About Us: Challenging the Stereotypes


I am a slender, not very tall, older woman. But, I am not a little old lady! Chances are, you aren't either.

If you are fifty-five years of age or older, you probably learned very early on that your role as a female was to look after the needs of others without complaining about any "little" concerns that you might have. Since we often believe ourselves to be insignificant beings, it is not surprising that society continues to support the myth that women, and particularly older women, are unimportant. This is the stuff of which little old ladies are made.

The Example of the Workplace

During interviews for a recent research project on older women and employment, most respondents who were potential employers seemed to value older women workers. A few, however, were outspoken in maintaining that older women should remain invisible, with comments like "What do they have to work for? Their families are all grown up!" and "They can do volunteer work, if they want to, but why don't they just stay home and make cookies?"

We must not allow ourselves to be defined by insensitive and inappropriate stereotypes. We are, after all, persons who have the same basic requirements for life and living as anyone else. We must not allow ourselves to be forgotten or made invisible either. In a document entitled Older Workers: an Imminent Crisis in the Labour Market (1985), the Canada Employment and Immigration Advisory Council decided to ignore the concerns of older women: ".. .in the end, Council felt that this report would deal only with the situation of older workers generally and not delve in to the special problems faced by disabled persons, women and other disadvantaged groups in this age category." In other words, this report, which ultimately led to the federal government's program called "Programs for Older Worker Assistance", only deals with men and any other people who are not considered "disadvantaged".

Contester les stéréotypes

Beverly Jean Brunet étudie la façon dont le mythe de la vieille dame fragile, qui dispose de temps et de loisirs, a contribué à maintenir dans la pauvreté beaucoup de femmes dans les dernières années de leur vie.

La recherche et les programmes sociaux ne se préoccupent souvent pas des besoins spéciaux des femmes d'un certain âge, tandis que le milieu de travail ferme ses portes à celles qui cherchent un emploi rémunéré. Elles décrochent des emplois à temps partiel, mal payés et jonglent souvent entre les responsabilités leur incombant en tant que mères et les soins qu'elles doivent prodiguer à leurs parents vieillissant.

Beverly Jean Brunet estime que les femmes d'un certain âge doivent en toute vérité se raconter leur vie,et la raconter aussi à la société. Elle suggère qu'on atteigne d'autres femmes d'un certain âge qui font partie de groupes communautaires et d'organismes de femmes (comme Older Women's Network) ou qui prennent des cours. En unissant leurs efforts, les femmes d'un certain âge peuvent exiger que surviennent les changements sociaux, juridiques, politiques et économiques dont elles ont besoin, ainsi que tous ceux dont tireraient parti les jeunes filles, les femmes et la population dans son ensemble.

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