From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ageism, or age discrimination is stereotyping and discriminating against individuals or groups because of their age. It is a set of beliefs, attitudes, norms, and values used to justify age based prejudice, discrimination, and subordination.

Someone who uses Ageism, usually by an adult who obviously cannot remember his or her childhood becuase if they did they’d think that kids deserve rights. Saying that someone at a certain age is better than someone at another age (agism is about not having age rights, not age appropriate abilities.)

While Ageism can be seen in any proud person, in any group, I see Ageism rampant in mainly  conservative Christian circles in this country. Even while in  those crowds myself though, unfairness always disturbed me. (It especially angered me as a child!)  I even wrote a poem talking about it, back in my most conservative cult days. It went like this:

                               Can you see me; are you looking- past my eyes so blue?

                                   In this little body that is still so very new. . .
                                   Can you keep that vision from this day until I die?
                               Does it make your heart just swell, and does it make you cry?
                               Do you see the responsibility that now belongs to you?
                                To feed and cloth my body sure, but I’m a soul too.

                               Can you see me; are you looking- past me in my prime?
                               Can you see the need within and will you take the time?
                                Though I have the pride that tells me, “I will never die”. . .
                                 Help me to slow down in life, not let it rush on by.
                                 Won’t you see me like a babe, that vision please renew. . .
                                ‘Cause way down deep under my skin, I’m a soul too.

                                    Can you see me; are you looking- past eyes dimmed with age?
                                  Past a body holding a soul in a miserable old cage.
                                  Will you listen as I share the needs of a dying soul?
                                  Will you touch me, thought the years have now taken their toll?
                                  Will you listen with respect, to what to me is true?
                                  ‘Cause when my body’s seen it’s end, I’m a soul too.
                                                                                       By Angela Aloisi

(To my great surprise, this poem wasn’t well accepted by most of my Christian family and friends.)

The poem was partially inspired by the Ageism I saw towards mostly babies and kids that I saw all around me in the Church of God in Christ Mennonite . . .but also from what I saw in myself, and what I saw when I worked in a nursing home. My personality struggles with being a perfectionistic control freak but I felt a call from God/my conscience to not be a part of that judgmental and proud mindset anymore.

Don’t think that the “set of beliefs, attitudes, norms, and values used to justify age based prejudice, discrimination, and subordination” aren’t at the very heart of the Ancient religions though, just as racism and sexism was. Because it is! I was doing just what the Bible taught, and what the most sincere Christians I knew all did.

Sadly, the Ageism I saw (and abuse that went with it) was justifiable to me. “By way of justifying infant “training” and the continued “submission of the will” of children, IFB parents point to these lines in The Book of Proverbs:

  • Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. (Pr 23:14)
  • The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. (Pr 29:15)
  • Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. (Pr 22:15)
  • He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes [early on; speedily]. (Pr 13:24)
  • Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.(Pr 19:18)
  • The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil. (Pr 20:30)
To Train Up a Child, by fundamentalist Christian minister Michael Pearl and his wife Debi, is very popular within the IFB. This guide to “consistently rewarding every transgression with a switching” (from the book’s introduction) has sold over 670,000 copies. Here are some quotes from the book:
These truths [of this book] are . . . the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules, the same technique God uses to train his children.
If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final.
If God’s love is expressed by the “whippings” He gives, then can we not love our children enough to chasten them unto holiness? I have heard a rebellious teenager say, “If they only loved me enough to whip me.”
But what of the grouch who would rather complain than sleep? Get tough. Be firm with him. Never put him down and then allow him to get up. If, after putting him down, you remember he just woke up, do not reward his complaining by allowing him to get up. For the sake of consistency in training, you must follow through. He may not be able to sleep, but he can be trained to lie there quietly. He will very quickly come to know that any time he is laid down there is no alternative but to stay put. To get up is to be on the firing line and get switched back down.
She then administers [to a three-year-old] about ten slow, patient licks on his bare legs. He cries in pain. If he continues to show defiance by jerking around and defending himself, or by expressing anger, then she will wait a moment and again lecture him and again spank him. When it is obvious he is totally broken, she will hand him the rag and very calmly say, “Johnny, clean up your mess.”
On the bare legs or bottom, switch him eight or ten licks; then, while waiting for the pain to subside, speak calm words of rebuke. If the crying turns to a true, wounded, submissive whimper, you have conquered; he has submitted his will. If the crying is still defiant, protesting and other than a response to pain, spank him again.
One particularly painful experience of nursing mothers is the biting baby. My wife did not waste time finding a cure. When the baby bit, she pulled hair (an alternative has to be sought for baldheaded babies).

Select your instrument according to the child’s size. For the under one year old, a little, ten- to twelve-inch long, willowy branch (striped of any knots that might break the skin) about one-eighth inch diameter is sufficient. Sometimes alternatives have to be sought. A one-foot ruler, or its equivalent in a paddle, is a sufficient alternative. For the larger child, a belt or larger tree branch is effective.”

So it was justifiable not only because it was done by good Christians and was Biblical, but because of it’s seeming effectiveness. . .or at least acceptance. People being raised in the days of slavery or in a sexist societies also usually think (or thought) it’s right and harmless though, so we need to realize that our perspective is blinded while in it.

As a teenager I saw this blindness in someone else firsthand, but still didn’t see it in myself. . .mainly because I didn’t have any cause to see it in myself with no kids yet.
Once my parents took in a boarder, a single mom of ethnic descent, and her 5 year old son. At first we thought they were both model boarders, and even came to some of our church’s programs. I was impressed with the soft-spokeness and obedience of the boy, even if not his intelligence. Then I started to see the reason for it. . .the boy feared his mom, and her temper. She would privately fly off the handle at the least silliness or childishness and he would get a beating. Crying wasn’t allowed for it though I quickly found out. He was only beat more for crying when he was beaten, so the boy was very quiet. There was no denying the many slapping noises that came from that room though, and I knew my heart couldn’t stand for that. So I started talking to the boy more and gaining his confidence to get a feel for the situation more clearly. I found out that he loved his abusive Mom, and even justified all the abuse she did to him! Classic signs of abuse BTW.

At that time my parents were told about the abuse, and I recall them tentatively approaching the subject with the Mom, and it ending in her leaving our home. Should we have called child protective services? Should we have called the cops? What was our place, and what rights did the parent have to abuse their own child? It was tricky. . .especially for my parents who knew full well that they had spanked their children, and planned to do the same with their late born baby at the time.

Anyhow, it got me thinking; Is an abused child helpless? Or are we allowed by our society to intervene when we see wrong done to a child? Or is it none of our business what another parent does?

It’s been said to me lately that it is none of my business if another parent wants to abuse their child, even if it’s right in front of you! I understand giving grace to parents with a bad day, especially if they (or their partner) realize it’s not typical, and preferably admit to their guilt later. . . but to defend the chronic abusive actions of a parent, both in the heat of the moment, and afterwards, tells us there is a deeper problem of Ageistic beliefs or values and I don’t think people should stand for it.

How can we tell the difference between just for instance a choice of a different philosophy of care for a child (i.e. not choosing to vaccinate or chop out a body part that a doctor tells you that you could or should chop out) or messed up beliefs and values that place the child in a position of inferiority? What should our rights with our own children be? And what are their rights?!

Do we have the right to hurt and change our unconsenting children’s bodies, just for what we deem as good looks? (Things like: filing teeth, binding feet to make small, binding heads into a point, piercings, circumcision. . .etc.) Some would do all manner of child abuse like those, while denying other parents the right to abort their unborn, unfeeling fetus. What’s the difference? They are all abuse if you think about this: no child would consent to any of them at that moment, if in their innocent and un-brainwashed state they could talk. . . (except under a rare circumstance of excruciating pain, and if they could reason about a low quality of life in the future.) 

The thing is, if we believe they are “born in sin”, needing to be controlled, (not protected) and put in their place, we will just naturally be abusing them. If we consider a baby or child with respect and live by the Golden rule, we will likely find it hard to abuse the innocent and vulnerable child.

 Remember, Ageism is saying that someone at a certain age is better than someone at another age ; it is about age rights, not abilities. Not to belabor this, but if you’re like me, you may need examples of ageism practiced today in our culture.

So here’s a list of abusive practices ageist adults do, that my children helped me come up with:

  • Abortion (with rare exception for a case of life and death for mom to carry baby, or baby born with a major defect, the mom could show responsibility and carry the child, even if to give it up at birth.)
  • Circumcision -no medical benefit, and lots of permanent side effects. It is now done out of tradition/looks, religion, and ignorance only.
  • Ear piercing of babies and young children.
  • “Sleep training”or “crying it out” method used on your baby or child. (Which causes a host of long lasting psychological issues, and brain damage.)
  • Using a playpen, car seat, swing, or stroller a lot, or “training” a baby or child to stay away from you and within the confines of a blanket or bed against their will. (Again, causing a host of psychological issues and disadvantages to their future creativity and ability to think “outside of the box”.)
  • Using Mother substitutes in the first few formative years (i.e. babysitters, pacifiers) to replace the love, comfort and support from a nursing mother that a baby needs for optimal emotional/mental growth.
  • Hitting/spanking a child hard (anywhere, and with anything!) for discipline, and with the purpose of breaking their spirit/will. (The motivation doesn’t matter, nor does the calmness it is applied with. . .it only serves to give a mixed message that confuses and brainwashes a child.)
  • Putting soap in a child’s mouth for using free speech.
  • Holding a child against their will just to teach submission to your will.
  • Not allowing a child to question or “talk back” to an adult without discipline
  • Not allowing a child to talk freely in settings they don’t need to be in, (Adult church, concerts. . .) and using them in a public setting to show off what a “trained” and well behaved child you have. Or not allowing them to sing or whistle around you without being sent into isolation.
  • Not allowing the child to talk with negative emotions (without harsh discipline).
  • Not allowing a child to run or play inside like a “wild Indian” (when it would do no harm and just because you don’t like it.) without discipline.
  • Forcing a child to go to a nursery, Sunday school, school or a college that he doesn’t want to go to, when other more favorable options exist. (Or take classes, sports or do a homeschool curriculum that he/she finds intolerable.)
  • Giving a child no say in their hairstyle or clothes.
  • Forcing a child to eat everything on their plate.
  • Forcing a child to take “yucky” supplements or food that you don’t eat, but should.
  • Cheering to distract and minimize the feelings of a baby who truly hurts themselves.
  • Giving yourself treats from a private stash that the kids can’t have because it’s bad for them. . .(and not you?)
  • Giving yourself privileges that you don’t give your kids. (i.e. food options within reason, trips to favorite destinations, choice of friends. . .)
  • Giving yourself pampering that you wouldn’t give your kid. (i.e. massages, manicures, comfy clothes and shoes, soft seats in the car. . .)
  • Constantly bringing up children’s childish behaviors as a problem that they should feel guilty for, as if it’s a horrible sin (like, to act frisky, repeat themselves, yell, pick their nose, bit their nails, cut their hair, bug their siblings, etc.). . .while neglecting to mention how you had the same issues when you were their age.
  • Using guilt, shock therapy or invasive surgeries. . .to treat an inconvenient and temporary problem, like bed wetting.
  • Restricting their involvement in games and activities that they are able to do and there is no harm in them doing- with parental supervision to help them learn. (i.e. Facebook, e-mail, board games, toys, using hot tubs that are the only warm option sometimes, going to mature and ethically deep themed (R) movies with parents. . .etc.)
There are a host of others that are unfair or abusive, but they are ones that are done in complete ignorance by the parents. Sometimes because of a different model of care, just not being informed about the options or not having the right support. . .so those wouldn’t count as Ageism.
What it comes down to though is: would you want any of those things done to you without a really good cause? Sadly, a lot of those practices came out of a convenience they represented to self-centered parents. Others from a concept of control and superiority of the elders, as taught in ancient religions. Some of those though (like abortion, using a pacifier, or a baby sitter,  nursery or school. . .) are necessary evils to parents in certain circumstances. . . which are usually choices they made for (they believed) the greater good of the whole family.

While we are not unique in our treatment of children in the world, we are one of the few who are not willing to see our part in the problem, and would rather blame the children, then take responsibility for how they became what they are today because of abusive parents. (I personally haven’t found a bad kid yet. . .just a sad, hardened, bitter, neglected one. And I haven’t found a truly Angelic one yet either. . .at least not one that hasn’t been brainwashed into being content with, and thinking they deserve, abuse from their parents.)

We, a highly religious 1st world nation, should have been the first to come up with a declaration of the rights of the most vulnerable in our population, but sadly, we are one of the last to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is an international human rights treaty which grants all children and young people a comprehensive set of rights, including the right to express their views and have them taken into account in all matters affecting them (article 12); the right to play, rest and leisure (article 31) and the right to protection from all forms of violence (article 19). Only two countries in the world have not yet signed the Convention: Somalia and the US! The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history, and yet we have not signed it! 
The US is one of only seven countries-together with Iran, Nauru, Palau, Somalia, Sudan and Tonga- that has failed to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) as well. These and other key treaties the US has yet to sign, to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. The failure of the US to join with other nations has undercut its international leadership on key issues, limiting its influence, its stature, and its credibility in promoting respect for human rights around the world. Not surprising really though, as the US is only leading the world in the way their religious parents led them: through fear and intimidation, not by example and with respect.