This week on “Yo, Is This Ageist?” scorponic asked:
I’m a regular on a liberal politics site, Daily Kos. I have noticed an alarming trend over there to append the word “old,” plus a few other adjectives meant to be disparaging (“cranky,” “grumpy,” “white,” etc.) to a description of older GOP politicians who take non-liberal stances (such as on gay marriage, etc.). This practice is driving me nuts, because it seems obviously ageist, and, in addition, doesn’t make much sense. What? There aren’t young Republican politicians against gay marriage? There aren’t older Democratic politicians in favor of it? When I call people out on this, they either say “but he IS old!” or “polls show older people are against gay marriage, while younger people are in favor.
So, yo, is this use of the word “old” ageist, and what can be said to these “liberals” to get the message through to them?
The practice is indeed obviously ageist, and good for you for calling people out on it. Olders are not inherently more conservative and they do not vote as a bloc; those are ageist myths. We’re all shaped by the times in which we live, and those times are shaped by political struggle. For example, homophobia was rampant in lots of left-wing groups until the gay rights movement emerged. People born before 1945 are indeed less likely to support same-sex marriage than their children or grandchildren. But support in each generational bracket has risen over the past decade, in the oldest cohort from 17% to 31%. (so much for olders being “stuck in their ways.”)
The larger issue, as you observe, is the knee-jerk inclusion of “old” with a bunch of other disparaging adjectives when it comes to describing politicians. They should be assessed on the basis of their voting records and professional affiliations. Age is no more relevant than temperament or hair color.
What do you think? Get opinionated by scrolling down to the comments box and having your say.