Ending Ageism, or How Not to Shoot Old People
Margaret Morganroth Gullette
“In her stirring new book, the pioneering US writer Margaret Morganroth Gullette argues that the meaning of the word burden has shifted from referring to the demanding work of care-giving (expressing empathy with the carer) on to the recipient of care. No wonder so many older people worry that they’ll become burdensome, and elder abuse is becoming so common.”—The Guardian
“As one of the world’s leading authorities on ageing and ageism, any new book from Margaret Gullette is always exciting. Here she highlights the emotional wisdom and moral imagination of old age, so very different from the narrow, demeaning public rhetorics of ageing. An essential book for our times.” —Lynne Segal, author of Out of Time: The Pleasures & Perils of Ageing
“Margaret Morganroth Gullette’s take-no-prisoners book is as scathing as its subtitle, which refers both to cameras (the power of portrayal) and to guns (the very real risks of growing old in an ageist world). Wide-ranging and erudite, Ending Ageism, or How Not to Shoot Old People frames the struggle for age equity in the most human and compelling of terms.”— Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism
“In this bracing, wide-ranging new book by a pioneer of ageing studies, every page sparkles with fresh insight and burns with apt indignation at how the ‘othering’ of older people operates. Gullette exhorts us to reclaim public space and defiantly shows us how. Wonderful!”—Anne Karpf, author of How to Age
“For baby-boomers (like me) this is a sobering, but also an inspiring book. Ending Ageism is pointedly not another account of decline and the apparently inevitable challenges posed by an aging population. It provides, instead, a fully developed cultural analysis, anatomizing the established habits of mind, institutional structures, and economic pressures that work to belittle and marginalize older people.”
“The critique cuts deep, drawing together an extraordinary range of evidence from visual culture, media, social history, and literature. Reading this made me confront a deeply disturbing world of interests and assumptions I had long misunderstood, and repressed. But Margaret Gullette gives us more than a jeremiad. Hers is a positive vision, offering many specific proposals for a movement of resistance that could encourage an epistemic shift—a new conception of life’s course, a fresh understanding of words like ‘age,’ ‘youth,’ ‘decline,’ and of much more. A profoundly engaged, urgent work of the humanist imagination.”—James Clifford, author of Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty-First Century
When the term “ageism” was coined in 1969, many problems of exclusion seemed resolved by government programs like Social Security and Medicare. As people live longer lives, today’s great demotions of older people cut deeper into their self-worth and human relations, beyond the reach of law or public policy. In Ending Ageism, or How Not to Shoot Old People, award-winning writer and cultural critic Margaret Morganroth Gullette confronts the offenders: the ways people aging past midlife are portrayed in the media, by adult offspring; the esthetics and politics of representation in photography, film, and theater; and the incitement to commit suicide for those with early signs of “dementia.”
In this original and important book, Gullette presents evidence of pervasive age-related assaults in contemporary societies and their chronic affects. The sudden onset of age-related shaming can occur anywhere—the shove in the street, the cold shoulder at the party, the deaf ear at the meeting, the shut-out by the personnel office or the obtuseness of a government. Turning intimate suffering into public grievances, Ending Ageism, Or How Not to Shoot Old People effectively and beautifully argues that overcoming ageism is the next imperative social movement of our time.
MARGARET MORGANROTH GULLETTE is an internationally known pioneer in age studies and a cultural critic and award-winning writer of nonfiction, an essayist, a feminist, and an education activist. Her most recent book, Agewise, won a 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Award. She has been published widely in major media, including The New York Times, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Ms., Atlantic Monthly online, Boston Globe, Dissent, AlterNet, AdiosBarbie, Forward, and Tikkun. A recipient of NEH, ACLS, and Bunting Fellowships, she is a resident scholar at the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center in Waltham, Massachusetts.
Read an Excerpt
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Download A Declaration of Grievances
Print the PDF (make sure to click “fit to page”) and hang the Declaration up in your home or place of work. Please share this link with other people you know who care about the rights of elders. Share on social media with the hashtags #ADeclarationOfGrievancesand #EndingAgeismGullette.
“A Declaration of Grievances” was written by Margaret Morganroth Gullette and is excerpted from her book Ending Ageism, or How Not to Shoot Old People (2017 Rutgers University Press). The poster was designed by Carolyn Kerchof.
Interviews with the Author