On “Listening to Old Women”

I found this wonderful essay, titled Listening to Old Women by Soraya Chemaly, while reading some political news. I tend to chase rabbits while reading news sites, and it is sometimes difficult for me to trace back to wherever I started, so I can’t with any certainty say how I found it. I can say, though, that I am very glad I did.

Chemaly is telling the story of her grandmother, a woman who refused to be silenced. We are such youth-worshippers in this country that older women, particularly older women of color, are often ignored, marginalized, and silenced. We all know a few older women who refuse to go quietly into that good silence, though, don’t we? And good for them. Society wants us to sit quietly in our boxes – I say we upturn those boxes, climb up onto them and make our voices heard!

My favorite paragraph in the essay:

Here was a wise old woman, never considered smart, who lived unapologetically. Spoke her mind. Intuited the difference between being sociable and being true to oneself, being popular and not. She showed us how to be self-sufficient, something still not to be taken for granted when you’re a girl basted in benevolent sexism. She taught us to seek love, even if it was flawed; to work hard, to care quietly, to complain loudly, to be loyal and firm. She was an example of the much disputed idea that people can change over time. She did of all of this without giving any of us more than a few scant words of direct advice. In other words, this old woman with no power trusted us to know what was best for ourselves, something rooms full of old men with too much power can have serious problems understanding.

I bolded that last bit for emphasis. “This old woman… trusted us to know what was best for ourselves…” – that, friends, is what we all want, and what we all deserve.



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