Edinburgh International Book Festival 2014 interview: Lynne Segal on ageing and feminism

This article is from 2014

*4lynne Segal

‘It’s women who are aged faster by culture and discarded sooner as undesirable'

’I don’t feel old,’ was the most common response author, academic and long-time socialist-feminist Lynne Segal would receive when researching her new book Out of Time: The Pleasures and Perils of Ageing. She describes this as ‘temporal vertigo’, noting that ‘we’re nearly all living longer, indeed on average a whole generation longer than a century ago, yet this has done next to nothing to shift the cultural antipathy towards old age. If anything, the contrary.’ Since the swinging 60s, she says, culture has been increasingly youth-orientated, and ageing has been something to fear, both individually and because of the economic effects of an older population.

Ageing is also, to an extent, a feminist issue. ‘It’s women who are aged faster by culture,’ says Segal, ‘and discarded sooner as undesirable: Susan Sontag wrote about this double standard over 40 years ago.’ And it’s the cause of the one significant change in political opinion Segal’s experienced in her life. ‘I’ve come to rethink some of our emphasis on personal autonomy and independence. My research on this book led me to think more deeply about the work of caring and the ways in which we’re all dependent on others. Contrary to much public rhetoric today, we need to be needed.’

Charlotte Square Gardens, 0845 373 5888, 1 Aug, 2pm, £10 (£8).

Dialogue 4: Ageing

Does our ageing population represent an economic time bomb or is this piece of speculation just the latest manifestation of an ageist world-view? Professor Susan Deacon chairs a discussion with Paul Johnson, director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, and Lynne Segal, Birkbeck College professor of psychology and gender…

Lynne Segal

How is the western world confronting the fact that it is getting steadily older? This is the subject taken on by Lynne Segal, professor of psychology and gender studies at Birkbeck College, in her new book Out of Time: The Pleasures and Perils of Ageing. Segal’s research takes her to poetry and novels as well as…