Agewise: Fighting the New Ageism in America

Margaret Morganroth Gullette. Univ. of Chicago, $29 (304p) ISBN 978-0-226-31073-2
Award-winning feminist author Gullette (Aged by Culture) takes a hard look at the connection between exaggerated fears about the burden of caring for the elderly and a struggling economy in which older workers have a hard time finding employment. "Being ‘too old' is too large a part of the ongoing economic meltdown to ignore." Describing prejudice against older Americans as bigotry, Gullette refers to negative stereotypes, such as the term "greedy geezers" and the mythical Eskimo practice of putting the elderly on ice-floes, as "hate speech" that makes acceptable the notion that the old have a duty to die. In turn this encourages "practices such as preemptive suicide or medical manslaughter" now being promulgated, in her view, by bioethicists, political economists, futurists, biogerentologists, and politicians. Gullette likens this to the dangerous metaphorical foreshadowing that went on in Nazi death camps. Describing the elderly as "alien, repulsive or boring," not only makes eugenic practices more socially acceptable, Gullette argues, but lessens respect for life. While admitting to the reality of the "bitterness and perplexity and humiliations" of decline, Gullette writes poetically and persuasively in general, and tenderly about her 96 year-old mother, who has suffered considerable memory loss, increasing blindness, and physical frailty but retains her cognitive faculties and joy for life. Important social criticism from a prominent scholar. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/02/2011
Release date: 04/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
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