The Other within Us: Feminist Explorations of Women and Aging

By Marilyn Pearsall | Go to book overview

there are some differences, varying by the time they were born and grew up. For example, those born about 1890 have a disproportionately high chance of dying of heart or vascular disease, diabetes mellitus, and influenza and pneumonia. Suicide is extremely infrequent among these women. However, there has been a trend toward increased homicide, as well as cirrhosis of the liver. If the socioeconomic status of black women improves in the decades ahead, it is also likely that suicide will increase. That is, the greater the similarity between the major lifetime occupational and income structures of blacks and whites, the greater the probability that their suicidal patterns will resemble each other. Some preliminary data about menopause in black women ( Jackson and Walls, 1976) reemphasize the diversity of aging patterns. Few were distressed about the menopause. Those who were the most distressed were those who also reported abortion histories. Education and successful menopausal adjustment were, as expected, positively correlated. Some of the married women reported less sex desire during and after the menopause, while others reported heightened desire. The sample was too small (51 women) to ferret out the distinguishing characteristics of these two groups. Further, the correlation between an expectation of menopausal symptoms and the actual occurrence of those symptoms was positive and very strong. Women who reported earlier menstrual problems were also most likely to report menopausal problems. Finally, there appeared to be an intergenerational connection between menopausal behaviors. That is, daughters may well have imitated their mothers or grandmothers.

What I believe is becoming a dangerous trend is the increasing pulls upon older black women to belong to a multiplicity of organizations devoted to blacks, to women, to the elderly, and so on. Carried to the logical conclusion, various public and private policies now in vogue could eventually have black older women, who are in poor health and poor, segregated on the basis of their race, age, sex, health, and poverty statuses. Encouragement of organizational proliferation on the basis of these traits, abetted by federal support, could subject these women to pressures to become members of organizations for blacks, for the elderly, for women, for better consumerism in health, for welfare rights, for black organizations devoted to the elderly, for black organizations devoted to elderly women, for black organizations devoted to elderly women emphasizing improved health consumerism for individuals who are below the poverty level, und so weiter, ad nauseum. Such a proliferation of membership is probably far beyond the organizational energies of any individual. Perhaps a greater crisis is the reduced emphasis upon the commonality of critical problems shared by older and younger blacks, female and male.


References

Jackson, Jacquelyne J. 1971a. "Aged Blacks: A Potpourri Towards the Reduction of Racial Inequities", Phylon, 32: 260-80.

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