Life & Culture

The Week the A-List Slammed Ageism (and It Made No Difference)

It’s been a week of celebs speaking out in public forums against ageism. Both Yoko Ono and Madonna were widely quoted in the press and on social media – potentially doing more to shame the shamers and make younger people listen up than an army of positive agers.

First came Yoko Ono. Facing age-related derision over her short-shorts, Ono, who celebrated her 82nd birthday last week with the release of two 10-inch records, posted an open letter on her website, Imagine Peace.

In what sounds like an off-the-cuff diatribe, “Don’t Stop Me,” she responds to critics by saying, “At my age I should be in a certain way. Please don’t stop me being the way I am. I don’t want to be old and sick like many others of my age. Please don’t create another old person….

“Let me be free. Let me be me! Don’t make me old, with your thinking and words about how I should be. You don’t have to come to my shows. I am giving tremendous energy with my voice, because that is me. Get my energy or shut up….

“Another criticism: That my short pants in my video BAD DANCER was very short. Was that bad? You are not criticizing other dancers whose pants are worn short. Do you have a separate standard for a person of my age even in the way our outfits are cut?

Ono points to a double standard in ageist attitudes. Iggy Pop, she says, suffers none of the derision that she does, even though he continues to be who has always been. And she refers to the internal pressure we all face as we try, and sometimes fail, to remake ourselves into the people we’re expected to be.

“I am afraid of just one thing. That those ageism criticism will finally influence me, I would succumb to it and get old. So I am covering my ears not to listen to you guys! Because dancing in the middle of an ageism society is a lonely trip. Don’t stone me! Let me be! Love me plenty for what I am!”

Ono might have fallen into the very ageism trap she attacks (hey, “old” doesn’t mean “sick” – or anything qualitative); Madonna, who’s not quite a senior yet, gets it.

In a Rolling Stone cover-story, “Madonna Fights Back,” the 56-year-old powerhouse responds to critics of her bare-butt appearance at the Grammys – “This is what a 56-year-old ass looks like, motherfuckers!” – and compares ageism to racism, homophobia and sexism.

“It’s still the one area where you can totally discriminate against somebody and talk shit. Because of their age. Only females, though. Not males. So in that respect we still live in a very sexist society.”

“No one would dare to say a degrading remark about being black or dare to say a degrading remark on Instagram about someone being gay…. But my age – anybody and everybody would say something degrading to me. And I always think to myself, why is that accepted? What’s the difference between that and racism, or any discrimination? They’re judging me by my age. I don’t understand. I’m trying to get my head around it. Because women, generally, when they reach a certain age, have accepted that they’re not allowed to behave a certain way. But I don’t follow the rules. I never did, and I’m not going to start.”

Like Ono’s, Madonna’s message is being blogged about, tweeted about and Facebooked far and wide this week – and is inspiring young women to post about their older role models. But apparently it’s falling on some deaf ears. When Madonna had a costume mishap during her performance at the BRIT Awards yesterday that caused her to tumble precipitously offstage (she got right up and finished the show), the Twittersphere  exploded not just with kudos for her quick bounce-back, but also with ageist quips. “I get it, Madonna. My grandma is exactly the same.”

Enough said.

More of Madonna on ageism

(Video link for mobile)

What would you tweet to the three tweeps quoted above? Let us know in the comments section!



4 responses to “The Week the A-List Slammed Ageism (and It Made No Difference)

  1. great article. My respect for Madonna and Yoko has increased 100 fold!
    Madonna’s comments about how others try to limit older people’s freedom (and a true artist like she would know this only too well) by applying condescending stereotypes to them were spot on.

    Also, wasn’t it Jennifer Lawrence who fell on her face at the Emmys last year? Interesting how nobody blamed it on her age at the time!

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