Influencers In The Elder Ecosystem
Word pairs are powerful; remember “outside agitators?” If the agitators are from outside, that implies people in the community are fine with the status quo. But are they, really? Or take my current least favorite pair: “young influencers.” If influencers are automatically young, that implies the old lack influence. But do we, really? Who are the influencers in the elder ecosystem?
It’s the job of badass women to question social expectations. In my book Aphrodite’s Pen, I encourage women writers to turn cultural tropes upside down. As in, Write about a woman who has no lovers at age fifty and three lovers at sixty. Or, Write about an older woman who becomes a tantrica. In this post, let’s flip the “young influencers” trope and examine the power of older women.
When I think about crones of influence, I think of women who build the ecosystem of old women through new organizations, vivid social media, and brave writing. The first crone influencer I ever met was Lynx Canon. She founded the monthly Dirty Old Women reading series at the Octopus Literary Salon in Oakland. Lynx calmly presided over a rowdy bunch of crone writers who shared erotic stories in front of a packed house. Naturally those readings were popular with older women. But we also had a following of young women relieved to hear that body love doesn’t stop at forty (despite the cultural nexus of ageism and sexism). The Octopus reading series birthed the Elderotica writing groups, the Dirty Old Women Anthology, and ultimately Aphrodite’s Pen. Lynx inspired us to keep writing. Were it not for Lynx, I would not have written my books—or this blog.
In the last five years the network of crone influencers has blossomed. Older women support one another in community and creativity, through books, TED talks, new organizations, and online. Take Ashton Applewhite. Almost two million people have viewed her 2017 “Let’s End Ageism” TED talk. Ashton went on to publish the immensely popular 2020 book, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism. Her book tackles all flavors of ageism, in the workplace, in popular culture, and in social constructs about older people’s sexuality. Ashton focuses on the intersections between ageism, sexism, racism and ableism. She also founded the Old School Anti-Ageism Clearinghouse as a hub for anti-ageism resources. If you’re not familiar with the work of the Clearinghouse, it maintains a fantastic collection that is worth digging into. The group also organizes free events such as the Old School Movement Builders’ Convening, a great way to network with others in this space. Connect with Ashton on LinkedIn to hear about these events.
Another key influencer is Geena Davis. She made a movie every year, including hits like Thelma and Louise and A League of Their Own, and thought the ride would just keep going—until the phone stopped ringing on Davis’ fortieth birthday. She made exactly one movie in the decade of her forties. In response, she founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to spotlight representation based on gender, race, LGBTQ+, disability, age and body size. Leveraging her access to industry leaders, Davis brings data to the table through studies like Frail, Feeble and Forgotten: A Report on the Movie Roles of Women of Age. The Institute is a membership organization, and you can get involved here. More pushback on gendered ageism in the movie industry comes from Meryl Streep and Oprah. Their project The Writers’ Lab supports women screenwriters over forty through an annual script development retreat in upstate New York (and international retreats in Europe and the UK).
Joan Price is a crone influencer who promotes sensuality as one key to a vivid older life. As a self-styled “senior sexpert,” Joan hosts webinars and writes a blog about senior sexuality. She is a much-published author, including the terrific resource, Naked at Our Age. In collaboration with Jessica Drake, Joan made a documentary about sex after sixty, and she answers questions from readers in a monthly column on Senior Planet. Joan’s work was featured in the cover story of the January 12, 2022 New York Times magazine, “The Joys (and Challenges) of Sex after 70.”
Crone influencers keep emerging, empowering women in fashion, health, careers, science, sexuality, and the arts. Here are two emerging influencers I’m excited to follow:
- After a career founding and running a global chemical business, Isabel Alexander turned her considerable skill and energy to a new mission: To maximize the positive, enduring impact of feminine wisdom and collaboration through education, connection, and celebration. Isabel is the founder of The Encore Catalyst, a coaching, training and education program for older women. She powers the Lift as You Climb podcast, with weekly interviews of guests who embody her goal to increase abundance, influence and respect for women around the world. Find Isabel in her thriving Facebook group, Renegades Reinventing: Women Redefining Retirement.
- Wendy Green has spent a lifetime at reinvention. She has been a computer programmer, a technical trainer, the leader of a US Expertise Center. From there she transitioned into Management and Leadership development and worked with managers on their leadership skills. She was certified as a professional coach and pursued that career until she was laid off in the pandemic, when she refocused on providing inspiration and encouragement to Boomers and beyond to create our best life. Her website, heyboomer.biz, is a great source of information. Through her weekly live shows, podcasts and blog posts, Wendy talks with terrific crone guests and shares information relevant to building meaningful, purposeful older lives. Follow Wendy on Facebook, LinkedIn, Spotify and YouTube.
Please check the Stella website for many more crones influencing the social narrative through their books, photography, and other media.
The influence of crones is steadily growing, and so are our connections in community. Like the fable of the visually impaired men who each thought the whole elephant resembled the piece they could grasp, no one person can see every aspect of the burgeoning network of influential crones. But the more we weave together those connections the stronger we become. And so I would love to hear from you in the Comments about the influencers in your network of older women.
Thank you and shine on, you wild crone.