The Other within Us: Feminist Explorations of Women and Aging

By Marilyn Pearsall | Go to book overview
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live through others reproductively, she has the opportunity to find good in her situation. Greer advocates what she refers to as letting go. In place of former pleasures involving others, as wife or mother, the older woman may live for herself. Greer claims that, paradoxically, by letting go of her earlier expectations, she herself has found calm -- and joy. She advises that other women after fifty may reclaim serenity and power in this way, and she speaks of the art of aging without a sense of grievance.

Greer reverses the negative assessment of the "invisibility" of women after fifty in patriarchy. She sees her invisibility as liberating; she may now apply herself to her own experiences and not to her appearances to others. She now feels the peculiar satisfactions of growing older, of survival, and of friendships with other women. In this way, Greer critiques the negative models of women and aging, especially of "the change." She anticipates the emergence of what might be called the "female woman," who will meet her aging with serenity and power.

Feminist discourses and representations seek to foreground women and aging with models and paradigms in which the older woman is the subject of enunciation. In this way, we can transform "the body in decline," and encounter and embrace "the other within us."

Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, translated by H. M. Parshley ( New York: Knopf, Vintage Books, 1974), 301.
Simone de Beauvoir, The Coming of Age, translated by Patrick O'Brien ( New York: Putnam, 1972), 284.
Kathleen Woodward, "Simone de Beauvoir: Aging and Its Discontents" in The Private Self. Theory and Practice of Women's Autobiographical Writing, edited by Shari Benstock ( Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988), 90.
De Beauvoir, The Second Sex, xxxiii.
Simone de Beauvoir, The Mandarins, translated by Leonard M. Friedman ( South Bend, Ind.: Henry Regnery, 1979), 366-367.
De Beauvoir, The Coming of Age, 291.
Adrienne Rich, "Notes Toward a Politics of Location" in Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose, 1979-1985 ( New York: Norton, 1986), 210-231.
Margaret Lock, Encounters with Aging: Mythologies of Menopause in Japan and North America ( Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993), 382.
Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development ( Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982).
Daniel Callahan, Setting Limits: Medical Goals in an Aging Society ( New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987).
Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, translated by Leon S. Roudiez ( New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), esp. ch. 1.


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