Ageism in philosophy?

After spending years at conferences where women had to struggle to be heard, i thought that sorry situation changed considerably in 1986.  Suddenly it was recognized that women could do philosophy, or so it seemed to me.  But there was a problem.  Men acted, again from my point of view, as though women became able to do philosophy in 1986.  With few exceptions, the older women were not taken more seriouly than before.

Surely I exaggerate for the sake of a neat narrative.  Perhaps so.  But it may be worth asking ourselves if there is ageism operating in philosophy.  Equally, we could ask if this bias affects women more than men.

If ageism is active, it would do us well to start looking at it by reminding ourselves of its presence in all sorts of areas.  And so here’s a bit from HuffPo about another industry.  (

You have to look wide and far to find people over 60 in the 100 top-grossing films of 2015, and when you do find them, they are demeaned by ageist language and presented inaccurately and unfairly, says new research conducted by Humana and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Among the researchers’ more disturbing findings:

1. Older people are underrepresented in film.

While 18.5 percent of the population is 60 and over, just 11 percent of film characters were that age.

2. More than half the films with older characters direct ageist comments at them.

Out of 57 films that featured a leading or supporting senior character, 30 contained ageist comments; that’s more than half of the films. Characters were called things like, “a relic,” “a frail old woman” and “a senile old man.” The report does not name specific films, nor would study representatives identify in which movies those three sample quotes were from.

3. Older people are stereotyped as tech-illiterate.

Only 29.1 percent of on-screen leading or supporting characters aged 60 or older are depicted using technology, while 84 percent of aging Americans report that they use the internet weekly.

4. Older people are portrayed as anti-social shut-ins.

On screen, just one third of seniors pursue interests or hobbies and 38.5 percent attend events, while in reality, they are more than twice as likely to engage socially with friends or relatives on a weekly or monthly basis.

5. Seniors are rarely shown as the masters of their own destinies.

The top five traits respondents rated as most important to aging successfully were self-reliance, awareness, honesty, resilience and safety. In film, seniors are rarely depicted as in control of their lives.

The pity, of course, is that people believe what they see on-screen.


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