A colleague told me this story. Her mother is in her eighties and it has become impossible for her to live on her own. She has now entered an assisted living facility across the road from where I live (and where I love imagining N. and myself moving in our dotage.)
Everything is good about this assisted living facility except the kind of activities that are provided for its female residents. It seems like the people who manage the facility imagine that all women who are now in their eighties must have been bored housewives with zero intellect in their youth. While the male residents are provided with a discussion club, a political club, and an array of intellectual activities, women are stuck folding napkins, arranging bouquets, and watching soaps.
My colleague’s mother was not a housewife. She was a scholar, an educator, an intellectual. Of course, when she is segregated into a flower-arranging group of soap-watchers, she gets very upset. Just think about it. This is a woman who already participated in one feminist revolution. Should she now start another one in her assisted living facility to promote the idea that women have brains, too? Even women who were born in the twenties, the thirties, and the forties, too.
Maybe its time that we stopped projecting our TV-inspired vision of what the 40ies, the 50ies and the 60ies were like onto actual people who lived in those times. An 86-year-old woman can be as passionately feminist, politically engaged, an intellectual as any 30 or 20-year-old. And a 86-year-old man is not necessarily a mean, patriarchal, woman-hating ogre who will be traumatized by “a little woman” joining his discussion group.