Chapter 36.doc

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Women's and Gender Studies
Anissa Talahite- Moodley

Chapter 36: A Gaggle of Raging Grannies: The Empowerment of Older Canadian Women through Social Activism Context: The Aging Population and Older Women - ‘old age’, however, is not gender-neutral category – it requires a gender-specific perspective - women’s longer life expectancy means that they outnumber their male counterparts in late adulthood - consequently, older women are likely to be pathologized and denigrated as fragile, needy recipients of welfare and health care services - in a sense, senior women face the double-jeopardy of agism and sexism - partly because of this kind of stereotype, older women’s potential for empowerment through collective political action remains largely overlooked - preconceptions associating old age with social disengagement leads to a misperception of political behaviour among older adults - yet, aging is not accompanied by a decline in political and social interest, and even greater ‘grey power’ may develop in the years ahead Theoretical Perspectives: Women’s Later Life Development and Empowerment - although developmental theories have been criticized for their age-stratified hierarchical stages of human development, concepts of developmental tasks such as ‘generativity’, ‘ego-integrity’, and ‘gero-transcendence’ still provide philosophical directions for personal growth in later life - ‘generativity’ has to do with guiding and caring for the next generation, while ‘ego-integrity’ is associated with the feeling of self-acceptance in old age - later life development also requires adapting to physical limitations and social losses, while learning to ‘gero-transcend’ oneself through a love of humankind involves shifting one’s worldview from a materialistic to a more spiritual perspective - psychosocial development in late adulthood thus appears to be an inward-turning process - interpreting these developmental goals from the angle of social gerontology, however, one’s continuous relationship with the external social world is equally important for successful later life development - theories of gender-related adult development also provide more concrete elements to help analyze the meanings of the Grannies’ movement for older women - since Gillian posited women’s development in terms of morality of responsibility, the value of connections, and the ability to care, there has been much debate about whether these so-called feminine attributes are essential to female psychosocial development - Price’s study has indicted the positive influence of feminine attributes and multiple roles on women’s passage to retirement - Altschuler’s study of the centrality of care-giving to older women’s personal identity also argues that the provision of caring serves to extend meaning and continuity across the life span - nevertheless, it can also be meaningful for women’s psychosocial well-being, a way of remaining connected to others and mastering challenges - theories of empowerment also add another dimension to our understanding of the Raging Grannies’ activism, highlighting the social and collective aspect of older women and power - regarding the process of older women’s empowerment, Coz and Parsons, based on their social work practice, stressed the importance of cohesive collective or group experience to problem solving - their study also suggested that older women need a safe environment for building relationships upon feelings of trust, reciprocity, and commonality which are developed through continued interaction and a sense of belonging, acceptance, affirmation, and mutual aid - what these theories imply is that women’s individual empowerment and the relational context through which this empowerment emerges must always be considered simultaneously Grannies’ Dual-Layered Mask Strategies Mask 1: Strategic Humour and Absurdity - the Raging Grannies are known for their eye-catching style with their trademark outrageous ‘granny’ garb and hats, and their parodic songs that match their lyrics with well-known folk, pop, rock and hymn melodies Mask 2: The Grannies' Act and Creative Self-expression − the strategic use of political satire works not only to draw public attention but also to provide a space for older women to freely express themselves in creative and enjoyable ways − the second layer of the Grannies' 'mask' is that element of dramatic performance, symbolically implied by the fact that Grannies call their public appearance 'gigs' − like a 'mask', the costume provides older women with the Raging Granny's persona, thus transforming the self − on the surface, it is paradoxical that older women need the 'Granny' mask to make them feel 'less themselves' to do their gigs, while the aim of their action is to express themselves through raising their voice and making themselves visible − Hopcke, a clinical psychologist, provides a clue to how this works by noting that putting on a mask and ritual clothing unconsciously serves to help transform oneself from lifting one from the ordinary to the transcendent, and that such an obliteration of ordinary self immediately results in self liberation − in this sense, the Grannies' flamboyance seems to provide a sense of pla
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