Women’s culture, which had been desperately filling every small crevice not already claimed by male culture, was bursting at the seams – and when the electronic niche of a globally interconnected world wide web opened, we flooded in with blogs and e-books, and all the knowledge, skills and strategies that we as women have been trying to keep alive in a world where ubiquitous limiting constraints worked against us.
This quote is wordy, and a bit intellectual, but what do you expect when we are describing one of the most significant spin-offs of the early electronic age?
Women’s empowerment and equalization of women in history were not among the intentions voiced in the planning of ARPAnet, Mosaic, and other defense and education communication technologies that led to what we now know as the internet, inter-webs, web, net, cloud and/or information highway. Cultural evolution is tricky that way. If you try to constrain, control, channel or “pipe” it, it will spring a leak, wriggle away, or morph into something completely different. Go with the flow.
Women flow, women think different, women persist. There is a flow or an energy among women of a certain age. I’ve written about it before.
No matter how troubled, unappreciated, stressed, overworked, or underpaid we women writers of a certain age may be, we are creating the structure of future with the paths we walk, the words we write, and the myths we disintegrate with our raging ray-guns powered by the energy released during hormonal fluctuations.
Zeitgeist is the word that comes to mind. The “spirit of the times” is real and perceptible to people who are aware of trajectories and trends as they emerge. I became aware of a group of women acting on Zeitgeist at the BlogHer conference last year who formed a critical mass. I was planning to launch a site, Done Nesting at that time, and found a group of women of a similar age to me, women who are of a certain age, and who were all, each and every one of them, ready to act or acting on the need for a non-Mommy-Blogger community, alliance, group, recognition… I spoke to many folks about how we, women of a certain age, felt about the how some of feeling that the unofficial but widely known target audience of BlogHer being Mommy Bloggers. I talked to Lesbian Dad, aka Polly, who is of a certain age, about this; but she is a mommy blogger even though she calls herself a dad. Even though Polly understood what I was talking about, and she was the only one besides Denise who understood what I, and other women who do not have children living in their household at the moment, were talking about when we said we felt excluded and ignored.
I do have to say as a disclaimer that there was one session at this conference last year, that addressed an older mommy blogging constituency, “Blogging into Midlife.” I missed it. Duh. I thought it was for 30 or 40-somethings. Yes, I am 50 something. I am still 24 in my head but time passes. So, I attended “Strength in Numbers” because of my interest in online organizing.
I met several other women, of a certain age, I had followed, read, admired, or just discovered at the conference at the Birds of a Feather Breakfast, and at another event that had nothing to do with BlogHer that was in NYC at the same time: a “Bloomer” gathering put on by the Boom Box Network.
There was change in the wind. Soon after the conference a group, GenFab, popped up on Facebook and I had found my Homies/Tribe/Peer Group.
I ruthlessly read and share with this group. Competition be damned! We are all Fabulous women writers who are for the most part of a certain age. Knowing what other women who were similarly motivated were doing helped me hone my ideas for a site. Done Nesting is on hold and I am moving forward with BoomHer.net. No writer creates for exactly the same audience, we all fill different niches. Few people, or marketing agencies, are skilled enough to even know how to determine real market share or audience and then create something that would target exactly the same group. If you know of anyone who can do this, please let me know! I want to work with them.
I choose to move forward together, create synergy, and increase the momentum of the trajectory of women creating their own legacy, in searchable form, on the internet. I am absolutely pleased as punch that Generation Fabulous, the site, (apart from the Facebook group) launched today. Women know how to coöperate, if we didn’t the species would have died out ages ago. So when asked about how I feel about great sites that might be viewed as competitors, I respond that we are not competitors, but rather, are smooth operators and cool collaborators . (Cue Sade here.)
I have been observing the presence of women of a certain age on the web for quite a while. I started writing about this a couple of years ago. How “certain age” is defined varies by who is asked to define it. As I am beginning to create content and frames for different sections of a the site I am launching this Fall that will serve that certain group of women. So I thought I would look at some of the groups that could be included in the Certain Age Mash Up dependent upon what characteristics you believe to be most defining of the group.
The empty nest is a fictitious criteria. As I am wont to say, “My nest isn't empty, I'm still living here!” Humans are not birds. Evolutionarily and taxonomically humans are hominidae. And as far as I know members of this group, the great apes, including chimps and gorillas all make nests. They make nests for themselves. When they have dependent offspring, they share a nest. I am done building my nest. It is what it is and I still live here. I don't think I, personally, want to be defined by absence.
Um… it isn't like menopause is a single event. It is a process. I think perimenopause taken together with the cessation of menstuation and the time after menopause when a new stability emerges comprises the vast majority of the contemporary women's lives especially when compared to the time of our lives defined by fertility. Again, the majority of my life, Goddess willing, should not be defined by absence.
Age by Decade
Should the fact that we use a base 10 numeric system define the stages of our lives? It probably is easier to organize a society according to the groups of people who reside in each 10 year period. But we all travel through time and pass through these categories that may or may not correspond to stages within the life of any one person. A woman in her thirties who began having children in her teens may have much in common with a woman who is in her fifties who began having children in her thirties than with someone her own age who is parenting a toddler. Of course biological stage of life would be the same for both the thirty-some women, but life experience will probably be very distinct for these two women.
Perhaps that “certain age” is defined by the presence of adult children? How do you define adult? Internal definitions and external definitions are different beasts. What if a woman is caring for a developmentally disabled child? Will she never be included in the sisterhood of a certain age? Adult children can return home. Adult children can establish homes next door or across the county. Children can become financially independent from parents or children can request or need or receive financial assistance from parents throughout their lives. Age, financial independence, and emotional or intellectual maturity of one group cannot really define another person's inclusion in another group.
In our society we give labels to different generations. These personlized age grades probably made sense in a farming society that changed little over the course of a century or two. What Brocaw has called the Greatest Generation gave birth to the Boomers, the Beats gave birth to Generation X, and the Boomers gave birth to the Millenials, right? Once again it isn't that simple although it does shed some light on why we have a saying about things skipping a generation. Generations as we currently know them are defined by governments and demographers. Cohorts are more coherent self-defined groups. The Boomers can be split into two very distinct cohorts, those who could have gone to Woodstock and those who could have, or whose peers could have been,drafted and fought in Vietnam. Those are distinct cohorts. People who were young and experienced a shared televised event when humans first visited the Moon have a defining experience that unites them as specific group of people. At one time it might have been experiencing painful coming of age ceremonies together. But then there is the “older generation” versus the “younger generation” that moves over or through specific groups of people. We were youngsters once. Now we are not.
Yes, Virginia, there is no absolute definition of woman. My own take on this is that our amazingly complex and awe-inspiring self-recognition system can extend as close to our personal identity or as far as every living thing. Some of us are closed and see differences. Some are open and see similarity. I suspect that every person puts her own experience in to this equation and comes up with a self/other ratio that is meaningful to her. Zero similarities translates to complete otherness. A ratio of one or complete agreement translates to self. To see self in the other probably needs more likeness than difference.
Women on the web, from my experience, are choosing to look for similarity. I like that.
I once had a little white on black button from the Holocaust Museum in D.C. that simply said, “remember.” My husband borrowed it, and I never saw it again. Somehow that is fitting. Things don’t last. Things vanish. But memories are different. We keep them and review them in grief, and for comfort, until they are worn smooth into polished icons of remembrance.
We got the call from my step-daughter early that day; we didn’t have hours, days or weeks of worry. She was a lovely and quite intelligent young woman, only 25, who worked in lower Manhattan, not all that far from the WTC, and lived in Brooklyn. She was okay. Her building had been evacuated and she was going to have to walk back to Brooklyn that day. Our younger daughter was in 6th grade and the school called because they were concerned about her. She seemed to grasp the enormity of the attacks and was emotionally devastated and raw unlike many of her peers who just did not quite get it. She’d been to the WTC the previous month, August 2001, with her dad, my husband, when he stopped in to see a broker. We didn’t know it then but she would spend 7th grade in Arlington, VA with classmates who lost parents in the attack on the Pentagon. I spent years disseminating real information about the Iraq War that most folks now grudgingly recognize as truth, and during those years many despised me, called me a traitor, and threatened me and my family. It has been a hard 10 years.
I wrote, globally, about the initial thoughts I had on the blog/site I ran at the time called Late Boomers. The three articles I wrote that were “about” the attacks on the U.S. can be read, in the same format in which they appeared then, at:
Boomers Unique Take on Patriotism and Military Service
And I expressed myself through poetry, bad though it was, which was accepted for the Poets Against the War Website .
And of course there was a wrap up (for me anyway) of the impact 9/11 had on my life that I posted to BlogHer.com after bin Laden was killed this past Spring: On Realizing I Was Impacted by Terrorism.
I have been feeling numb this past week. Perhaps because of the approaching anniversary. Anniversaries of sad events always get to me even if I don’t consciously remember them. This year I have had to add another sad connection to 9/11. This year, on January 8th, Tucson lost a little girl whose 10th Birthday anniversary is tomorrow.
Please, let’s try to build peace, kindness, and a loving human family.
Cohorts are self identified grops of individuals who are close enough in age to have shared and to identify with the same defining moments and events in their lives. The phrase “Baby Boomers” was coined well before most or all of us could self-identify as anything. The Baby Boom is not a cohort. It is an externally imposed generational label. So let’s see what cohorts actually exist within this expansive, lack-luster title.
Cohorts, for the purposes of this article and site, are self-identified groups of individuals who are close enough in age to have shared and to identify with the same defining moments and events in their lives. The phrase “Baby Boomers” was coined well before most or all of us could self-identify as anything. The Baby Boom is not a cohort. It is an externally imposed generational label. So let’s see what cohorts actually exist within this expansive, lack-luster title.
In a traditional sense cohorts are members of an age grade who go through a societal unit’s initiation rites together. Basically this means that cohorts are people of the same age who suffered the same painful experiences as they came of age. It’s the old, “hey, we went to different High Schools together” phenomenon. Just because it is an anthropological and demographic term, it does not necessarily mean that it has to apply only to people from a small village in North Africa who have their strongest sense of affiliation with the other adolescents who were circumcised at the same time as they were. You might find yourself declaring affiliation with someone you just met in an airport after small talk allows you to discover that you both saw The Tom Tom Club at Danceteria on the same night back in ’82 and remember that stunning woman who had the man following her around on a leash. But there is also that earlier time period when you were an acne-enhanced 8th year 4Her somewhere west of the Wea Plains. That certainly defines a slightly different subset of people with whom you can claim age-grade affiliation informed by a particular culture. I suspect you get the idea.
A generation is a time interval for societal replacement. It’s the time it takes one group of people of prime breeding age to be replaced by their children at that same age. We usually think of it as being between 20 and 30 years. Cohorts are more flexible. A cohort can be a high school class, pre-1980 proto-punkers, or indian-print wearing vegetarians who were in high school when Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen” came out. You can define the term as inclusively or in as tightly constricted fashion as you like. I have a tendency to define terms in a limber fashion. Language is fluid. Constraints enable as well as limit.
So how many labels can you think of for us? Me Generation. Blank Generation. Tweeners. Jonesers. Second Wave Boomers. Trailing Edge Boomers. Do any of these sound appealing to you? Nah, me neither. I don’t particularly like Late-Boomers either, but it distinguishes the unique grouping of the post-Vietnam era Boomers from the older Boomers, while still linking us to the demographic phenomenon that was the post-WWII birth boom. Baby Boom births did not peak until 1957 and arrived back at 1945 levels only after 1964.
I get really really frustrated when people don’t know which definition they are using for what. Now I don’t mind loose definitions, I’ve played fast and loose myself, it’s more fun that way, but sloppy thinking is so de classe. The definitions I use on this site tend to synchronize with definitions used by governmental entities. If you are going to pigeon-hole, you might as well use THE official roost’s lingo. U.S. Government publications refer to the Baby Boom as the period from 1946 through 1964. Period. End of discussion. Be very careful of people who cannot distinguish generations from cohorts. Generation X did not begin in 1960. Generation X, by definition, cannot remember the first lunar landing. People born in 1964 can and do remember. Generations tend to be official designations these days.
Cohorts tend to be less official and more malleable, and self-defined as they are more than just an age grade. The very fuzziness of the terminology appeals to many individuals. Self-definition means that we can vary the definition as needed to include or exclude weird groups or individuals as required. My home town cohort is far more inclusive in range of tolerated behavior than my acknowledge you on the street in the big city cohort, but my web cohort is a totally different beast as the potential number is essentially without limit (or at least bigger than this ol’ girlie can fathom.) Basically the soft and slow (as opposed to hard and fast) rule is that cohorts have to about the same age, sort of, and affiliated through a social linkage. If you are reading this, there is a very good chance that we are in the same cohort according to someone’s definition.