The New Ageism
Tab favourite SASKIA GOLDMAN has been riled and, as ever, her target should be worried, no matter how old they are.
If a student were to attack a person in their sixties, they’d be labeled a yob, an animal, and at best, an ageist. Somehow, while we’ve had our backs turned, our country has made ageism a one-way street
Recently, two friends of mine were attacked, right in front of my eyes, by a man old enough to be their grandfather. This was not an isolated incident: during a folk concert to celebrate a friend’s birthday we were shocked to have our night ruined by the violence and aggression of the older generation.
We arrived and it became immediately clear we had brought the gig’s average age down considerably. But this was fine. I’m not ageist and neither are my friends.
We stood near the back, dancing and having fun, until things started to go wrong.
A large group of men and women in their sixties turned around and started shouting abuse at us, telling us to ‘shut the **** up’, to ‘go home’ and, most insultingly, to ‘grow up’.
This was undoubtedly an issue of age. It wasn’t that we were dancing; it wasn’t that we were giggling; it was that we were doing it and we were young, and this posed an invisible threat.
Things soon turned nasty. Not far off was a group of four women in their twenties, dancing like us. When my friend witnessed a man flippantly, anonymously, take the back of his hand to a girl’s head, he did exactly what our parents have always told us to do: he went over there to verbally defend the weaker party.
My friend finished up with a pint of beer in his eyes and the man shortly launched himself at our group. In my naivety, I went to get security. But when they saw the age of the assailant, and my relative infancy, they shrugged and admitted ‘I’m sorry, there’s nothing we can do’.
There was something they could do. They could have refused to bow to the assumption that the older is the more justified in any situation.
This incident, arguably, is a product of fear. The media don’t help intergenerational peace. Every day stories are printed about the evils of young people, anti-social behaviour and granny-bashing.
While I don’t deny that any of this is true, my objection is that if, curious as I was, you choose to google ‘ageism statistics’, they tell you only of the awful prejudices of our generation. No one seems to consider ageism a transferable concept.
Why should we be any less afraid than our grandparents, if they can behave in such an appalling way, and all in the knowledge that it will be legitimised?
No, fear just isn’t a good enough excuse for me. These people weren’t afraid of us, they held genuine disdain for us, stoked by the media’s unhelpful involvement.
Oh, the irony. Would any paper turn this into a story?
An Age UK survey tells me that 35 per cent of its respondents have experienced ageism and that 64 per cent thought ageism was a ‘serious problem’. At no point does the survey mention ageism in reverse.
How can a national charity call this a representative survey? And how can we, as a society, start talking about this ‘serious problem’ if we are too afraid to face its inconvenient other side?