often used as shaming language – but every situation is a case by case. I would be really irate over a straight teenager using “faggot”.

  20. joytulip
    joytulip August 10, 2010 at 12:15 pm |

    Your age is their easiest target right now. If they can dismiss what you’ve said, they don’t have to do the mental work you’ve challenged them to do. Defensive reasoning at its best.

    I’m coming up on thirty-one now, but still sometimes get confused for a student at the high school where I teach. I’ve moved several times, so the faculty generally don’t know me or my age. When I’m participating in collaborative professional development, my enthusiastic suggestions are generally met with – “oh, that’ll never work, you’ll understand when you’ve been doing this longer” – usually from older, male teachers. Replying “I’ve been doing that for the past x number of years” usually results in a satisfyingly bewildered look on their face.

    Sometimes challenging people’s ideas about the world doesn’t work until after you’ve challenged their assumptions about you as an individual.

  21. Stephanie - Green SAHM
    Stephanie - Green SAHM August 10, 2010 at 12:17 pm |

    I still get that kind of treatment from my inlaws, and I’m 38. Most recently it was in emails over my decision to homeschool my oldest, and they kept insisting I needed to do more research to make the right decision and leave her in the local school. The data I sent them didn’t matter because it wasn’t about statistics, it was that they weren’t sure that I had the time, ability or knowledge to handle teaching my daughter what she needs for third grade while using a solid curriculum from an online public school.

    Most any time I disagree with them, the age thing comes out. Mostly I ignore it, but there are days that it’s more annoying than usual.

  22. Bridget
    Bridget August 10, 2010 at 12:40 pm |

    Great post. The transportation thing struck a chord with me.

    When I was 22 I moved to New Orleans, and a friend of mine referred me to his talent agent (we’re actors). I made an appointment to meet the agent. I didn’t have a car, so I took the bus out to the suburb where the agency was located. When I got off the bus, I knew I was somewhere in the vicinity of the agency, but couldn’t figure out how to get there. I called the agency to ask for directions. When I explained that I was walking, the agent subjected me to a horrible lecture about how I couldn’t possibly be serious about being an actor without a car, didn’t I know I would have to pay for headshots, etc. Then he told me to call him back when I had money and a car.

    I remember how horribly humiliated I felt, standing on that sidewalk in the New Orleans summer heat, in my best “professional” outfit that the agent never saw, because he wasn’t interested in even meeting someone who didn’t have a car.

    I hate hate HATE it when people dismiss others for not having transportation. As if being a responsible adult means you must have a car. It’s classist. Cars are expensive. Even if you can afford a cheap, crappy car (like the one I have now), insurance and repairs are expensive. When I didn’t have a car, I spent hours navigating public transportation (when it was even available) and walking and biking to get where I needed to be, only to be talked down to constantly.

    I think that guy was using the transportation thing as an excuse not to discuss his behavior with you. You called him on his actions, so he wanted to put you “in your place” with the transportation comment. UGH.

  23. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie August 10, 2010 at 12:41 pm |

    “You’re young and you don’t understand” is a pretty effective way to silence someone. It is shaming and dismissive. It also may cause one to doubt one’s self – am I too young? am I missing something? Is it me? – thereby distracting from the original point.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if these particular people were reacting because you (rightfully) shamed them. It IS harmful to use “homo” as an epithet. As for the woman with whom you were having a heated exchange, would it be possible for you to call her directly and talk to her about it? Then you’d know what triggered her, instead of having to even care about “IT’S YOUR FAULT YOU DON’T HAVE A CAR AND IF YOU DID YOU WOULDN’T BE SUCH A PETULANT CHILD” man’s opinion.

    The data I sent them didn’t matter because it wasn’t about statistics, it was that they weren’t sure that I had the time, ability or knowledge to handle teaching my daughter what she needs for third grade while using a solid curriculum from an online public school.

    Ha. In my cynicism, I bet it was more about they weren’t sure they could do it, and besides, they probably think it’s “weird.” I sure as hell couldn’t home-school my own kids, and more power to anyone who takes it on. I admire you.

    FWIW, I’m going to be 50 in Oct.

  24. Ostien
    Ostien August 10, 2010 at 1:00 pm |

    @ JIM to one of your points: I’ll agree that words do not have any inherent meaning outside of a cultural context. However using “homo” as an insult places it in a cultural context in which sexuality policing and gender policing get reinforced and negative stigma of those who do not fit follow. The conversation about the product implied a gender essentialist view generally as well as how it specifically relates to an conflated essentialist view of sexual orientation. A stigma on something perceived “too feminine” is created that serves to police gender expression by equating it with a ridiculed sexual orientation as well as femininity in general as being subject to ridicule and policing.

    Just because the two posters (the one using the insult and who it was directed to) were not insulted does not mean that the use of “homo” as an insult does not have an effect via the cultural context on which it was used. This is not an instance such as taking back the word “queer” or “fag” within that community, no it is being used to disparage that group, perhaps not directly but in a significant way by out casting a group of people as lesser and worthy or ridicule as well as propagating various forms of gender policing. This is the cultural context, which makes this use offensive. You make the assumption that context only derives from the two engaged in conversation as though it existed in a discursive vacuum. The use of the word in an insulting context is both affected by the larger discourse and serves to reinforce and sustain that discourse and it’s use as a tool of normative judgment.

    The use of the word in this context is an example of shaming language and gender policing not an exception to it.

  25. A.
    A. August 10, 2010 at 1:20 pm |

    Sugar coating helps sometimes, sometimes it does not. Being polite and calm helps, but when being attacked. Eh… the line between scary anger and whiny anger (in perception of opposition) is thin.

    People are prickly about criticism, and they are going to find whatever title they can find to dismiss you (age is a handy one that is all). One thing I would really recommend is once you realize they are dismissing you don’t go after them for a private rematch or reconciliation. State that they are being dismissive, and offensive and biased (not unfair that is whining in their eyes, that is defensive: you must look like you are on offense since you are right). Let them come to you in their own terms, go and build conversation with others if you can. If ignoring them is not an option (e.g. the person is your boss) a distant politeness is the way to go: just make sure you don’t isolate yourself from others.

    …eh or at least that is my strat for dealing with these people. :)

    (26 years old, for the record)

  26. Lasciel
    Lasciel August 10, 2010 at 1:26 pm |

    With the condescending words, I’ve had “sweetie” or “hun” used at me in a really infuriating way a lot, but it wasn’t until I saw someone else calmly point out that with no prior relationship it *was* condescending and being a smart-ass, that I actively stopped doing that myself. I think if someone’s not a complete asshole they’ll realize that, if you point it out to them and ask them not to refer to you as such. And if they are complete assholes and keep doing it… there’s no point in arguing with them further.

    I have had other girls my age and younger do it though. I don’t know if it’s always ageism, but I know most of the time it’s a deliberate mocking tactic to offend and anger.

    Not having a car=acting like a petulant child? WTF? That guy’s just a serious, irredeemable asshole. I don’t see anyway you could have dealt with him, without turning into a lying asskisser. Now, if you want to know what a petulant child would do in this situation… they might post his contact info on 4chan :3

  27. Amelia
    Amelia August 10, 2010 at 1:36 pm |

    Thank you for the responses, everyone. This was definitely something I needed to do some more thinking about.

    Also, thanks to Ostien for covering my thoughts on the use of the word “homo” in this context. Basically covered all my thoughts on it.

    I have done a lot of thinking about the whole “tone” argument. It seems to be one of the trickiest matters. I will have to say that I don’t like the idea of tone-policing. Still thinking it over.

    Also, I understand the idea of picking my battles and I thank those of you who have mentioned it. It’s been one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn as someone who does activist work. But I do think that in these situations, I picked my battles for reasons that made perfect sense to me. But that is still something I always take into consideration. It’s something we all have to do.

  28. Sunset
    Sunset August 10, 2010 at 1:38 pm |

    The most ugly face of ageism I found was as a teenaged abuse victim. Almost NO ONE was willing to believe I could really have anything wrong with me. The word of ANY “adult” was taken over mine. (Adult in quotes as I was 19 and of legal age.) Most everyone, including mental health professionals, assumed that I was incapable of making decisions in my own best interest. Adults who had no more than passing acquaintance with me felt free to tell me that I couldn’t possibly have any sort of real problems. (I’ve had that said to me in the middle of a flashback. I almost punched the woman.) Add to that the standard victim-blaming followed by comments about my naivety if I objected (if I were just a bit older I would know that OF COURSE guys can’t help themselves).

    And yes my “tone” gets a bit aggressive here – I think I’ve earned it. I’ve been blamed for my “attitude” by a mental health professional who I was not seeing in a therapeutic context, simply because I had the temerity to sit there and tell him I thought he was wrong. I’ve had another professional get mad at me for “threatening her” because I insisted she honor my legal rights regarding my privacy. I’ve found that a “bad tone” for a young person is frequently anything that doesn’t show the deference the older person thinks they should get. And yes there is some sexism as well…remember how often women are accused of aggressive or bitchy behavior when a man would be called assertive or a leader? It’s the same thing – a simple assertion of my right to be treated decently and respectfully is often enough to make me aggressive and threatening to others.

  29. AdrienneVeg
    AdrienneVeg August 10, 2010 at 1:42 pm |

    There are some people who will dismiss you because you are younger than they are, and others who will dismiss you no matter what because they can’t stand to be challenged. I think it’s worth a try, however, with everyone, because you never know if someone might be receptive.

    The ability to adjust one’s tone and diction to different situations is an important communication skill. I’ve learned to approach a topic differently if I’m talking to my grandmother, or my best friend, or a coworker, or a stranger. You will not be an effective communicator if you use the same tone and structure of an argument in every single situation. The people you’re speaking with come from vastly different backgrounds and have different relationships to you, so you have to adjust accordingly if you want to get your point across.

    My understanding of the problem with “tone policing” (and please correct me if I’m wrong) is that one should not, for example, show up in someone else’s space (their blog, their facebook page, etc) and lecture them about their tone. I think of “tone policing” as unsolicited advice that seeks to silence, whereas it seems Amelia was asking for advice about communicating effectively.

  30. Jennifer
    Jennifer August 10, 2010 at 1:56 pm |

    Unfortunately, many people use some kind of ad-hominem dismissal as a way to shut down a conversation they don’t want to have, or to avoid things they don’t want to hear. Your youth may be the most obvious thing now, but trust me, they’ll find other things as you get older. The key is to not get sidetracked into a discussion about your personal characteristic but turn the focus back to the issue at hand. If they’re not willing, you can’t make them. Don’t take things personally. You can’t change people, you can just give them an opportunity to have a different point of view. If they choose not to take it, that’s their responsibility. As for tone policing, it can be worth worrying about depending on your level of motivation for changing minds (the picking your battles that others have mentioned). It’s certainly not something you have to do, but it can in some cases make you more effective.

  31. Mal
    Mal August 10, 2010 at 2:09 pm |

    Nice piece and I’m really glad Feministe gave you the platform to write about this important issue. I’m 21 myself and I think it’s important to point out this isn’t just a discursive problem. Youth unemployment is punishingly high and shows no signs of dropping. The baby boomers have enjoyed the highest standard of living in the history of mankind for a population that size, and they’ve shown themselves perfectly willing to fight their offspring tooth and nail to hold on to those privileges that proved so ephemeral during the financial crisis.

    No war but the generational war!

    http://destructural.wordpress.com/2010/07/24/for-generational-war-dreams-of-a-potential-epoch/

  32. Sunset
    Sunset August 10, 2010 at 2:12 pm |

    AdrienneVeg: There are some people who will dismiss you because you are younger than they are, and others who will dismiss you no matter what because they can’t stand to be challenged. I think it’s worth a try, however, with everyone, because you never know if someone might be receptive.The ability to adjust one’s tone and diction to different situations is an important communication skill. I’ve learned to approach a topic differently if I’m talking to my grandmother, or my best friend, or a coworker, or a stranger. You will not be an effective communicator if you use the same tone and structure of an argument in every single situation. The people you’re speaking with come from vastly different backgrounds and have different relationships to you, so you have to adjust accordingly if you want to get your point across.My understanding of the problem with “tone policing” (and please correct me if I’m wrong) is that one should not, for example, show up in someone else’s space (their blog, their facebook page, etc) and lecture them about their tone. I think of “tone policing” as unsolicited advice that seeks to silence, whereas it seems Amelia was asking for advice about communicating effectively.  

    Not entirely. Let me relate a little anecdote here:

    I was 20 and had called up a mental health provider trying to make an appointment. I was told I could get one in 6 months, or to go to the ER if it was an emergency. I stated that there were some serious issues going on now and while I was not suicidal was there any way we could work something earlier out? The woman on the phone (a mental health professional) referred me to my school health system; I stated that I had already been there and they had been unable to help. She told me that because I was having a crisis and “refusing to get help” she was going to call them up. I stated, politely but in a firm tone, that I did not wish this information shared and that she did not have permission to make that call to them.

    Her response? “I don’t take threats from 20 year olds well.” Now, I was not in any way threatening her. I had merely stated that I did not wish certain medical information shared – which is my legal right. Stating my desires in a firm, assertive manner was enough to make me “threatening.”

    That’s the problem with tone arguments, from what I see. All too often we’ve been accused of having and angry or threatening or hostile tone, simply by taking a stand and expecting our desires and rights to be taken as seriously as those of the person to whom we are speaking. While it may not be intended that way, telling someone their tone is the problem effectively says “you are at fault for not being appropriately deferential and conciliatory towards those in power.”

  33. Sunset
    Sunset August 10, 2010 at 2:18 pm |

    Edit: stupid computer submitted the comment before I was done. I meant to add “Usually there is no tone that will achieve better results. The very fact of saying something that disturbs their worldview while expecting to be heard is what makes your tone so hostile to them.”

  34. Heather Aurelia
    Heather Aurelia August 10, 2010 at 2:24 pm |

    marchioness: I recently had a conversation with a co-worker about religion (I know, bad idea in the first place, right?) She asked me point blank if I was an atheist, and I’m not going to lie, so I said yes. She then spent fifteen minutes telling me how her husband, just like me, resisted, but learned the Truth when he went to church with her, and even though I thought I was sure, eventually I’d “see the light” too. She kept interjecting statements like “it doesn’t matter what you want, your mom will pray for you” (what’s up presumption) and “I respect the fact that you can have your own beliefs, but” while I was politely (and eventually not so politely) explaining to her that I don’t appreciate her proselytizing at me. She responded by saying, “Proselytizing is my hobby!” which, to me, seems to be the exact opposite of respecting my beliefs.The “you’re young, you’ll learn when you’re older” thing was played out when I was 13, and that’s coming from my 26-year-old self looking back on what a doofus I was. It’s just a piss-poor way to approach any kind of learning/listening. My mom has never taken that tack, and I’ve learned more from her than from any adult who laid out the wisdom wrapped up in ageist condescension.And in my experience, Meredith, yeah, it’s worse with older men, because I have the triple whammy of 1) being younger, 2) having a vagina, and 3) having an opinion that may be more informed than theirs.  (Quote this comment?)

    I have had MANY discussions on religion! Oh my, not the way to go! Some of them was with a boyfriend, with a Christian friend, with another employee. Urgh, almost all the time I am shut down.

  35. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 10, 2010 at 2:25 pm |

    I deeeefinitely think there is plenty of ageism out there, and people absolutely use youth as an excuse to shut down very thoughtful, knowledgeable and correct people who happen to be younger than themselves.

    On the flip side… I totally look back (from all my ancient 23 years) at my younger self and often think “wow, I really didn’t know what I was talking about” or “hmm, having a few extra years experience has changed my opinions.” Like, I hated to hear “you’ll understand when you’re older/out of school/working/out of puberty/etc.” when I was a kid/teenager, but a fair number of times I really have only understood after X experience or amount of time.

    So I guess I’m trying to reconcile my personal experience that people can have a lot to offer even when they’re very young with my personal experience growing up. Some things I was right about when I was 10 years old, 20 years old, etc. (and will probably still be right about at 100!) and some things I was wildly off-base about just as recently as last year.

    So is there room for people to say both “hey, look, my age has nothing to do with how correct my opinions are, please give what I have to say as much weight as you give to what older people say” and “look, younger person, when I tell you about dorm life/aging/30th b-days/etc. you need to listen because I have done those things and you have not”…? And how can you easily tell those situations apart?

  36. abby_wan_kenobi
    abby_wan_kenobi August 10, 2010 at 2:35 pm |

    I’m going to have to look further into tone policing. I don’t think I know what it means, or what the arguments against it would be.

    Here is my thought on tone- I’ve always believed that to be an effective communicator, you have to know your audience. Based on what you know about the person you’re speaking to, you can tailor your argument to have the greatest impact on them. When you can, think like the debate team. What possible counter-argument will this person have? What kind of person are they willing to listen to? Very few people are interested in having a nuanced discussion with know-it-alls or someone who is worked up and angry. “You just said something racist.” is never going to be as well received as “I’m concerned that what you’re saying has a racial context. Do you think that is true? Can you explain it to me?”

    I may be suggesting something that is objectionable to some people. I just know that I’ve never been able to watch a news show where the commentators yell at me. I’d rather have my position questioned thoughtfully than declared invalid – even if I’m super wrong. Hopefully, through discussion I can come to realize that on my own.

    Food for thought.

  37. C/L
    C/L August 10, 2010 at 2:45 pm |

    “The very fact of saying something that disturbs their worldview while expecting to be heard is what makes your tone so hostile to them.”

    I keep hearing echoes of this same sentiment, and I honestly don’t get it. Maybe it’s from being in the South, but damn. Tone makes a huge difference in individual interactions, and you better mind your p’s and q’s here if you want to get anywhere with anyone.

    Because it’s not just about the words you’re using; it’s about showing the other person that you respect them enough to address them as they would like to be addressed. If you’re going to be tromping all over their worldview, at least wipe your feet first.

    (I’m not saying the author of the post was disrespectful in these interactions. Just, y’know, flies and honey and vinegar and all that. I guess the question is, is it more important for you to get through to the person your talking to, or to make yourself feel better for standing up to them? Both reasons are perfectly valid, I think, but those are different goals, and probably don’t require the same kind of approach.)

  38. eb
    eb August 10, 2010 at 2:51 pm |

    In situation #1, you would have been attacked no matter what. As A. says, age just happened to be a convenient way for them to dismiss you. “Ism” knows no boundaries in the face of extreme ignorance.

    In situation #2, you don’t state the nature of the misunderstanding which is the crux of why the man blamed you and why he dismissed you. He didn’t dismiss you as a petulant child specifically because you couldn’t get transportation, he did so because he thought you were childish at the meeting and if it was really important you’d figure out a way to find transportation to meet him in person. If you are late to a job interview and you tell them you had trouble with your transportation, what response do you think you would get?

    It’s hard to have an opinion about situation #2 since the facts are one sided.

    Most people under the age of 35 get rebuked for their lack of years on earth. This doesn’t make it better, but all those people in situation #1 have been called ‘kid’, ‘sweetie’, ‘boy’ or some variation of those when they were younger. This type of ageism is as old as time. We all go through it. Yes, it sucks. It’s not right but in both these situations it’s not really keeping you ‘down.’

    I’m an art director with 30 years experience in print design and production. I have 15 years experience with web design. I work for a small publishing company. The boss decided to hire someone to update our web sites. He hired a 27 year old copy editor with no experience in web design or development simply because she was 27. It was deemed by the two men (both over 55) who made this decision that simply by being born after the year 1980, you have some sort of natural inclination towards building websites. The rest of us were dismissed as ‘digital immigrants’ (actually said to us directly) and we couldn’t possibly understand how the web works. Frankly, it’s amazing I’m even typing on this new computer contraption. You’d think after almost 30 years of working on computers (Apple IIE (yep), Macintosh since 1984, PC) I’d get the hang of it. Nope, I’m jusssst toooo ollllllddddd.

    As a result, our websites are poorly designed and developed with no room for expansion. This impacts the revenue we can bring in via the websites, which impacts the paycheck of everyone in the company.

    THAT’S ageism.

    In the end, if you approach people from the point of respect, sincere respect, they’ll respect you back. If they don’t, it usually doesn’t have anything to do with your age.

  39. Sunset
    Sunset August 10, 2010 at 2:52 pm |

    C/L: “The very fact of saying something that disturbs their worldview while expecting to be heard is what makes your tone so hostile to them.”I keep hearing echoes of this same sentiment, and I honestly don’t get it.Maybe it’s from being in the South, but damn.Tone makes a huge difference in individual interactions, and you better mind your p’s and q’s here if you want to get anywhere with anyone.Because it’s not just about the words you’re using; it’s about showing the other person that you respect them enough to address them as they would like to be addressed.If you’re going to be tromping all over their worldview, at least wipe your feet first.(I’m not saying the author of the post was disrespectful in these interactions.Just, y’know, flies and honey and vinegar and all that.I guess the question is, is it more important for you to get through to the person your talking to, or to make yourself feel better for standing up to them?Both reasons are perfectly valid, I think, but those are different goals, and probably don’t require the same kind of approach.)  

    My edit posted before my original comment for some reason. Those two sentences weren’t really meant to stand without the 2 paragraphs that preceded them. Continue the discussion once all my words post and not just the two-sentence edit from my computer messing up?

  40. C/L
    C/L August 10, 2010 at 2:56 pm |

    Fishnuts! Meant to add: Sunset, I hear you on the interaction with the MHP. That’s awful. I’m thinking more in terms of speaking with people we casually know who do things that offend us.

  41. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin August 10, 2010 at 3:18 pm |

    It has been my experience that people who think age dictates maturity feel so insecure that they have a compulsion to talk down to someone else. I honestly try to find commonality between people both older and younger than me, but it seems as though those who are younger than me are far more accepting than those who are older.

  42. nathan
    nathan August 10, 2010 at 3:42 pm |

    It’s probably fair to say that knowing your audience is beneficial. And speaking assertively and clearly is helpful, at the very least to feeling like you have said what you needed to say (even if it’s not listened to). And checking your own motivations/intentions behind what you are saying is also beneficial because sometimes you just want to snap back at someone only to cause them pain.

    However, sometimes none of that will matter. It is these times where you have to decide what to do next. Do you let it go? Do you push more? Do you change the approach entirely?

    I’m just raising this for thought – there isn’t a set of answers to these questions.

  43. Sisou
    Sisou August 10, 2010 at 3:49 pm |

    On the tone argument… The only *tone* you should develop is a firm one because:
    A male tone is usually appropriate and a female tone is always wrong unless it’s sweet and non-threatening so ppl can easily ignore you.
    People who use the tone argument in a debate will say that no matter your tone. Calm tone often means “not that important to me”.
    Also as Lindsey pointed out being softspoken will bit you in the ass.
    Young women are Expected to be softspoken so they can be talked over and talked down too.
    None of the situations you talked about needed sugarcoating. Someone was verbal attacking you. And Someone else use an offensive term. Both situation called for a blunt response. Being *nice* had never served me but standing my ground has.
    I had a meeting with my head of the department who kept talking down to me. So I just kept right on repeating my stance. He mentioned my * emotionality* and I respond my emotional state isnt the problem, the problem was how badly the school was run. He backed down because I repeatedly call him on his BS. If I had second guessed myself He would have walked all over me.

    So be firm and if they don’t listen or dismiss you. Walk away. people like that thrive on being an authority and giving attention. Don’t give it to them.

    On Pick your battle. It would be great if life could work that way. But the battles will find you. People are going to belittle you. Sometimes you might not want to speak up because you don’t have the energy to fight. However, not fighting the battle leaves a person feeling self doubt if they dont defend themselves. Guilty if the don’t defend others. Drained if they do fight back. Decide if you want a calm life or to be outspoken.

  44. Sunset
    Sunset August 10, 2010 at 3:58 pm |

    nathan: It’s probably fair to say that knowing your audience is beneficial. And speaking assertively and clearly is helpful, at the very least to feeling like you have said what you needed to say (even if it’s not listened to). And checking your own motivations/intentions behind what you are saying is also beneficial because sometimes you just want to snap back at someone only to cause them pain.However, sometimes none of that will matter. It is these times where you have to decide what to do next. Do you let it go? Do you push more? Do you change the approach entirely?
    I’m just raising this for thought – there isn’t a set of answers to these questions.  

    Unfortunately all you can do is walk away sometimes. Especially when you hit the people where being clear and assertive is enough to label you rude and disrespectful.

  45. Maria
    Maria August 10, 2010 at 4:03 pm |

    Bagelsan: On the flip side… I totally look back (from all my ancient 23 years) at my younger self and often think “wow, I really didn’t know what I was talking about” or “hmm, having a few extra years experience has changed my opinions.” Like, I hated to hear “you’ll understand when you’re older/out of school/working/out of puberty/etc.” when I was a kid/teenager, but a fair number of times I really have only understood after X experience or amount of time.

    This. I don’t think it applies in this particular context, but the truth is that sometimes experience makes a huge difference. Arguments that seem reasonable and bullet-proof at age 23 may lose power at age 27. If anything, I’m amazed at how much of a difference age makes. So it sucks, but I would argue that in some instances there is no substitute for experience.

    I would also suggest that when you face this kind of argument maybe you should put yourself in their place by asking how you would react to the same exchange, with an 11 year old on the other side. It wouldn’t make your ideas less valid, but it might give you a hint of what biases people are bringing to the table. You might want to say that people shouldn’t be biased when appraising your arguments, but we all are in some way or another, so this might help you be more persuasive.

  46. Heather
    Heather August 10, 2010 at 4:39 pm |

    eb:
    In the end, if you approach people from the point of respect, sincere respect, they’ll respect you back. If they don’t, it usually doesn’t have anything to do with your age.  

    This same thing could be (and probably has been) said about every form of discrimination. Some people, even without meaning to, will discredit what you say, regardless of how sincere, respectful, eloquent, or intelligent because you are female, or non-white, or young, or whatever other “difference” they can apply. The fact that people might take someone seriously in 10 years, or 20 years, or after they’ve “been in the business” for X amount of time doesn’t make the treatment now any less wrong or any less hurtful.

    I don’t have any answers for those of us who experience this, but I’d like to add my thoughts about the tone argument. During college I was the president of 2 student organizations. I worked hard on being polite and even deferential to people. If it helped at all, of which I’m doubtful, it helped only in that I had more conversation with someone before they completely dismissed me. While being overly assertive, or opinionated, or whatever might get someone dismissed more quickly or more aggressively, someone who thinks less of you for whatever reason will find a way to do it.

  47. Amelia
    Amelia August 10, 2010 at 5:02 pm |

    My internet is being super spotty today, so I apologize for not getting back into this discussion sooner.

    I would like to point out that I have indeed tried putting myself in these people’s shoes (see the original post for some discussion of a part of that long and complicated process). This is something I try to do every time I get into an argument, be it political or not, but it is not a skill I’ve perfected. But part of my problem is that I do not fully understand how these people can be so angry/hostile. If I could come up with some better ideas, it might help me, but I’m failing on that part.

    Also, about the context for Situation #2, I agree that it may seem one-sided from this post, and I could share the details, but I debated about doing so in the post for various reasons. But I don’t think it’s fair to assume that I was the one who had behaved badly at the meeting. I honestly cannot say that my actions deserved the response they generated.

    On experience, I agree that age/experience is likely to change some of my ideas and opinions. In fact, it already has. But I don’t think that that should keep any person from being taken seriously at the current point in their life. Yes, their ideas might change tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean that they should keep their mouth shut, and it doesn’t mean that they have nothing to offer to conversations currently. If anything, talking to people who are willing to engage with them, could help them sharpen their ideas. And this applies to people of all ages.

  48. Jim
    Jim August 10, 2010 at 5:14 pm |

    “However using “homo” as an insult places it in a cultural context in which sexuality policing and gender policing get reinforced and negative stigma of those who do not fit follow. ”

    Yep. You state the context – an insult.

    “You make the assumption that context only derives from the two engaged in conversation as though it existed in a discursive vacuum.”

    I was aware at the time that it could be taken that way as I had written it. I decided to go with it because I wanted to narrow my commnent ot that specific situation.

    “The use of the word in an insulting context is both affected by the larger discourse and serves to reinforce and sustain that discourse and it’s use as a tool of normative judgment.”

    Believe me that I have known about this for a very long time – many decades – all my life. I know all that and – this is where I made an assumption – I assumed everyone here who be very clear on this point and I would not need to be explicit on it.

    My remark about exempting middle-aged men from this stricture is that I can tell very well in direct personal conversation when I am faced with homophobia. I don’t need anyone’s theory to help me determine that. My experience with a lot of middle-aged men is that they are beyond homophobia – outgrown it -even while they still use the only “safe” word they know. It is never used in a “discursive vacuum” but that does not mean you can safely assume you know what the discursive atmosphere is. Culture is not that simple. So yes, there are times when it is alright.

    Which leads back to this issue of age limiting the one’s competence. I am as uninformed about the settings young people work and study in as young people here may be about middle-aged men’s attitudes towards homsexuality. We all have a worm’s eye view – very valid as far as it reaches, and no further.

    And for the record, I think that Amelia had a very clear view in both of her situations and saw just what was happening.

  49. Ducky
    Ducky August 10, 2010 at 5:25 pm |

    The tone thing is a hard one. I’m 30. When I was 20, I got treated much the same way you did, with the dismissive tone and disrespect that older people seem to think is perfectly acceptable when dealing with someone younger. As I got a little older, my opinions haven’t changed; my way of expressing them has. Like many of the other commenters have said, knowing your audience is important, as is picking your battles. I, too, grew up in a small town (population 4k) and while liberal for a small town, it was still rife with bigotry, misogyny, and general idiocy. Knowing whose mind I could change, who might genuinely think about what I said, and who my words would be absolutely futile with, saved me a lot of heartache. (Try arguing the merits of, say, Buddhism with a fundamentalist Christian, for example – you’re wasting your breath. Same concept.) Doesn’t make their behavior any less reprehensible, but it does prevent you from going crazy.

    I’ve had my share of Facebook “discussions”, and found that people of my own age bracket or younger tend to respond well; those in the older age groups tend to roll their eyes and not take it at all seriously – unfortunately, the medium is the message.

    But tone – it’s very much like the whole aggressive/bitch dichotomy. I don’t think you ever escape it. :/

  50. karak
    karak August 10, 2010 at 6:11 pm |

    I’ve noticed that the more I tried to explain myself or engage with someone, the more likely they’re going to mentally go, “tl;dr” and go “ARGLEBARGLE YOU ARE VERY YOUNG AND THINGS AND STUFF”.

    Explanation is viewed as a weakness or confusion on your part, confirming to the other person that you aren’t a worthy opponent. Stonewalling people pisses them off a lot more but gets you more respect, in the long run. At least it discourages people from fighting with you, it’s too maddening.

  51. William
    William August 10, 2010 at 7:04 pm |

    Yep. You state the context – an insult.

    Jim, its more than just a stated context. A word like “homo” comes with it’s own context in our society. That simply doesn’t change. Even if a word is reclaimed, that seeming change in meaning isn’t much more than a variation on the original meaning because the reclamation happens in the context of the original insult. A word like “homo” will always have an element of insult in our society because thats it’s context. It started as Sodomite, a word used to expose people to religious coercion when church and state were intertwined. We moved a little bit and came up with “homosexual” which was a medicalization used as justification for state coercion. When that broke down we got social coercion, we got “homo” and “faggot” and “queer.” One flows from the other, and all carry with them the specter of judgment and violence. Sometimes people who have been targeted with those words might use them in defiance of the hate they sprung from, but that hardly changes the context.

    Believe me that I have known about this for a very long time – many decades – all my life. I know all that and – this is where I made an assumption – I assumed everyone here who be very clear on this point and I would not need to be explicit on it.

    Interesting how you, with little subtlety or skill, invoke an age argument in a very discussion about people who have done that. “At my age I assumed you would be more….” isn’t much more than trying to shut someone down by humiliating them for not being as smart as you, which you then tied to age. It might be effective in some places, but frankly you’ve done little to impress me when it comes to your understanding of the material at hand and so clear a misstep does little to bolster my confidence in your assertions.

    I don’t need anyone’s theory to help me determine that.

    Sure you do, without theory you’re just reacting. Maybe you meant to say you don’t need anyone else’s theory, but even there you have a bit of a problem. An unwillingness to learn or consider other points of view doesn’t say much about your ability to effectively engage in a discussion like this.

    My experience with a lot of middle-aged men is that they are beyond homophobia – outgrown it -even while they still use the only “safe” word they know. It is never used in a “discursive vacuum” but that does not mean you can safely assume you know what the discursive atmosphere is. Culture is not that simple. So yes, there are times when it is alright.

    Not to be dismissive, but I could give two tugs of a dead dog’s cock about the person using a word that has been steeped in violence. The problem with a word like “homo” isn’t the thoughts or feelings behind it but the experience of persons who have been targeted with that word in the past.

    Also, for the record, I’ve worked with middle aged men who appeared to be beyond homophobia in the past. Worked with the on the level of the analyst and the analysand. I’ve had the privilege to see a lot of case material, to talk to a lot of people who specialize in working with men. I doubt you’ll show me a man in America, regardless of where he falls on Kinsey’s scale of desire, who is beyond homophobia.

    Which leads back to this issue of age limiting the one’s competence.

    Age might limit the competence of some (though I would wager that your limitations lie elsewhere), but it hardly limits the competence of all.

    I am as uninformed about the settings young people work and study in as young people here may be about middle-aged men’s attitudes towards homsexuality. We all have a worm’s eye view – very valid as far as it reaches, and no further.

    A worm cannot imagine a bird, that doesn’t render the bird blind.

  52. Ostien
    Ostien August 10, 2010 at 8:37 pm |

    @Jim, I don’t think you understood my full meaning with regard to gender policing and how that use of the word homo can be damaging to queer people even if not directed at them specifically. The idea that something can be an insult even if those using it do not perceive it as such was what my first point was. The use of homo was an insult. The context is not, as you assume, the context between the two individuals it is the context in which the word homo exists and how it is allowed to function as an insult.

    You made the argument that something cannot be an insult unless perceived as such by those it is being immediately directed at. This is a shortsighted view as the use of the word has a broader effect outside of that one instance and is informed by the cultural context in which it exists. That broader effect is about how the discourse of the word homo is contextualized. It was used as a shorthand for being too undesirably feminine for a man thus conflating gender expression with sexual orientation, which is problematic in it of itself. It placed the feminine homosexual male in a position of ridicule both on counts of sexuality and gender expression. Subjecting homosexuality and femininity, even if that was not a conscious intent, it cannot be separated from that context.

    The point is that this conversation did not exist in a vacuum devoid of cultural context it drew upon a cultural narrative that disparages homosexuals and forces upon individuals expectations of gender performance, expectations that are now associated with being the target of insults if not met.

    Also just because you have years of experience dealing with middle-aged men does not mean that they cannot be homophobic by exercising their hetero-normative and cis-normative privilege. Privilege such as that is often exercised with ignorance it its implications. In fact because these individuals have such a privilege they need to be aware of the implications of such a use a term because they presumably have not been subjected to it and actually felt threated. Or perhaps they have felt threated and had to refute it to distance themselves from that internalized disgust, a product of the context of the past use of the term.

    Also you talked about how people used age to shut down Amelia but you are doing the same to me (as well as subtly implying I am an out of touch academic that just needs more “real world” experience). I am speaking of the implications of that use of the word homo in that context and how it can be insulting and perpetuate systems of gender policing by being seen as an “okay” insult. How less valid is this because of my age? Utilizing insults without regard for how they play into systems of domination, in this case via expectations of gender and sexuality cause real harm and are passed on and do not remain static to that one conversation. The use of the term “homo” or “fag” in a context of reclamation should always take into account the boundaries and understanding of that reclaimed context, for those involved. However, even when the word is reclaimed it still has been shaped by that context it originally came from and that has to be recognized, it is never completely changed but it can be defied. This did not accomplish any of that and was not being used in a context of being reclaimed it was being used as an insult, an insult that played upon the social context of policing gender and sexuality there was no reclamation there was however an insult and a disregard for the harm of that type of gender policing.

  53. scrumby
    scrumby August 10, 2010 at 8:47 pm |

    Hmm… Did I set off an argument about tone?
    What irritates me about tone argument (aside from the assumption that I am too foolish to know that telling so-and-so to stick it where the sun don’t shine might illicit a negative response) is how it’s so counter intuitive to where I think most young people and women especially fail in rhetoric. We’ve been told all our lives how to “ask for it nicely” it’s time for some careful use of anger. So bring on the the snark, the venom, the righteous fury, the bitches, and the trolls. A gentle response to plain stupidity only encourages them.

  54. jgoreham
    jgoreham August 10, 2010 at 9:06 pm |

    Holy crap I just counted on my fingers and I’m like 27. Anyhow, welcome to the club- I have two degrees and work in my field (museology) in a military aviation museum. The volunteers talk down to me on a daily basis and visitors think I’m the summer student.

  55. alynn
    alynn August 10, 2010 at 9:30 pm |

    I’ve experienced this very thing, I know how it feels and it sucks. It seems like many people are looking for a reason to justify ignoring someone who disagrees with them (ie…you’re too young, you don’t “get it,” you’re too angry for me to listen, you’re “crazy.”)

    I did want to discuss something about Facebook as a conversation medium. In both cases Facebook came up, in the first place because that’s where you saw the offensive comments, in the second because you didn’t have a phone. The using FB because of not having a phone part makes sense, but I thought I’d put my ideas out there about addressing sexism/racism/homophobia, etc. on Facebook.

    I was an early adopter of Facebook. I got it as soon as my college was accepted and I’ve been hooked ever since. Well over 5 years now. One thing I have learned with COMPLETE certainty is that productive conversations with people I would not otherwise interact with are *absolutely* impossible on Facebook.

    I’ve tried so many times…and each time it inevitably failed. I was deleted for calling out the use of the word “fag.” I was comment berated for explaining that 1) Obama is not Muslim and 2) Who cares if the president IS Muslim?? I was embroiled in a 100+ comment string in what ended in a fest of sexist names thrown my way for trying to explain that feminism isn’t evil.

    Those are just the tip of the iceberg. I guess what I’m getting at is that almost every time I’ve tried to speak out against bigotry on Facebook, it’s ended in a waste of my time and energy. If it wasn’t someone condescending you for your youth, it would be something else.

    So I recently came to the conclusion that Facebook is not how I will do good in the world. When I see hate on my newsfeed I “hide” the person. Simple. Drama free. Assertive? No, but so much easier. No condescension about my age. No belittling my beliefs.

  56. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 10, 2010 at 9:31 pm |

    “ARGLEBARGLE YOU ARE VERY YOUNG AND THINGS AND STUFF”.

    For the record, I would forgive a lot of crap if people would literally preface it by saying “ARGLEBARGLE.” :D

    On experience, I agree that age/experience is likely to change some of my ideas and opinions. In fact, it already has. But I don’t think that that should keep any person from being taken seriously at the current point in their life. Yes, their ideas might change tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean that they should keep their mouth shut, and it doesn’t mean that they have nothing to offer to conversations currently. If anything, talking to people who are willing to engage with them, could help them sharpen their ideas. And this applies to people of all ages.

    Now I’m thinking about stuff like common phases that teens and young adults go through — like how you get sooo many very earnest young people who love Ayn Rand and Ender’s Game* and all those in-retrospect-kinda-sociopathic things. Or how almost all teenagers go through the OMG-my-parents-suck! phase.** I personally would not think that opinions like that automatically have any place in adult discourse, yanno? If you wanted to try to convince the young person otherwise then fine, but some of that is just a thing that you go through and then get over, and which is something that can prompt nothing but eye rolling from people who are past that stage.

    I mean, I would take the young person seriously as a person, and I would seriously believe that their opinions were strongly held, but I wouldn’t give the same weight to a very naive argument that all scientists should go Galt or whatever as I would to something a little more reasonable from someone who had moved past that late teens-ish hyper-independent/elitist phase. And I would be quite likely to shut down interjections about Uber-anythings by telling said person to finish college and then come back and let me know how they felt then. Is that ageist?

    *was the Ender’s Game phase just me? As a kid I was like “bring it! I’d totally kill another kid who wasn’t as smart as me!” and now I’m like “wow Orson Scott Card is/was all kinds of fucked up…”

    **I’m assuming for this argument that the parents are actually pretty decent.

  57. Amelia
    Amelia August 10, 2010 at 10:22 pm |

    I’m not sure what to think about Facebook/mediums for addressing issues. I agree that calling out bigotry and educating people may be extremely difficult and/or a waste of time on sites such as Facebook, but on the other hand, I have had numerous successful experiences with reaching out and educating people on that site (two particularly successful moments took place with people of very different ages – one was a middle age man and the other was a teenager I had attended high school with). I understand that if I am going to continue to see Facebook as a potential vehicle for education, etc. then I should be prepared for futile battles and hostility. Part of that, though, is being confident that I am handling myself well, so that I can easily brush off experiences that do not end well. And that’s part of the reason I posted this here.

  58. alynn
    alynn August 10, 2010 at 10:57 pm |

    Well, I honestly commend you if you are able to continue to have those discussions successfully. But I’ve literally never had a good outcome to addressing bigotry on Facebook. And I’ve tried, maybe 10+ times. I’ve instead decided to focus my attention on the people I interact with regularly who I can’t “hide.” :)

  59. Asinknits
    Asinknits August 10, 2010 at 10:58 pm |

    I was talked down earlier this year at a work conference like I was a silly little girl – I was a week off 30. I was doing my job – seeing how I can get products registered. I am not sure whether this is as good as it gets before people start to dismiss me at midlife for being not pretty enough to look at.

  60. Kaz
    Kaz August 11, 2010 at 1:29 am |

    So is there room for people to say both “hey, look, my age has nothing to do with how correct my opinions are, please give what I have to say as much weight as you give to what older people say” and “look, younger person, when I tell you about dorm life/aging/30th b-days/etc. you need to listen because I have done those things and you have not”…? And how can you easily tell those situations apart?

    Two things:

    First, all of the examples you cite are ones where you have lived experience of something and they don’t (assuming by ‘aging’ you’re referring to beyond the twenties or so.) And I don’t mean this in some kind of la-la life experience way but in – you’ve had a thirtieth birthday and they haven’t. In THAT situation, of course your opinion should probably be weightier. I’m 24 and I don’t expect my theorising of what life will be like when I’m 35 to be on equal footing with what an actual 35-year-old says, and I don’t think this has anything to do with ageism.

    The problem is that people start reeaally going beyond this. Commentators have mentioned age being used as an excuse to shut down ALL of their opinions, even ones where neither of the two have lived experience or lived experience isn’t even applicable or is much fuzzier and much less related to age than “have you have a thirtieth birthday, y/n.” (Politics falls into this category, I would think!) People have even mentioned THEIR lived experience being dismissed because of their age – a person telling them they cannot have experienced the things they have, felt the things they have, thought the things they have, and this must be true because although the person has no idea about them or their life they’re older and know better. And that is ageism pure and simple.

    Secondly, if someone is spouting totally hypothetical and unrealistic bullshit where it’s clear they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about… why not just call them out on that? Why do you have to link it to their age?

  61. Jemima Aslana
    Jemima Aslana August 11, 2010 at 7:34 am |

    @Bagelsan

    You’re assuming for the argment that the parents of the complaining teen are decent. Sure, but how will you determine this? A teen complaining about his dad’s bad attitude is so often told to get over it, when in fact he’s just lacking the words and experience to explain that his dad is being an abusive fuck.

    Assumptions like the one you just said you made is actually pretty close to one of the reasons that so many children are not helped out of abusive situations they may be in, despite their frequent complaints to teachers and such. Their complaints are dismissed with “nyeh, they’re just being teen-angsty”.

    @ the “my views changed as I grew older”-point from others

    We all grow and learn. My father recently divorced my mum, and mum has subsequently learned a lot about relationships and unwritten rules that she hadn’t known about previously. Does this mean that anyone under 60 should be discounted when talking about relationship, because my mum didn’t learn till she was 60?

    Of course not.

    My views have changed concerning some things – though not many. But while my views changed from age 12 to age 17, does that mean I’m a good source after age 17? What if someone else’s opinion on the same didn’t change till after age 25? Does that mean my changed opinion at 17 is still irrelevant until age 25? Of course not.

    Age is an arbitrary definition of maturity, and since all people develop and mature at individual speeds, some people are gonna be well-informed Opinionators at age 15, and others won’t achieve that till age 50 – or ever, even.

    Add to that the fact that as humans we never stop changing and growing over the course of our lifetimes, and to posit that we are not worth listening to until we’ve settled in a place from whence we shall not change any further pretty much excludes us from having valid opinions until we’re on our deathbeds.

    The bigotry applied to children and young-ish people with regards to the validity of their opinions would be seen for the ridiculousness that it is if we applied it across the board to all ages.

    I doubt anyone here would argue that it’s okay to tell a woman that “when you’re older, you’ll want children” (and hey, I got this one when I was 15 and knew I didn’t want any), why, then, is it okay to tell the same woman “when you’re older you’ll vote for x political party as well” or “when you’re older you’ll that he’s really a good guy”.

    It’s horseshit, and there’s really no good rationalisation for not listening to what comes out of people’s mouths (or keyboards) no matter their age.

  62. Lindsay
    Lindsay August 11, 2010 at 7:56 am |

    Kaz:
    Commentators have mentioned age being used as an excuse to shut down ALL of their opinions, even ones where neither of the two have lived experience or lived experience isn’t even applicable or is much fuzzier and much less related to age than “have you have a thirtieth birthday, y/n.” (Politics falls into this category, I would think!) People have even mentioned THEIR lived experience being dismissed because of their age – a person telling them they cannot have experienced the things they have, felt the things they have, thought the things they have, and this must be true because although the person has no idea about them or their life they’re older and know better. And that is ageism pure and simple.Secondly, if someone is spouting totally hypothetical and unrealistic bullshit where it’s clear they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about… why not just call them out on that? Why do you have to link it to their age?  

    This comment is so spot-on! The fact that people use age as a measuring implement for experience is at the heart of the problem, because young people are capable of experiencing a great deal while older people can breeze through life without experiencing much of anything. (And then there’s the issue of “omg what really counts as ‘experience.’”) I think it all falls into the problematic area of The Life Script(tm) — we think that, by age x, a person has experienced a and b and c. If one does before or after age x, obviously they’re an anomaly and it’s no one’s fault but their own. (The transportation issue comes into play here because uhhh why wouldn’t you have transportation as an adult if you’re not acting like a kid?)

    And now for a little aside on tone policing, since some of you seem to be curious about what it entails. Tone policing is, more or less, talking down to an oppressed/marginalized person or group who is trying to share their experience. It usually occurs from a place of privilege. It’s all of the people who tell a feminist sharing her views to “calm down” and “stop getting so angry/being overly serious about it” (even though this NEVER happens amirite). Knowing your audience is an important rhetorical strategy, this is true, but that’s not what tone policing is about — it’s about, as commenters above have noted, the people who are going to try and undercut you simply because they disagree with what you have to say. Its already been said that age is an easy target; tone is sometimes an even easier one. Many times, tone policers are using “tone” as a synonym for “words” and/or “message,” because how you’re saying it has nothing to do with their reaction. It really is the fact that they disagree and are hell-bent on shutting down a discussion.

  63. Jim
    Jim August 11, 2010 at 11:19 am |

    “You made the argument that something cannot be an insult unless perceived as such by those it is being immediately directed at. This is a shortsighted view as the use of the word has a broader effect outside of that one instance and is informed by the cultural context in which it exists.”

    That is a simplistic reading of what I wrote. I specifically said I understood completley and agred about the broader effects.

    “Also you talked about how people used age to shut down Amelia but you are doing the same to me ”

    In the first place, in had no idea of your age, did I? So how could I have been going on that discount what you were saying?

    Secondly, what I in fact did was to tell you not to lecture me on how to feel about my life and the circumstances I live in. Your evasion and mischaracterizations are noted.

    “(as well as subtly implying I am an out of touch academic that just needs more “real world” experience). ”

    Here again you are presuming to tell me what I said. What I very clearly said referred to my own ignorance of your situation – which I acknowledge, as you do not acknowledge yours of mine.

    “Also just because you have years of experience dealing with middle-aged men does not mean that they cannot be homophobic by exercising their hetero-normative and cis-normative privilege.”

    That again is a mischaracterization of what I said. I nowhere said these men could not be, but only were not necessarily homophobic. In my experience they quirte often are not, but that is of course a small sample. I argued only that their use of the word was not a litmus test for homophobia.

    “… In fact because these individuals have such a privilege they need to be aware of the implications of such a use a term…”

    This is just breathtakingly arrogant. Who are you to tell anyone what they need ot eb aware of?

    “…because they presumably have not been subjected to it and actually felt threated. ….”

    Presume away if you want, but all this comment shows is that you have absolutely no experience of growing up as a male in this society. Every boy is exposed to gay-shaming, often in gender-policing by females in authority over them, and it is commonly used against young men in dating.

    You’ve made it pretty clear that we are not going to agree on much, and that we are talking past each other. You cetrtianly have failed to convince me of anything else. Youa re free to keep trying if you like.

    You are presuming to lecture me oin a situation I have lived all my life. Just where do you get off telling me my life?

    You know what, this whole discussion with you has been one big derailment – for which I apologize to the rest of the thread – from Amelia’s very valid point which she illustrated with two stories which for me at least had enough details to support her take on things.

  64. Ostien
    Ostien August 11, 2010 at 1:40 pm |

    @Jim from your original post:

    Jim: A word cannot be “offensive” or have any menaing at all out of context. A word is offensive when it offends someone. Specifically psych adjectives (like verbs) are transitive – they imply an object. A word cannot be hurtful if there was no one there to be hurt, or who was hurt.

    I’m saying a word can be offensive even if those involved are not hurt by it directly because what they state away from that and project on others later can cause harm, such as acceptable ideas of gender policing. The use of the word in that context propagates the idea of being too feminine for a male means homosexual and is something to be ridiculed for. It is not about the intent of the person who uses it but of the history of that word and how the use of it an an insult continues that discourse of gender policing.

    Jim: In the first place, in had no idea of your age, did I? So how could I have been going on that discount what you were saying?

    I stated it in my first post in this thread. Also this seems to be using your age to buttress your argument:

    Jim: Believe me that I have known about this for a very long time – many decades – all my life. I know all that and – this is where I made an assumption – I assumed everyone here who be very clear on this point and I would not need to be explicit on it.

    Jim: Which leads back to this issue of age limiting the one’s competence. I am as uninformed about the settings young people work and study in as young people here may be about middle-aged men’s attitudes towards homsexuality. We all have a worm’s eye view – very valid as far as it reaches, and no further.

    Your decades of experience attempt to create a aura of superiority and unquestioned validity. You are older you know more. Also “the settings young people work and study” is referring to me so you clearly single me out as young, so your claim that you did not know my age (or relative age which is the point of this thread) is bullshit. I just need to sit down and shut up, my studies into this area are inferior to your experience (negating any experience I may have in the process!). I was speaking of the harm of the discourse created by the contextual use of the word homo, the thoughts of middle aged heterosexual men are not what I care about, it is their actions and the effect of those actions. Your experience does not negate my point that these words can be harmful with or without intent to harm and further the discourse of gender policing. For that reason the use of homo in this context is problematic even if it was a joke and there was no intent of harm on the part of the speakers.

    Jim: Secondly, what I in fact did was to tell you not to lecture me on how to feel about my life and the circumstances I live in. Your evasion and mischaracterizations are noted.

    I’m not lecturing you on how you should feel but about how the actions described above can harm others, even if those doing it do not intend to cause harm.

    Jim: This is just breathtakingly arrogant. Who are you to tell anyone what they need ot eb aware of?

    I thought the point of any conversation on privilege was to point out to those who have it how their actions affect others when they use it and that they need to be aware of it. Not that their privilege is necessarily their fault but to be aware of various systems of privilege they benefit from, and perhaps further. Someone who has male privilege or white privilege for instance has the responsibility to recognize it. You seem to be saying that because of your personal experience with middle-aged heterosexual men that they should be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to this use of the word homo and not see it in the context of privilege and gender policing. I disagree on the grounds that aware or not these individuals possess privilege and their action contribute to that and harm others and they should be called out on this not because of their intent or attitude of homophobia (I cannot know that nor is that my point) but the atmosphere their actions create, precisely because of their arrogance to the effect of their privilege and hand in contributing to this gender policing discourse.

    Jim: Presume away if you want, but all this comment shows is that you have absolutely no experience of growing up as a male in this society. Every boy is exposed to gay-shaming, often in gender-policing by females in authority over them, and it is commonly used against young men in dating.

    Ha! So now you presume about me? You have absolutely no idea about my life. For the record, I never presumed about your individual life but pointed out how actions and words can hurt without intent, even though you may never personally experienced this (from middle-aged men it seems for the most part), or choose to give the benefit of doubt to those use those words, who whether they know it or not possess many forms of privilege. The only presumption I made was that middle-aged heterosexual men have not been as subjected to this discourse to the degree of feeling threated. Now have they felt the effect of the negative stigma of being too feminine and thus a “homo” in the past? Yes! I’m sure they have, it is common. However, that is my point the continued use of the word homo in that context furthers this form of gender policing. I assure you I have quite a bit of firsthand knowledge of gender- policing and gay shaming of male bodied individuals, but I don’t feel the need to justify myself to you.

  65. Jim
    Jim August 11, 2010 at 2:11 pm |

    Ostien, I told you I was not going to discuss this any further with you and you have chosen to disrespect that. You are really no differnet from some strange man who keeps coming on to some woman on the street long after she has signaled her disinterest. Believe me I am not trying to play hard to get.

  66. Jim
    Jim August 11, 2010 at 2:12 pm |

    Ostien, I told you I was not going to discuss this any further with you and you have chosen to disrespect that. You are really no different from some strange man who keeps coming on to some woman on the street long after she has signaled her disinterest. Believe me I am not trying to play hard to get.

  67. Jim
    Jim August 11, 2010 at 2:12 pm |

    Ostien, I told you I was not going to discuss this any further with you and you have chosen to disrespect that. You are really no different from some strange man who keeps coming on to some woman on the street long after she has signaled her disinterest. Believe me I am not trying to play hard to get.

  68. abby_wan_kenobi
    abby_wan_kenobi August 11, 2010 at 2:14 pm |

    Amelia, thanks for sharing your personal experiences and allowing this discussion. Reading through this, I realized that despite my own youth (25 is super young, right? I’m telling myself that), when I read comments from younger posters I did tend to give them abut 20% less weight. Bad me.

    It is so hard to separate our personal experience (looking back on myself at 21, 19, 15 and seeing how I’ve changed) from the reality of a whole person with a valid opinion standing in front of us.

    I think it is because we continue to grow throughout our lives that we should listen seriously to people younger than ourselves. We should have frank, open discussions – not only because we cannot know what wisdom they’ve beat us to, but because it reminds us that the world is a constantly changing place. The world of my my mother’s youth was very different from mine, but she has had to live in both. And I will have to learn to live in my daughter’s world someday. And she will probably have some pretty good ideas about how I should do that.

    We have an obligation to discuss, debate, argue and question those younger than us. Being debated and questioned is how I’ve been able to learn and grow into the person I am, and I hope that my peers, mentors and younger compatriots continue to question me and allow me continue to grow.

  69. Katie
    Katie August 11, 2010 at 2:59 pm |

    Jim: You’ve made it pretty clear that we are not going to agree on much, and that we are talking past each other. You cetrtianly have failed to convince me of anything else. Youa re free to keep trying if you like.

    Jim,

    You explicitly told Ostien he (I assume he from the earlier comments, please correct me if I am wrong) was welcome to keep trying to convince you @ post 62. I find it disingenuous at best that after he makes one post you’re accusing him of street harassment.

  70. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie August 11, 2010 at 3:03 pm |

    Ha-ha, I’m a DORK – not 40 years, 20! Sorry! (Duh)

  71. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 11, 2010 at 3:36 pm |

    Assumptions like the one you just said you made is actually pretty close to one of the reasons that so many children are not helped out of abusive situations they may be in, despite their frequent complaints to teachers and such.

    No, to clarify, I meant “assuming” they are decent for the sake of the argument (like, the argument assumes that I know and/or share the parents in question.) I’m not saying parents should be assumed to be good, I’m saying that in the event that I know the people in question really well I will not take teenage whining about them seriously. Example: my younger sister, who felt very put upon by having a bedtime when she was a kid. I, having grown out of that stage, totally ignored her opinion in that regard despite having moaned about it just as much when I was that age. :p

    I know parents can be assholes. I absolutely know parents who are assholes, and varying amounts of abusive to boot. But if you took every teenager’s opinion at face value then every parent would sound like an asshole, even if said teenager would have opined that “no, [parent] is awesome!” as a younger kid or as an adult.

    So I guess I’m trying to take into account that humans have developmental stages that seem to be pretty broadly applicable to a lot of people; I’m sure there exist people who never went through the “NO” thing when they were toddlers or the “OMG you’re ruining my life” thing when they were teenagers, but everyone I know did. So, I feel like it’s not unreasonable to treat people differently based on their age to some extent — my question is more how that line gets drawn.

    This is getting kinda off-topic… TL;DR is that I think there is some justification for judging ability/reliability/experience based on age, even if it’s just within a single person’s lifetime. I don’t think it’s automatically ageist to say stuff like “you’ll understand when you’re older” even though it probably often is.

  72. Ostien
    Ostien August 11, 2010 at 3:40 pm |

    @Katie, not that it matters a whole hell of a lot but I identify as (gender)queer (male bodied fwiw). I’m not too picky on pronouns, I would prefer gender neutral ones but I understand many of the invented ones (Ze/Hir, Spivak etc.) can be unfamiliar and ugly to most (personally not a fan of Ze/Hir) and even the “singular they” can be wonky to write, read and hear for many.

    Anyways, it seems this particular conversation/debate is over and has started becoming personal (something I thought I avoided on my end, sure I quipped a bit, but I didn’t try and make it personal). Though I now feel I need to apologize to Amelia for my part in this lengthly derailment and to anyone who may have been annoyed by it. Amelia’s topic is definitely something important to consider (the idea of tone is particularly interesting to me and have not fully unpacked it in my life) and should not be distracted from and we all know how distracting and tiresome these asides can be.

  73. William
    William August 11, 2010 at 4:02 pm |

    Jim: It seems you’re mighty worked up. If you had aimed that at me I would understand, I was triggered by a combination of your arrogance, your attempts to use your age to shut down a discussion, your utter dismissal of good points made by someone who clearly has a more mature understanding of the issue at hand, and your…pollyannish take on the value of military hierarchy. I decided to be a dismissive asshole in response, something which you (to your credit) seem to have had the wherewithal to ignore.

    The thing is, you’re coming at Ostien pretty aggressively. Likening them to a street harasser, calling them “breathtakingly arrogant” for daring to say something thats pretty 101, and assuming that they have little experience of what it means to be a male in this society (when, truth be told, they have a deeper understanding then you had the capacity to know), all these attacks on someone who was approaching you rationally and calmly (though they had little obligation to do so) suggest that you’re fighting something else here.

    Maybe I’m making an assumption, but your rank doesn’t really matter here. People have a right to question you, to disagree, to respond, and to answer. At every turn you’ve attempted to silence. Shame on you.

  74. Jim
    Jim August 11, 2010 at 5:17 pm |

    “but your rank doesn’t really matter here. ”

    I have no rank. Don’t make assumptions about me.

    “suggest that you’re fighting something else here.”

    Well, yes as a matter of fact, I am fighting some people’s – gay or straight – attempts to police how I respond to homophobia. I especially resent being fed someone’s ideology in the guise of argument, what you refer to as “pretty 101″. And what I called arrogant was not his absolutely valid point about structural homophobia, it was his wording to the effect that people needed to examine their whatever. It is not my place or anyone else’s to tell anyone what they need to do to their own opinions. We just don’t have that right. They can figure that out on thier own if they are wirht a crap.

    “People have a right to question you, to disagree, to respond, and to answer.”

    Yes.

    “At every turn you’ve attempted to silence.”

    Bullshit. Ostien tried to silence me. He or she censored and then presumed to lecture me on my life. I answered Ostien aggressively? That’s aggression?

    “Shame on you. ”

    Bullshit.

    “You explicitly told Ostien he (I assume he from the earlier comments, please correct me if I am wrong) was welcome to keep trying to convince you @ post 62. I find it disingenuous at best that after he makes one post you’re accusing him of street harassment. ”

    Katie, that’s fair. if that what he was trying to do. If you take that sense, maybe he was, so I’ll go with that.

    Can we all agree to let this pass?

  75. William
    William August 11, 2010 at 5:50 pm |

    I have no rank. Don’t make assumptions about me.

    It doesn’t feel nice does it? Maybe a bit annoying and distracting at best, perhaps invasive at worst? Thats been the problem here from Amelia’s original post. People assume things about others based upon poor information and they do so specifically in order to avoid the things that that person has said and justifying ignoring and silencing them. You’ve done it several times in this thread. Saying that you also have a worm’s eye view doesn’t mitigate you essentially calling someone ignorant, accusing someone who identifies as genderqueer of not understanding the ways in which gender is policed requires a whole host of assumptions, insisting that homophobia isn’t necessarily homophobia because the people using language of oppression don’t mean to demands a lot of assumptions about how that language affects people who you might not even know are aware of the conversation.

    Well, yes as a matter of fact, I am fighting some people’s – gay or straight – attempts to police how I respond to homophobia.

    The burden of privilege is a heavy one indeed, I know.

    I especially resent being fed someone’s ideology in the guise of argument, what you refer to as “pretty 101″.

    Responding in a way you don’t like isn’t feeding you ideology. I get it, you resent being called on privilege because you don’t buy the underlying theory used to call you out. Tough shit. Perhaps you might not like an oppressed person telling you that they were hurt by a term you used. To be honest, I don’t really care. If you defend a bunch of straight white guys using a word like “homo” (or “nigger,” “faggot,” “cunt,” or whatever other little vile label they conjured from a lack of imagination, emotional maturity, and basic expressive skill) then you don’t get the kid gloves. Maybe this is new to you, maybe you’re passionate, but I honestly cannot be bothered to care. Your arguments and opinions are boring. They are not new, they are not special, they are not unique, and they are nothing that virtually everyone here hasn’t seen a dozen times before. Sometimes you might get lucky and find someone like Ostien who has the energy to explain something they’ve already explained until they were ready to vomit. Sometimes you won’t. If you want me to care about your feelings you can either show some willingness to learn and engage or pay my hourly fee.

    And what I called arrogant was not his absolutely valid point about structural homophobia, it was his wording to the effect that people needed to examine their whatever.

    I find it odd that you would find yourself here, of all places, and bristle at the idea that someone might suggest you think about the ways in which your words affect others. Its new and scary, I know, but like queers holding hands in the streets and women being bosses it really isn’t going to go away. Your only real choices at this point are to adapt or to die complaining about the way things used to be while everyone else moves on with their lives.

    It is not my place or anyone else’s to tell anyone what they need to do to their own opinions. We just don’t have that right. They can figure that out on thier own if they are wirht a crap.

    Notice how no one demanded you do anything? No one put a gun to your head. No one even said “do this or you’ll get modded out.” Someone suggested that people in positions of privilege try to be aware of how their language affects others and now you’ve got your back up even though you can’t really back it up.

    Bullshit.

    A stunning rebuttal.

    Ostien tried to silence me. He or she censored and then presumed to lecture me on my life.

    Funny how, in a space full of people who intimately know presumption, censorship, and silencing, you’re the only one who feels that way. It chafes to have privilege challenged, just as the older folks who tried to put Amelia in her place chaffed when they were challenged. The thing is, Ostien doesn’t hold the power to moderate your comments away, so there is no censorship. They did not do anything I would identify as silencing. You are the one who saw a theoretical objection and experienced it as a personal attack.

    Bullshit.

    Again, the scintillating rhetoric you’ve employed is impossible to dispute.

    Can we all agree to let this pass?

    No problem, Jim. Frankly, at this point, you’ve proven that you’re not interested in engagement or discussion and even your bluster has grown boring.

  76. Sisou
    Sisou August 11, 2010 at 6:44 pm |

    Jim: It is not my place or anyone else’s to tell anyone what they need to do to their own opinions. We just don’t have that right. They can figure that out on thier own if they are wirht a crap.

    You lost me. So “we” are suppose to let people get away with homophobic, racist, sexist, and other -ist language because they got a right to their opinions?

  77. Brianne
    Brianne August 11, 2010 at 7:28 pm |

    Wow, those are both really tough situations, and I’m so sorry those people treated you with aggression and dismission, Amelia.
    I often wonder how best to communicate when met with reactions such as these. Once individuals become defensive, communication is all but impossible.
    (I long for an “Ask Me Anything” feature where Feministe bloggers could answer questions and give tips for dealing with particular situations, etc.)

  78. Chally
    Chally August 11, 2010 at 7:45 pm |

    We have such a thing, it’s called Feministe Feedback and you can send in your questions to feministe [at] gmail [dot] com.

  79. Brianne
    Brianne August 11, 2010 at 7:52 pm |

    I’d also like to mention another dimension of ageism — appearances. I’m 24 years old, but (apparently) look like I’m 12. Due to this, people (including my own parents) treat me differently than those who look their age or older. The assumptions and reactions of others can be very frustrating.

  80. Ouyang Dan
    Ouyang Dan August 11, 2010 at 11:14 pm |

    I am not particularly surprised, but Amelia comes in here and tells a story (similar to the way Chally shared an experience not long ago), and I see many comments insisting that it was her tone, or the fact that she chose Facebook (even thought it has flaws) for communicating, or that she had the audacity to leave out a side of the situation, so we had to *gasp* take her word for it that these things really happened! Pick your battles! Do the work and find a better way to communicate! (Even though she made it clear that she has been experiencing difficulty with transportation and getting a phone, so she did the best she could)

    Funny thing, I have had similar situations arise right here on a dear ol’ Army base! The Army has latched on to Facebook as the Best! Thing! Evah! and they want you to communicate with them on this medium, even though people like me have railed away about how inaccessible it is to many, many people. And it is, but it has its ups and downs. So it is often difficult to have the reasoned conversations that so many of the commenters here say we are responsible for having. I don’t have email addresses or phone numbers for the people responsible for our landlord refusing to re-sign a lease with us, or for the Housing Office not having a unit available for us, so I had to put up with countless people telling us it was our fault for X,Y, and Z, or that they had to live if worse conditions when they were our age or our rank (which is the military’s own form of ageism), so we shouldn’t complain and should expect the same. Insult after insult, and they didn’t know that we followed all the rules, that our problem was a result of the Army failing to set up regulations to protect us from itself.

    I have had interactions like Amelia’s Situation #2 as well. Community meetings or “Community Gatherings”. I’ve tried to assert myself, because the military isn’t great at considering the needs of the disabled (Why, it’s ADA compliant! It’s fine!), and have been repeatedly dismissed until I pushed and pushed. Unless I had my military training to back me up, having a Colonel tell me that my tone was not appreciated might have dissuaded me.

    Or, when I have mentioned via email that a community event was not planned taking the needs of the disabled or parents with school-aged children in mind, being that it was in a place hard to get to, and straddling the time we had to pick up our kids. I was replied to with an email telling me that I needed to learn to make things not all about me, and to open my mind a bit and stop whining about everything. Whether it was sent by the E9 in charge of my husband (which would be a clear violation of his authority) or his wife isn’t clear, but it was signed by her.

    At 30 years old and as a vet myself I am also told by other spouses that because we haven’t been in for 12 years or more that I don’t have a clue what is going on around me, or that I have to accept that things that hurt my family are ‘for the best’ (even though I can navigate the paperwork and red tape with ease). But my experience is much like Amelia’s.

    It’s not about tone. It’s not about the medium. It isn’t about picking our battles. And no matter how old we get, it will always be another thing. This post is a great example about the intersection of oppression. We shouldn’t be making demands of Amelia or doubting her word or criticizing her tone. That is not the feminist way.

  81. karak
    karak August 12, 2010 at 1:39 am |

    @Bagelsan–

    Sorry to derail, but I love Ender’s Game! (HATE HATE HATE the sequels/prequels/sidequels.though). I totally went through the I’m-as-smart-as-Ender phase in Jr High (I’m totally not). In college, I had to write a paper on a work of great literature, and that was the novel I chose because it had such a profound effect on me as a kid.

    To this day, I still think the Earth was morally right to destroy the Bugs. Just sayin’.

  82. Jemima Aslana
    Jemima Aslana August 12, 2010 at 8:54 am |

    @ Bagelsan

    Ah, fair enough. I get what you meant, then.

    I also see where you’re coming from what with your younger sibling claiming unfair treatment when you know it’s not so.

    That’s just one situation where you know the facts. However, how often is the teenager we’re talking to/about in such cases our own siblings whose parents we share and therefore know intimately?

    Uhhhhh not very often, I dare say. Most of the time we hear a young person say something, whether about their parents, their school, their friends, their school yard nemesis, it’s a young person speaking of a situation and of people we DO NOT KNOW! And if we use experiences such as yours with your younger sibling, where you know her charges of unfairness were unreasonable, as the baseline, we risk that they bleed over into all other interactions with young people, and therefore distrust any- and everything they say “because reality is probably a little less terrible”. What we SHOULD be doing is listen and take their words seriously, and let them know that we’re taking them seriously.

    In my (admittedly limited) experience with children and youngsters they all usually report quite well on their own situation (ie, no more biased than any adult would be) if you let them know that you’re taking them seriously.

    I am simply very worried that to consider children’s voices invalid for discerning their truth, how are we going to learn the truth that these children are living? Ask their parents/teacher/friend/whoever they told you about, whom we may not know at all and never talked to? Not a viable option.

    We need to accept that just like when we listen to an adult tell us how they were stepped on, it is THEIR truth, and while it is subjective it is still their truth, and the same goes for children – it should not be any different.

    You may not know anyone who didn’t go through those phases you speak of. Now you do. I didn’t go through those rebellious phases. I’m 26 I have yet to have my teenage rebellion. There ya go.

    I am raised to be nice and to never say anything if it’s not nice. My father did his best to outwardly portray a happy family home – and I tell you, if I had told anyone how fucking unhappy I was at home, no one would have believed me for the exact same reasons you wouldn’t either.

    When my father divorced my mother, everyone was shocked – SHOCKED, I tell you – because they had always been such a perfect couple. Sure, with a divorce looming in the distance fo over 20 years. Perfect indeed. And no one suspected. I made a note of the tension in my diary 5 years ago – had I told anybody none would have believed me. Probably because I was only 20 and they’d been together for 35 years and they seemed so happy.

    Yeah, except when they didn’t. Which was whenever they didn’t perform happiness for the benefit of the public.

    Mum is still trying to pretend happiness and cheerfulness over the happily done-with divorce, and if I tell anyone that she’s really down and insecure about shit, no one will believe me because to them she seems fine, and I’m so young.

    Yeah – and I could’ve told them all this shit back when I was five and I saw dad hit mum. And NO ONE would have fucking believed me had I told, ’cause I was just a child, and children are known to exaggerate, ya know?

    And when I was unhappy in school ’cause I was being bullied because of my social awkwardness, my teacher reassured my parents that all the other kids really liked me and there were no trouble at all, and I was probably exaggerating a little, and going through a phase.

    The fuck?

    That phase? Nearly led to my suicide when I was 13. And no one but my maths teacher realised how badly I was doing. Because everyone else saw what they wished to see, ie a child who was just “going through a phase”.

    I do see where you’re coming from, but how the heck do you intend to help abused/depressed/other issue-ified kids if you insist on assuming that they’re exaggerating. It’s cool with your sister, ’cause you knew your parents as well. But how does that in any way relate to the way you seem to want to treat every other kid out there, who might tell you something and whose parents you do not know?

    I don’t understand it. Really. Where is the logic in always assuming the worst of the young person’s objectivity and the best of whomever they’re talking about.

    You’re essentially doing to children (people, you know) what many commenters here are doing with Amelia and the people who stepped on her. Not trusting that people can report on their own lives and experiences, simply because they’re younger than some arbitrary age limit that you’ve set in your mind.

    I find it very problematic.

  83. Jemima Aslana
    Jemima Aslana August 12, 2010 at 8:59 am |

    @ karak

    LOL I loved that book as well (at first), and it was probably what set me on my path to enjoy science fiction. The funny thing is, I have the exact opposite reaction from yours. I almost couldn’t finish the book, because I had so identified with Ender and the other ‘gamers’, that when I found out they had been killing real live actual creatures, I felt so sick.

    I love the book now in the sense that as I look back I see what it meant for me and my development, but back then I loved it up until that point and then I hated it. Well… no, not quite hate. I found it disgusting. To cheat kids into committing such vile, vile acts as murder with some far-out justification that I remember so badly right now that I actually think I didn’t understand it back then. Yuck. If it hadn’t been a library book that I had to hand back in, I would’ve burned it. I felt so strongly about it back then – I think I was 11 or 12 or something. XD

  84. Daisy
    Daisy August 12, 2010 at 9:16 am |

    The thing about the ‘tone’ argument is that it’s not an all or nothing situation in any way.

    We have some people saying – different tones are needed for different people, moderate your tone or you will find that people don’t agree with you.

    We have others saying – fuck that shit, some people will take any ‘tone’ as offensive when you’re saying what you’re saying/coming from someone like us, other people will walk all over you if you don’t let some of your anger talk for you!

    The fact is both of these positions are correct, and which one you need to be mindful of depends on the situation!!!

    Some people will not listen to you if they think you are being rude, but will if you are not (even if you disagree with them completely)
    Others will not listen to you whatever you say, or will not listen unless you shout.

    There is no one size fits all ‘correct’ answer to the question – should I moderate my tone? – it depends whether you’re talking to the former type of person or the latter.

  85. lymie
    lymie August 12, 2010 at 9:28 am |

    Amelia,

    You keep saying you want to “educate” people. There’s your problem. You are 20 and a know it all, you don’t respect older people who do know a lot, perhaps more than you.

    Those of you who think you know everything are annoying those of us who do!

  86. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie August 12, 2010 at 10:05 am |

    There are lots of things I, at almost 50, have learned from 20-year-olds. And from people of all ages. I welcome “education” whenever it comes.

    Thing is, in my experience (pulls out pipe, begins to rock in chair, pulls shawl tighter), I’m most likely to be annoyed by something when I think it’s about “me.” Which most stuff is not! Especially stuff presented by strangers on the internet! When I can detach and take a “Huh. That’s interesting!” stance, I learn some fascinating stuff. Instead of going immediately to the “OMG this young whippersnapper is trying to tell her ELDER something” place, I try to go to the “What is this person saying? I am interested” place.

    NOTE: This particular comment is most certainly NOT about you!

  87. cathy
    cathy August 12, 2010 at 10:11 am |

    @C/L, I think you might be missing a point about tone policing. As someone who has lived in both northern and southern cultures, my experience that southerners generally do not do subtle tone police arguments. Southern tone policing is a blatant invocation of privilige, for example, calling me a ‘uppity bitch’ or citing a person’s race and telling them to get back in their place. Northern tone policing is more subtle, though it carries out a similar goal. Instead of the assertive woman being directly told that she is an uppity bitch or out of her ‘place’ as a woman, she is told that if she had just used a better tone, wording, etc, then the privileged person wouldn’t have responded like a privileged ass. Northerners invoke tone in order to effectively call someone an ‘uppity bitch’ while being able to pretend at being an ally or friend. I have never had a southerner give me the ‘you should have just used a different tone in your discussion with the privileged because they are fragile’ type of tone argument that I get all of the time from Northerners. Nope, the southerners just call me an angry dike, while the northerners imply I’m an angry dike to shut me down without actually having to use the phrase. When Northerners invoke tone, they are rarely actually discussing things like not calling names or making unessecary personal attacks.

    As I sometimes say, Southerners are aggressive, Northerners are passive agressive.

  88. Lindsay
    Lindsay August 12, 2010 at 10:56 am |

    lymie: Amelia,You keep saying you want to “educate” people.There’s your problem.You are 20 and a know it all, you don’t respect older people who do know a lot, perhaps more than you.Those of you who think you know everything are annoying those of us who do!  

    Last time I checked, “educate” was not a synonym for “BLATANTLY DISREGARD.” Sharing her thoughts and feelings with others doesn’t equate to talking down to them. It seems like you’ve managed to completely miss the point of Amelia’s post — kudos!

    cathy: @C/L, I think you might be missing a point about tone policing.As someone who has lived in both northern and southern cultures, my experience that southerners generally do not do subtle tone police arguments.Southern tone policing is a blatant invocation of privilige, for example, calling me a ‘uppity bitch’ or citing a person’s race and telling them to get back in their place.Northern tone policing is more subtle, though it carries out a similar goal.Instead of the assertive woman being directly told that she is an uppity bitch or out of her ‘place’ as a woman, she is told that if she had just used a better tone, wording, etc, then the privileged person wouldn’t have responded like a privileged ass.Northerners invoke tone in order to effectively call someone an ‘uppity bitch’ while being able to pretend at being an ally or friend.I have never had a southerner give me the ‘you should have just used a different tone in your discussion with the privileged because they are fragile’ type of tone argument that I get all of the time from Northerners.Nope, the southerners just call me an angry dike, while the northerners imply I’m an angry dike to shut me down without actually having to use the phrase.When Northerners invoke tone, they are rarely actually discussing things like not calling names or making unessecary personal attacks.As I sometimes say, Southerners are aggressive, Northerners are passive agressive.  

    I can’t speak on behalf of Northerners, because I’ve lived in the Southern US my entire life (and the only Northerners I’ve dialogued with also live in/are visiting the Southern US), but I’d say you’re on to something here. I’ve experienced a lot of the same aggressive shut-down tactics throughout my life because being a liberal feminist (who’s also an atheist!) is an apparent rarity in my area. Lesbian, bitch, hippie, evil, slut, racist — you name it, I’ve been called it in the midst of what was supposed to be a civil discussion. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but I’ve still experienced this in various areas in the Southern US, some places more strongly than others.

  89. lymie
    lymie August 12, 2010 at 11:59 am |

    Lindsay,

    I guess tongue-in-cheek is too subtle for you Southerners~!

    What I am trying to say, is that “educate” is often like “man-splaining”. I live with my 16 year old son, I know the voice of the young in asserting their knowledge to us oldsters. And their big-toes that are so easily trod on, and their lack of introspection.

  90. Jim
    Jim August 12, 2010 at 2:30 pm |

    “The burden of privilege is a heavy one indeed, I know.
    I especially resent being fed someone’s ideology in the guise of argument, what you refer to as “pretty 101″.
    Responding in a way you don’t like isn’t feeding you ideology. I get it, you resent being called on privilege because you don’t buy the underlying theory used to call you out. Tough shit. Perhaps you might not like an oppressed person telling you that they were hurt by a term you used. To be honest, I don’t really care. ”

    Oh my God, William. You think I’m straight. Is that the privilege you are referring to? I’m gay. I’m pretty sure I made that clear.
    And maybe this misses you, but I can make a disticntion between indivuduals’ states of mind and general systemic cultural homphobia. That was my point. You missed it.

    Oh, and one last thing – I am not going to be grateful to someone presuming to teach me about being gay or dealing with homphobia. Not going to happen.

  91. Jemima Aslana
    Jemima Aslana August 12, 2010 at 3:51 pm |

    Hey lymie. Children can and do do introspection. Fuck, at 16 I did more introspection than most people do at 40, so will people PLEASE stop with the assumptions about people younger than them?

    Sure, you knew this one person, maybe your own kid, and zie’s like this, so this must clearly apply to all people hir age.

    GAH! I’m not saying all kids were like me either, but fucking hell, there’s been more than a few comments in this thread that have COMPLETELY erased the realities of my childhood by saying shit like “children do so and so” or “younger people don’t do so and so”. You cannot lump people in the same group based on age.

    The only thing a person’s age will tell you is their friggin age!

    Children and their lack of introspection. Fuck that noise! I was MADE FUN OF by my own father for my high level of introspection – and the fact that I could verbally express my conclusions and deductions from that introspection (ie “I think I’d really rather do this than that, however nice that is”) at the age of 6.

    People over 40 suck at role-playing.

    Kids don’t like tomatoes.

    Men like boobs.

    Women like shoes.

    Kids don’t think rationally.

    Generalisations, people. They don’t work!
    In fact: they SUCK!

  92. lymie
    lymie August 12, 2010 at 6:07 pm |

    Amelia,

    You are so funny, the fact that you think 21 vs 20 years old makes a difference exactly makes my point.

    It is very tedious, Jemima, and others, to have to say continually “some”, or “many”, I am trying to make a point. Any rational person makes arguments that include generalities and verbal shortcuts. My kids do have flashes of introspection, I know kids can, etc etc, it is just not their default mode of operation.

    I was a pain in the ass youngster, thinking I knew it all, and trying educate others. I remember the clarity and burning need to express myself, I see it all around me, my son’s friends, undergraduates, etc. I remember it so well, that when I see them at it, it makes me laugh, and they find that insulting, thought I don’t mean it that way.

    I thought the reference to “man-splaining” would make it clear where I was going, since there has been so much discussion (no, not every man does it, no, not all the time, blah blah). Man-splaining is exactly analogous to the pedantic youth-splaining that we mostly grow out of.

  93. Chally
    Chally August 12, 2010 at 6:23 pm |

    lymie, this is your final warning. Of course 20 vs 21 makes a difference, if only in that labelling Amelia with the correct age would show a little respect and attention to her and her writing. I’m sorry you find accuracy so tedious, but some of us think it’s rational to have one’s words reflect one’s viewpoints and show marginal respect to the group about which we are speaking. Though, in fact, you yourself don’t seem to think you are talking about some younger folk, but all of them, seeing as you think a lack of introspection is the default mode of operation. Again, you’re generalising from your own experience of your own youth, and your perceptions of what’s going on for the youth around you. Of course they’re going to be insulted if you laugh at them because you think they are less worthy of consideration or capable of introspection on account of their age, what other way do you mean it?! Yeah, what you’re saying in insulting. Mansplaining isn’t analogous at all as it is based on a social power youth don’t have.

    Stop being so condescending, or you will get banned by this know-it-all, silly, unintrospective teenager. And, I suppose, feel good about it because you are totes in the right because you are older, it couldn’t be that you’re saying anything silly yourself, oh no.

  94. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan August 12, 2010 at 7:54 pm |

    I do see where you’re coming from, but how the heck do you intend to help abused/depressed/other issue-ified kids if you insist on assuming that they’re exaggerating. …
    You’re essentially doing to children (people, you know) what many commenters here are doing with Amelia and the people who stepped on her.

    In all honesty, I generally do believe what kids –and adults– have to say unless it is obvious hyperbole (“Last night I ate 20 hotdogs and then I exploded!”) So my argument is not so much that this is a thing I regularly do, but it’s an example of how I have experienced situations where I think it’s fair to argue from age, to some extent.

    But (except for the sister thing) it’s a fairly academic point (trying to find an extreme case where it’s definitely not ageism) and if I keep arguing it’s going to get even more hypothetical and academic, so I’m going to drop it. :p In short, you and I agree about the reality on the ground, and that’s the important thing.

  95. Kaz
    Kaz August 12, 2010 at 8:25 pm |

    I am boggled at the number of people missing the point of Amelia’s post so spectacularly.

    Also, add me to the number of teenagers who didn’t moan about their parents and how they were omgsohorrible! In my case, I was depressed during most of my teenage years and incapable of getting angry at anyone other than myself for most of it – being a stereotypical teenager was completely impossible for me with my mental health the way it was. (This, incidentally, makes me think that generalising about teenagers also completely erases intersectionality, which applies to young people as well.) And, you know, I think the fact that I was a teenager and “oh, she’s just going through a phase!” led to the fact that six months passed in between my telling my parents I was depressed and them actually looking into therapy and medication. However, I don’t remember any of my friends behaving in such a a way either and we surely can’t ALL have been depressed. I’m not really sure I’ve ever seen a stereotypical “my parents are awful and I hate them!” attitude on a teenager, whether it was deserved or not.

    You know what would not be okay for me to do at this point? Generalise from that to say that NO teenager ever acts that way about their parents. Because teenagers, being *people*, are unique! Every one of them! So they will have different thoughts and opinions and attitudes and in this case no sample size is large enough to be able to conclusively say that this never happens. Especially not one of size ONE, oh people going “well, when I was a teenager I…” This is not functionally any different from me going “I’m a woman who does X so clearly all women do X.”

    And, speaking in generalities is not just a rhetorical trick when you’re feeling lazy and don’t feel like hitting the five extra keys to type “some” (plus the space). It promotes stereotypes, it erases people who don’t fit those stereotypes, it leads to ‘splaining (because if ALL teenagers do X, then any teenager who says ze doesn’t can be safely corrected and talked over, after all!) I cannot believe I am actually needing to explain this, but generalities are not harmless.

  96. lymie
    lymie August 12, 2010 at 11:01 pm |

    Who is Chally and why does she want to ban me? What is this, a little club? Atrios has you on his blog roll, so I thought there was a serious community here. If you find my modest pokes at the hubris of the young is so threatening, you will have an homogenized web site where everyone agrees and no one ever learns.

    So, you don’t want to have around any of us old feminists who read Germaine Greer in the original, in Australia, and have been fighting the good fight for 40 years because we find Amelia’s youthful energy amusing?

    I am not trying to shut Amelia up, I was trying to suggest that her encounters might have another side.

    Ban away, I am so not mad about this, I may be maturing, myself.

    gosh.

  97. calyx
    calyx August 12, 2010 at 11:13 pm |

    Look, I didn’t read every comment, I skipped it, but I got WOW DISRESPECT and CONDESCENSION coming out at me from some of the posts. Clearly ageism is being perpetuated, because the poster isn’t trusted in the way another poster might who focuses on a “real” type of oppression they experience.

    And calling you aggressive??? Jeeeez, sexism much?

    I just wanna say I’m enraged by the two responses you describe in your post. I mean wow. I’ve experienced that kind of dismissal before too, with varying justifications, and it hurts. Sounds like those people looked for a reason to dismiss you out of hand, and latched onto your age. And/or never considered respecting you in the first place with your age being a contributing factor.

    Something else I see in dialogue towards younger people is the commenter presuming ze has the right to sum the younger person up in a few words, that they can judge them in a way that would be gauche considered in reverse, even if it’s praise like “you’re so articulate!” Bonus if it’s “for your age!”.

  98. Kite
    Kite August 12, 2010 at 11:30 pm |

    …wow, reading over my comment, something came out really wrong. I think I played into Oppression Olympics perhaps, saying ageism was treated more dismissively than other -isms? Nonono, not what I meant. I think I was trying to say that if ageism isn’t even recognised as an -ism, then those who try to be respectful of not perpetuating -isms on here, might not even try with ageism because they don’t even believe it exists. But of course even if an -ism is recognised by an individual, doesn’t mean it won’t be perpetuated! I think what I said was not particularly insightful or productive …er, I’ll shut up now, feel free to take me apart if it’s warranted.

  99. Kite was calyx
    Kite was calyx August 12, 2010 at 11:32 pm |

    Kite = calyx. Damn. Had to switch to another computer with another default. *scurries away*

  100. gadgetgal
    gadgetgal August 13, 2010 at 3:31 am |

    Really good and interesting post – definitely got people chatting! I’m in my mid-30s, so I’m lucky to be in the position of now (finally) being listened to without age-based dismissal. I expect it to last until around the 40-45 mark, then I’ll have hit the “too old to be relevant” area and that’ll be the end of that!

    For the people who are arguing that when you’re younger you’re a very different person than when you’re older, that’s probably true – I’m not into evo-psych or anything but our brains quite literally unplug and rewire themselves from adolescence until a person’s late 20s, so it would be unusual to think exactly the same way at 15 as you would at 35. However, that doesn’t mean that what I thought at age 15 was SO very different from now, or incorrect! I may have expressed it a little differently but to dismiss anyone based upon an “ism” is not only wrong but daft, they could be telling you something really useful, or that you’ve never heard before, and it seems like ignoring that person because of an arbitrary construct means you could be hurting yourself as well as the person you dismiss!

    “So, you don’t want to have around any of us old feminists who read Germaine Greer in the original, in Australia, and have been fighting the good fight for 40 years because we find Amelia’s youthful energy amusing?”

    Well, I seem to recall people finding me “amusing” because of my youth, or my womanhood, or my poverty, or my physical attributes, or my lower ranking job position, etc. etc. – condescension is condescension, no matter who you aim it at or why, so saying you don’t mean it that way isn’t really the point (and is also a bit of a blag, methinks, since you must remember what it’s like to be dismissed and how hurtful that can be, whether you deserved it or not). So in the spirit of honest exchange I’ll only mention one other thing – you really need to google “Germaine Greer” and “Trans Rights” to understand why throwing out her name on a feminist blog isn’t quite so impressive anymore. And I say that as a fellow older(ish) person who learned it from, yes, you guessed it, YOUNGER PEOPLE!

  101. Jemima Aslana
    Jemima Aslana August 13, 2010 at 4:38 am |

    lymie, you really don’t get it. There’sn no such thing as kidsplainin, and therefore it cannot be compared to mansplainin.

    Splainin comes from a place of privilege, and is about a person of PRIVILEGE (are you familiar with that term, or did you stop at Greer?) telling a person of non-privilege (on that axis) about their lives and experiences.

    Most kids are not exactly prone to telling adults about how said adults perceive the world. They are, however, quite often very willing to talk about their own perceptions. That you, as an adult, happen to disagree with these perceptions, does not say anything about the validity about their perceptions – merely that your perceptions are different. And dismissing theirs because they’re different from yours is EXACTLY like men dismissing women’s concerns because they know better what our lives are like.

    You got your comparison upside down.

    Also, see what I did above? With my use of “most” and “quite often” I avoided making a generalisation, and yet I still managed to give my impression of what I perceive to be the majority. And what did it require of me? A few extra milliseconds to type a few extra letters. Ohhhhh…

    Think on what it says about you that you’re not willing to spend a few extra seconds in order to respect people’s differences. A few seconds? Are these seconds so precious to you? More precious even than some basic respect for other human beings?

    You find it tedious. Sure. It isn’t fun. Disassembling your own privilege usually isn’t. The fact that it being tedious is a good enough argument for you to not do it: your privilege, it’s showing.

    I also find it quite tedious to constantly be careful with how I phrase things – and despite my best efforts I sometimes fail anyway and end up hurting people. But you know what? I put in that effort, because it’s the right fucking thing to do.

    Do you completely refuse to change your ways because it’s tedious and it’d require SO MANY SECONDS of your time to think of a few other words, that are NOT hurtful to others? If you do – then I seriously think you’ll be better off away from this site.

    Feministe has many things that can be better – absolutely. Parts of the commentariat here still resort to -ist commentary at times, and it’s bloody annoying. But there’s an on-going process of improvement, and that’s why I’m sticking around, ’cause it sure as heck ain’t gonna get better if no one does a thing to help improve it.

    And right now? You’re not helping.

  102. Jemima Aslana
    Jemima Aslana August 13, 2010 at 5:02 am |

    Dammit, I forgot the response I wanted to make to Bagelsan.

    Sorry for the double postage x_x

    We do appear to agree on whether children can be trusted to report accurately on their experiences. Cool :-)

    I also do agree that when something is obvious hyperbole then raising an eyebrow and being amused is cool. (“Yeah right, 20 hotdogs? And why are you still in one piece then?”) However, I disagree with your connection between hyperbole and age. In my albeit limited social circle I know just as many adults as kids who are prone to hyperbole, and my conclusion must necessarily be that proneness to hyperbole has naught to do with age and everything to do with personality – possibly with the level of active imagination that person has, though that’s pure conjecture on my part. I do tend to experience more hyperbole among role-players and fantastic fiction afficionados than among people not of either group. (ie waking up with a hangover and saying “Yuck, my tongue feels and tastes bleh” vs. “ARGH my tongue feels like a gnoll shat in my mouth and then a Green Ooze slithered in and died there. BLARGH!” – the latter is a real life example btw – role-players are kinda scary at times ^_^)

    Sorry if I blew up a bit at ya before, btw. The topic is kinda sensitive to me, ’cause I got a lot of “you’re just a kid” all the way up to being 23, and the only reason I haven’t gotten it as much lately is because I’ve been studiously removing those suckers from my life in rcent years. Now I’m getting it for being autistic instead. Apparently, I can’t be trusted to speak truth about my own experiences either. The world sucks.

    @ Amelia

    Maybe it’s just me, but I’m somehow seeing a parallel between your experience with the man teling you it was totally your own fault that that woman blew up at you, and the woman in your Buzzkill post telling the violent drunk that it was totally not his fault that he was being violent, and it’s you being at fault.

    Both are bullshitting of course, but they have more in common than that. Both are using their privilege as outsiders to the situation to attempt to defuse said situation by silencing the wronged party, who in both cases was also the marginalised body. Coincidence? I doubt it.

    The Facebook situation I’m not going to comment on as to me Facebook is a cesspool of -isms and not worth the discussions that might take place. Last time I argued against some really bad racism from one of my friends there, that very friend called me delusional with a Messiah-complex and a pathological need to save every member of a subculture out there. Yeah, ’cause other races are totally just subcultures, and treating them right totally stems from a Messiah-complex, not from any kind of human compassion. And this was from a friend. Grrrrr. I have completely stopped engaging in political discussions on Facebook since then. They always blow up. Without exception.

  103. Sunset
    Sunset August 13, 2010 at 9:02 am |

    I also wonder if some of the complaints about children are due to an often relative lack of information rather than any inherent thought flaw. The comments about “children whining about their parents” reminded me of some things. I was in some ways the stereotypical whiner. I *knew* something was different and not right with my mother, I just didn’t know what.

    Later when I went to college and was in therapy for some stuff, the therapist listened to my descriptions and told me I’d done a pretty good job of describing an OCD person. Now I had only a few vague stereotypical ideas of what OCD was prior to college. My mother is now in treatment for mental health issues (no working diagnosis currently).

    If you’d asked me at the time I’d probably have sounded like just another kid whining about how bad their parents are and how they don’t understand. No one had ever taught me anything about mental illness, and I didn’t have the available resources to find out on my own. The problem though wasn’t in my ability to understand the situation but in the lack of information.

  104. Sara
    Sara August 13, 2010 at 9:34 am |

    Before the printing press made information accessible older people were valued for their life experience. My Dad may not be able to write computer code but he’s been married for longer than I’ve been alive, fought in a war, built a house and raised two children.

    I understand you don’t want to be talked down too, but you should give people twice your age respect because they have twice the life experience you have.

    I say for sure that ten years ago, when I was about your age, I wasn’t nearly as mature as I am now. I thought I was an adult but I didn’t really act like one. You might be different but I really doubt that someone in their 20s is going to think like someone in their 50s.

    I think that there is a strange trend in American where young people disrespect elders and want to be treated as equals without having done anything to earn respect. Anyone can have an opinion.

  105. Li
    Li August 13, 2010 at 11:56 am |

    Sara, my dad is 56. I am 23. He has been around for a substantially longer period of time than I have. He has traveled to many more places around the world than I have. He has, to be succinct, more life experience than I have. Do you know what my dad also has more of than me? Racist bullshit. That he’s interacted with a whole bunch of Asian people over an extended career, that he’s traveled to Japan, that he has these life experiences, in no way means that he’s spent the time to actual interrogate those experiences and make sure that what they’re giving him is actually accurate. Cos in a schema that says that life experience in and of itself gives wisdom, he should not be coming out with arguments that urban housing problems in Sydney are caused by Asians cos they all like to live in small spaces.

    It’s great to value experience, sure. But experience in no way automatically leads to maturity, or wisdom, or whatever nebulous term we feel like using. Experience is only part of what informs our intellects, our emotions, our behaviour.

    Ageism is when the quantity of experience is assume to trump the quality of someone’s interrogation, when the experience of the old is assumed to be universal wisdom instead of contingent wisdom, when “when I was your age” is trumped out as part of some kind of prescriptive narrative of personhood.

  106. Jadey
    Jadey August 13, 2010 at 3:31 pm |

    I will never ever accord someone respect for the reason that they have x as much life experience as I do. That is not to say that A) I won’t respect anyone who happens to be older than me (I will and do), B) I won’t respect a person for the content of their particular life experiences (I will and do), or C) I won’t respect someone for the particular experience they have of being an older person, especially when the subject matter pertains to, for example, “What is it like being such-and-such age in this social context?” or “What was it like growing up in such-and-such year/decade/generation?” (understanding that no one’s experience are universal). It just means that I won’t accord someone respect for the sole reason that they have x amount of unspecified life experiences – it’s a shallow, meaningless, mathematically invalid distinction. “Life experience” isn’t some homogenous block of value where “more = better”.

  107. Jemima Aslana
    Jemima Aslana August 13, 2010 at 5:37 pm |

    “I understand you don’t want to be talked down too, but you should give people twice your age respect because they have twice the life experience you have. ”

    You should respect people who are worthy of respect. Having lived longer than someone else is not exactly a note-worthy feat. It just is. In my university class there was this man who was probably in his 40s, he simply could not AT ALL respect and listen to the lecturers and professors who were younger than him. He could just not accept that if this dude with the hippie hair has spent SO LONG on this subject for his Ph.D., then he might actually know stuff about it. Nope. Wiseass McLife-Experience alway had to kow better. He tried to lecture me on the job I had been doing for FOURTEEN years. I told him what was what, and the following day he came triumphantly to explain to me what was what – the exact fucking thing I’d explained to him the day before. He’d gone home, looked it up, found the info I had told him and he thought “Aha! I was right all along, now I’ll show her!”

    He was twice my age – I was 20 years old. I hated his guts after about 5 minutes of interaction. Explain to me exactly why I should respect him because he’s older than me. Please?

    People can be asshats no matter their age. People can be very wise – no matter ther age. Believe me, I have teens in my RP class who are wiser by far than the disrespectful man I met at university. Respect your elders, my arse. I’ll respect those who deserve it, thank you very much.

    @Amelia
    Yeah, it just randomly struck me. It’s happened to SO OFTEN, that a situation has blown up verbally and after everything fragmented and people went their seperate ways, there’s been this person who’s been following the whole thing, just watching/listening, never participating, and this person will then seek out one of the parties of the blow-up, and he (’cause it is very often, but not always, a he) often appears to choose the one he’ll approach based on who he can best patronize and splain to. And then, just to get some cheap shot in while the person he perceives to be the ‘weakest’ of the parties still has frazzled nerves and adrenaline rushing through their veins, he dives in with a “You know, you should have/shouldn’t have XYZ. That really was bad form/poor conduct/impolite of you. [insert lecture]“.

    I’m developing my theory as I go here – but I think this is actually a symptom of a rather peculiar kind of predatory personality type. The one who gets to feel a little better about themselves, by shoving an extra dagger through the ribs of someone who’s already shaken up by an argument, by essentially stepping on someone whom they can view as below themselves in the hierarchy. They have no interest in the argument itself. They may not even have an opinion on the subject matter. But saying “You know, you shouldn’t have said that.” might make them feel juuuust that little bit superior to you, and that’s what they need.

    Wait for the ‘weakest’ of the antilopes to be seperated from the herd – and then pounce.

    And please note, I’m putting weak in scare-quotes here, because I imagine that’s what it looks like to them. I am aware that it is an ableist word, but I felt it necessary for portraying what I think goes through the (perhaps subconscious) minds of these types who tend to dive in for the splain-fest after the actual discussion is over and done with.

  108. William
    William August 13, 2010 at 8:22 pm |

    I understand you don’t want to be talked down too, but you should give people twice your age respect because they have twice the life experience you have.

    The problem with that is, of course, that simply managing to trudge along and not get oneself killed is not much of an accomplishment. Yes, some older people are certainly more experienced and deserving of respect. Others decided to stop learning and growing once they hit a certain point in life and aren’t really in much of a place to tell me anything.

    Case in point. I’m a therapist. I’m good at my job but, in the world of clinical psychology, I’m still considered something of an infant. Last year there was a sudden change in leadership at the public hospital where I was employed. My new boss was a man with 20 more years experience than me and a very different outlook. He was also intellectually lazy and more concerned with protecting the hospital from liability than with protecting patients. Because of decisions he had made the hospital was going to have to reduce the number of patients getting free individual therapy from something over 100 to less than a dozen. This meant that some patients who needed care were going to be abandoned in the middle of their treatment. They had been promised more care but they were destitute, mostly brown, and even though they were making progress he considered them hopeless so it was time to find justifications for cutting them loose.

    The man was my elder. He had more experience. That didn’t mean he deserved an ounce of respect from me. It wasn’t that he talked down to me that raised my hackles but that his life experience had lead him to a place where he was going to hurt patients. Because of the system, because he had the experience and so was the boss, many patients were hurt. Fuck experience. I’ve seen the ugly side of “because I’m older I know best” for my entire life.

    All people default to deserving respect regardless of their age. All people can behave in manners which ought to lose them that respect. There is no reason age should insulate one from the consequences of their behaviors.

  109. exholt
    exholt August 14, 2010 at 12:48 am |

    I think that there is a strange trend in American where young people disrespect elders and want to be treated as equals without having done anything to earn respect. Anyone can have an opinion. Sara

    In addition to other commenters who made valid counterpoints to your post, there is also something else to consider.

    Uncritical respect for others solely because they are older and have “greater life experience” can not only work against someone when said experience is obsolete or inappropriate in itself or in its application to various situations.

    This is not only easily shown in commonplace instances in our daily lives (i.e. parents/grandparents giving college application/advice which is borne of experiences from 30+ years ago when advice from current undergraduates or recent graduates out for no more than 5 years may be far more relevant), but also in history.

    Societies which ran their societies upon ideas in your post tend to discourage even critically necessary innovation and changes because of the idea that doing so “disrespects” the “greater experiences” of the older generation no matter how inapplicable, inappropriate, and/or obsolete such experiences may be for current unforeseen situations. One good example of this was how China’s seeming inability to adapt to the depredations of Western imperialism and their advancing technologies were caused partially by ossifying conservatism among many key leaders within the government and its bureaucracy who disregarded the need for reforms because of similar specious reasoning during the mid-late 19th century. Ironically, when they realized reforms such as the ones proposed and rejected in 1898 were necessary and implemented a few years later….they were too little and far too late to prevent further colonial incursions and ultimately the fall of the very regime which ruled for more than 260 years and justified its existence by citing its “longevity” and “greater experience”.

  110. William
    William August 14, 2010 at 8:46 am |

    Societies which ran their societies upon ideas in your post tend to discourage even critically necessary innovation and changes because of the idea that doing so “disrespects” the “greater experiences” of the older generation no matter how inapplicable, inappropriate, and/or obsolete such experiences may be for current unforeseen situations.

    While I agree, I think that we also need to consider that not every situation is an ideal one. Some people are predatory, some people are corrupt, and some people have vested interests. It seems that this influenced both of the cases Amelia mentioned: a desperate defense of unexamined privilege in the first case and what could well have been defending a social hierarchy in the second.

    We tend to forget, because younger folks look so much like us (and because the areas in which they differ in appearance tend to be socially rewarded) that younger people are always outsiders. People with power are almost always the people who have been around longer. Sometimes the system is formalized as in union seniority systems, but oftentimes it is enforced by simple social pressure. A lot of what Amelia was talking about (and at least some of the static upthread) seems to revolve around the ways in which older people use their social power to knock down younger people who challenge them. Even the tone arguments ultimately boil down to saying she didn’t show proper deference and wasn’t willing to be dismissed if the authority figure in the situation decided she needed to be.

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