The Other within Us: Feminist Explorations of Women and Aging

By Marilyn Pearsall | Go to book overview

a storm of sex and memories at once faded, bloody, and raw, like Applebroog's palette.

In performance Rosenthal the Crone is the spectacular beauty of flesh that moves, as if it is calling up the wind and called by the wind, and flesh that roars and shrieks in underground pitches and sings sanity in a lilt and a growl.

Ancient peoples believed that postmenopausal women retained their menstrual blood, called wiseblood. Wiseblood made wisewomen. While certain cultures treat menstrual blood as a defiling fluid and American slang refers to menstruation as the curse, menstrual bleeding also signifies being cleaned out, purified. American society treats old(et) women as if they suffer from the retention of blood that pollutes them: An old(er) woman is her own worst enemy. Blood is dirt, and as anthropologist Mary Douglas writes in her pollution behavior study, Purity and Danger, "Dirt is essentially disorder" and "A polluting person is always in the wrong." The aging woman is dangerous, as a polluter who is a manifestation of transitional states, which represent the undefinable. As the older woman passes from beautiful to ugly, as culturally defined, from moist to dry in menopause and skin and vaginal changes, and from womb, associated with the generative earth, to tomb, associated with earth as burial ground, she is neither one condition nor the other. The transitional person is in danger and she endangers others, but contact with danger is contact with power. The old(et) woman is a power source, whose (non)identity/excess of identities identifies and energizes human being. 38

You who go by the name old woman
Your afterbirth is the knowledge of finitude and infinity

I feel the energy in my mother's hand, which I hold now when we walk together. As in earlier years, our handholding signifies love, but the passage of years compounds the meanings of touch. She moves slowly, in the rhythm of old age, and she needs my support. I squeeze her hand to keep her from death, as we and my father tour the botanical gardens near their home, to keep her on my side of the divide between here and the Green Bay. The three of us admire the rose garden, and I read plaques that say things like: TO ED, YOUR LOVING BROTHER; WE REMEMBER MARY, A GARDENER OF THE SPIRIT -- HER FRIENDS; FOR OUR PARENTS, IN MEMORIAM, THE SYLVAN SISTERS.

O Mother and O Father, I will bury your bones with roses.


Notes

Work on this paper was supported by a Junior Faculty Research Award from the University of Nevada, Reno. I especially appreciate the travel funds that allowed me to inter

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The Other within Us: Feminist Explorations of Women and Aging
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 16
  • Part One - Situating 17
  • 1 - The Double Standard of Aging 19
  • 2 - Portnoy's Mother's Complaints 25
  • 3 - The Plight of Older Black Women 37
  • References 41
  • 4 - The Feminization of Poverty Among the Elderly 43
  • Notes 54
  • 5 - Older Women in the City 57
  • Notes 68
  • Part Two - Problematizing 71
  • 6 Friends or Foes - Gerontological and Feminist Theory 73
  • Notes 91
  • References 91
  • 7 Heresy in the Female Body - The Rhetorics of Menopause 95
  • Notes 110
  • References 110
  • 8 Gender, Race, and Class - Beyond the Feminization of Poverty in Later Life 113
  • Notes 119
  • References 119
  • 9 - The View from Over the Hill 121
  • Notes 134
  • 10 - Adult Daughters and Care for the Elderly 135
  • Notes 146
  • 11 What Setting Limits May Mean - A Feminist Critique of Danielcallahan's Setting Limits 151
  • Notes 158
  • References 159
  • Part Three - Representing 161
  • 12 Sunset Boulevard - Fading Stars 163
  • Notes 175
  • 13 - Remembering Our Foremothers Older Black Women, Politics of Age, Politics of Survival as Embodied in the Novels of Toni Morrison 177
  • Notes 193
  • 14 Visible Difference - Women Artists and Aging 197
  • Notes 214
  • 15 - Time Will Tell 221
  • Part Four - Privileging 227
  • 16 - Toward Another Dimension . . . 229
  • 17 - Indian Summer 233
  • 18 - In the Heat of Shadow 239
  • 19 - Mirror of Strength Portrait of Two Chilean Arpilleristas 243
  • 20 - The Space Crone 249
  • 21 - Serenity and Power 253
  • Notes 273
  • Credits 275
  • About the Book and Editor 277
  • About the Contributors 279
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