“Hags: The Demonisation of Middle-Aged Women”

This is exactly what I was thinking about when the above popped up on my screen. The way older single female adults in the UK are demonized and often subsequently criminalized, I find that quite shocking.

So here is a book by Victoria Smith and it’s been reviewed in The Guardian, under the subtitle “A compelling account of ageism and misogyny that overemphasises feminism’s generational divide”. Turns out that I got that wrong… I’ll come back to that.

My first thought was that it’s British (or English?) thinking that causes this sharp generational divide. The demonisation of older adults in the UK is well documented.

But no, this is not a book review, but a review of an American film and the review is by Victoria Smith.

A little bit later… No, it IS about a book. WTF? The book is by Victoria Smith and the review is by Fiona Sturges, who must be English because only English folks are able to confuse me this much. Maybe the review has been rewritten and maybe someone else chose a movie scene instead of a book cover to start it with, though. Who’s to say?

So who is Victoria Smith? “a feminist writer, with a particular interest in motherhood and intersections of misogyny and ageism” At least that bit adds up.

I disagree with Sturges’ conclusion, namely that men are women’s biggest and most powerful oppressors. Women oppressing other women versus women empowering each other is a major measure of how balanced a society is in that respect. After I moved to England, from Amsterdam, an Englishman who has not lived here for decades told me that the UK couldn’t be sexist, let alone misogynist, because Mary Beard was also being attacked by women.

Self-hatred is a common symptom of oppression, isn’t? Ask any “battered wife”. Taught contempt for one’s own kind may be another.

If anything, it sounds as if the emphasis in this book is too much on sexual activities and on being considered “fuckable”. Maybe that emphasis was added by Sturges. If so, it is pretty… sexist. There is more to women than their genitalia. Isn’t that the battle we are fighting? To move beyond the emphasis on genitalia and on how different people use them differently?

I sometimes encounter (very) young women who underline over and over again that they’re pregnant, but they are not making me feel “old” or “past my sell-by date”. If the bizarre emphasis on their pregnancy makes me feel anything at all, it’s sad regrets for them, in view of the sacrifices they are making. I usually keep that to myself because we do not all want the exact same things from life, nor should we want to. Sometimes, I even want to say “that’s pretty damn stupid of you, then” if they also get shouted at a lot because in that case, that pregnancy is keeping them trapped in an abusive relationship. That’s tragic. It becomes even less of a cause for celebration or gloating or glee when I next ask myself what is going to happen to that child.

I never say to them what I am thinking for the simple reason that I don’t know their story and because it’s not true that only older women have wisdom at their beck and call. I’m not having a conversation with them. I may actually just want them to go away, nothing more.

Young women are not the problem, though, and neither are men. Misogyny is the problem.


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