The New Yorker’s Ageist Take on Ageism

I’m a lifelong New Yorker addict, so when I heard they were running a piece on ageism, I got excited. That was a mistake. Tad Friend’s article in the November 20th issue, “Why Ageism Never Gets Old,” is glib and disappointing on many fronts. Here’s my Letter to the Editor of the magazine:

Should we learn to live with racism? Quit pursuing equal rights for women? That’s the position Tad Friend takes regarding discrimination on the basis of age, which he describes as “hardwired,” “probably inevitable” and remediable only via immortality.

Older people are indeed closer to death, but even if that’s partly to blame for the stigma [attached to aging], why should we give it a pass? The reason hundreds of thousands of buff boomers can’t land a job interview isn’t because they have one foot in the grave; it’s because they face entrenched discrimination—and not just in tech [companies].

Ageism is no more embodied or “natural” than other forms of prejudice. They’re all socially constructed: they’re not about biology, they’re about power. Much about aging is difficult, of course, but much of that difficulty is constructed or compounded by ageism.

Just as social movements emerged to challenge other forms of oppression, an age pride movement is underway. Our world is growing old fast, and it’s high time.