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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Countering Ageist Ideology


Jennifer Abod’s new award-winning film, Look Us in the Eye: The Old Women’s Project, is a groundbreaking work in women’s studies, a video that links ageism and sexism. It is a topic that is rarely studied and even less likely to be filmed. Abod expertly captures the zest of three old women (they specifically want to be called that) who started the Old Women’s Project in San Diego in 2000, an organization created for old women activists. The film focuses on interviews with the three founders, Cynthia Rich, Janice Keefaber, and Mannie Garza and shows footage of their demonstrations against war, nuclear proliferation, low-income housing, and many other issues of social justice. The Old Women’s Project claims that old women are part of every social justice issue: child care, homelessness, prison reform, violence against women, and war. Too frequently old people are assumed to care only about age-related issues like social security and Medicare. The women’s very exuberance and activism, adeptly captured by Abod’s film, belie so many of the unexamined assumptions about what older women want and can do. These “truisms” are so pervasive that deconstructing them is not enough. Abod’s visual evidence astutely targets the prevailing ageist ideology: old woman as “other,” old woman as invisible, and old woman as a metaphor for disease, isolation, worthlessness, vulnerability, dissatisfaction, and decrepitude.

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