“I am 56 years old, I have already passed the menopause, my bones hurt a little, I take calcium. But I have a wisdom, a pleasure, and a knowledge of my sexuality, my body, my desire, what I want, what I don’t want … I have fought two million battles and I have won many although I have lost others. Indeed, now I am slower because it is also a decision. What we feel is that we do not have a mirror in front of which to look at ourselves. We are not old as they were our mothers, we have to build a new old age and we have a world that is not prepared for these new mines [mujeres] that we are, that we are going to live many more years and that we are going to live them fully, happier, because we are a product of the decisions that we have been making and of the rights that we have been conquering. “This is the message that in January 2020 the writer and Argentine deputy Gabriela Cerruti uploaded to Instagram, recording it while removing makeup in front of a mirror, carefree, without pretending what then happened: that it became a viral message that unleashed ‘the revolution of the old women’.
“It was pulling a curtain, nothing is invented, everything is discovered. That led a lot of women to say that the same thing happened to them,” now explains Cerruti, who in that video called for the revolution of the old women to build new old age away from sexist stereotypes and mandates, full and visible old age, and public policies that make them possible. A Facebook group of tens of thousands of women was quickly formed, Cerruti wrote a book with the same name – ‘The revolution of the old women’ (Editorial Planeta) – and a movement emerged with organized groups in several countries.
That revolution is also the idea that runs through the latest book by the writer and feminist Anna Freixas, ‘Yo, vieja’, (Captain Swing). Faced with the idea of youth as an ideal stage to try to lengthen as it may, also in physical and appearance, Freixas vindicates the old women. “The system forces women to appear to be at an age that they do not have because if it does not expel them. The denial of age appears as an urgent need in the lives of women to continue occupying a significant place. Why are there women in the forty and fifty who already think they are old? Because you think that you are already expelled from a life with meaning in all areas, work, emotional, sexual … When you turn years old the system devalues you “, explains the writer.
His book criticizes the medicalization of female discomfort, especially when women have their birthday, which also includes the consumption of anti-aging products in order to modify the body at all costs and keep it free of signs that show the passage of time. Freixas flees from the dichotomy that somehow has also been created around old age. The imaginary oscillates between the wrinkled granny dressed in black, who goes shopping and mass, and the grandmothers of advertisements for yogurt with calcium, with unthinkable waists for many twenty-somethings, hectic lives and smooth skins. Faced with that, she wants old women who can be that, old women.
With or without gray hair, with different bodies, with time, with economic autonomy, with curiosity, with support networks, with desire and sexual life, and away from a paternalism that sometimes comes from the children themselves. ‘Yo, vieja’ is also a vindication of one’s own old age, against the cliché of grandmother as a synonym for a kind and always available caregiver. “When I give talks I dedicate myself to agitating old women. I tell them to charge their children for the work they do with respect to their grandchildren,” ironizes Freixas, who charges against that mandate of older women to care, something that, he defends, it restricts “their freedom, their time, their possibility to organize networks with other old men and women, or to enjoy themselves.”
Something very similar says Marina Troncoso, president of the associations of students and alumni of the university programs for the elderly (CAUMAS). “I do not consent that they direct my life, that they order me to take care of my grandchildren, which does not mean that I am with them when and how I feel like it,” he stresses. Troncoso, 68, claims to be an older woman: “I am proud to be an older woman, many do not come. I am retired, active, with a life project. My life is still my life and I direct it with whoever I want. I am delighted with myself. My age and my physique, of course I add creams and dye my gray hair because I think they would not suit me, those who want to leave them seem great to me “. His speech encourages us to carry the years with dignity and to love ourselves throughout life to reach old age with good self-esteem. “There is a huge unhappiness that we try to fill with treatments, creams, operations … Society corners us as we get older, but we are active and with much to contribute.”
A 63-year-old inspector
The books of the writer Elia Barceló, some of them bestsellers, have been translated into 19 languages. With a few awards on her resume, including the 2020 National Prize for Children’s and Young People’s Literature, the 64-year-old writer realized one day that exactly the same thing happened in novels as in series or movies: ” That the protagonists are between 21 and 40 something and then women no longer exist, unless you are a crazy murderer or granny or you are in secondary roles of that type, but not as protagonists of your own life. At that age, men are told that they are interesting mature men, they tell us ‘but where is that going?’, ‘What does she want?’ Well, I want everything, like before, adventures, trips, sex … “.
From that moment, five or six years ago, Barceló decided to consciously create female characters in their fifties, sixties, and beyond. He had already done it before, as in his novel The color of silence, whose protagonist, Amelia, is 64 years old. But that ‘awakening’ made her do it more conscientiously. On The silver night (Editorial Roca), Inspector Carola Rey Rojo has 63, a strange mission in Vienna ahead of her, a penchant for wine that sometimes makes her go a bit out of line, a son who sometimes drives her crazy, and many wanting to sleep with a man with whom you share accommodation for a few days. Carola seems like a woman of flesh and blood, without further ado, but it is surprising to find a female character of her age who, without any stridency that makes her stand out, is the protagonist of an interesting story in which her life, in all its dimensions, is in foreground.
“This has to be changed, we have a lot of work to do,” says Barceló with determination. She herself has anecdotes that show how “they try to tie you up as short as possible.” From hair salons where she asks for her red hair dye and is offered a mahogany “more in line with her age” to friends who are surprised when she wears a short dress and black stockings. “After a certain age, everything is done to disguise, to make sure that you have no body. Overall, they tell you, men are going to look at young women. So a man of 60, bald and with a belly, feels young and wants to to one in her thirties, and a wonderful lady of 50 thinks who is going to love her, “she complains.
One of the points of this ‘revolution of the old women’ has precisely to do with sex. Gabriela Cerruti criticizes that the idea that after menopause sex does not exist for women is still very widespread. “We have the idea that men like young women because it is that idea of beauty and attractiveness linked to reproduction. Even the most modern look for young girls to demonstrate their masculinity because also the man has marked the model of virility around the strong, powerful and reproductive male, “he says. Freixas underlines something similar: “Desire does not disappear with age. Women maintain our erotic capacity until the end. They have it worse, because their sexuality is very phallocentric.” In her previous book, thanks to several surveys and testimonials, the writer discovered that women over 70 wanted more sex than they had, but they were also clear about what they did not want: putting up with anyone in their home.
Another axis of this spreading discourse is where to grow old. “I claim to grow old at home, with our things, our neighbors, our corner stores who know that you are Mrs. Paquita and that you like ripe tomatoes,” defends Freixas. For that, of course, public policies and money are needed. And appeal to the youth. “It is something that affects us all. We should be able to complicate the ideas we have about old age and see what old age we want to have. And do it now, because when you reach 70 you can no longer change everything. The problem is to lose the meaning, the will to live, interest or curiosity. I would like my book to challenge young people: what do we have to change in society, what public policies do we have to propose so that old age is not a path to slaughter, what do men have to do in the politics of care … “, he defends.
The president of CAUMAS, Marina Troncoso, also believes that the priority of public policies should be to promote personal autonomy for as long as possible: “We have to cover our needs but we should not go to a residence, many people can live in their homes. house or in a shared house if they are taken care of, those projects are the ones that must be supported and without there being labor exploitation involved “. In Argentina, Gabriela Cerruti presented the Anti-Aging Law in Congress, which, in addition to fighting prejudice, seeks to end discrimination at work or in the media and promote housing policies that allow “living an old age in community.”
Cerruti proposes the union of “the pibas and the old women, a collective change of mind” that has a lot to do with the intergenerational feminism that has filled the streets in recent years. “We must change the image of old age, which is built according to the model of production and consumption. We need a new worldview. The night abortion was voted here I said ‘we are the daughters of the crazy old women with the white scarf and the mothers of the crazy daughters with the green scarf. ”That middle generation, who grew up with the old idea that at 60 you retire and go home to take care of the grandchildren. Now we don’t know if we are going to have grandchildren, we don’t know if we are going to retire or when, we have made decisions that make us reach 60 without grandpa by the hand … There is no world in which we can live an old age like the one we want. Let’s think about the project we want ” .