WSTA01H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 36: Raging Grannies, Gerontology, Clinical Psychology

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Published on 20 Apr 2013
Women's and Gender Studies
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 playfulness and freedom that helps them break down the conventional behaviour of middle-
class older women
art forms such as music, poetry, and drama make it easier and even 'therapeutic' for older women to express their anger, frustration, and fear, providing a way to
convert their negative emotions into positive actions
in addition, writing and singing protest songs requires a great deal of critical thinking to analyze the social issues based on their own daily experiences, and think
about actions to address the problems
in this sense, to wear a 'Granny' mask is not simply to obliterate or liberate older women through the play and joy mode; rather, it makes them take the role
represented by the mask more seriously
adopting a social persona means to become that person, that identity, and therefore take responsibilities that come with the role
Implications for Later Life Learning
the shifting demographics of our population challenge us to reconstruct the current discourse concerning 'older women' and reassess their needs and abilities
true, older women are significant consumers of welfare benefits and health care services as a result of the problems naturally associated with advanced age
rather than regarding them solely through a lens of pathology, however, we need to think how we can build new social mechanisms to empower them and make
full use of their strengths, appreciating their potential to act as agents for social change
adult educators need to reflect on how later life learning can take the lead in this endeavour, while reviewing the current conditions of third age education
Moody once summarized four decades of expansion in older adults' education in USA as: first, 'rejection', which regards educational programmes for obsolete
older people as a waste of time and money; second, 'social service', which regards education as a way to keep the elderly busy; third, 'participation', which
maintains that older adults should be encouraged to actively participate in community life to gain self-sufficiency; and fourth, 'self-actualization', which identifies
psychological and spiritual growth as the main educational objective for older adults
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