Adultism: A Well-Kept Secret
Adultism is the term used to describe the oppression of young people by adults. An article by John Bell included this definition: “…adultism refers to behaviors and attitudes based on the assumption that adults are better than young people, and entitled to act upon young people without their agreement. This mistreatment is reinforced by social institutions, laws, customs, and attitudes.”
- Name: Margaret Pevec. MA
- Location: Boulder, CO, United States
see my blog entries
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
Why Don't Adults Listen?
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Youth Rights Day
Labels: adolescents, adultism, ageism, alcohol, drinking age, drugs, empowerment, John Holt, National Youth Rights Association, National Youth Rights Day, NYRA, teenagers, youth empowerment, youth oppression
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
I was doing my shopping in the supermarket, and needed to carry my family's groceries out in a box. Standing at the checkout, I whipped the box up in a clean and jerk type movement and set it on my head, the way women do in some African countries. The old woman working the till was very alarmed and said a light girl like me shouldn't be lifting heavy things. I said it was fine; it wasn't even heavy. She wouldn't let the issue alone. I told her again it was fine and I regularly lifted heavier things than that at home and in the gym. She just talked over me saying I'd have spinal problems by the time I was her age.
I'd like to know how it would have been if the ages had been reversed. If a young person were to override an old person they didn't know like that it would be seen as gross rudeness.
When I related the incident to a friend, he didn't see what I had to complain about. He said "I hope you weren't rude to her. If someone talked crap to my elderly mother I'd smack them around the head."
In other words, he felt, that not only should elderly people have a free pass to be disrespectful, but that objecting to disrespectful or invasive behaviour on an older person's part is "rudeness," and so inappropriate that it deserves physical violence.
This left a very acid taste in my mouth. Is it really that hard to treat a young person as a human being with boundaries?
Friday, December 3, 2010
Invading the Personal Space of Young People
An example of adultism I experienced and still feel strongly about is physical touch. As a child I remember adults seemed to think it was okay to openly touch me, hug me, or play with my hair, even if I didn't know them. I think the assumption was that if you're young, you don't understand boundaries, so they don't have to worry about overstepping boundaries with a young person. I have mild Asperger's symptoms and one of them is a strong aversion to touch. Being a child at the time, I didn't really know how to handle the behaviour except by recoiling or saying loudly and defiantly "I don't like being touched!" I was called "rude" and told they were just being friendly; that the appropriate response was to smile politely. I find that ironic, since if anyone behaved like that to an adult, it would be the person doing the touching who would be called rude and the adult would be quite within their rights to refuse the unwanted touch. Yet because I was a child I was expected to tolerate the behaviour and smile about it. My mother, to her credit, explained that it was okay to refuse physical touch but that I should do it in a calm and polite way, such as "Excuse me but I don't like being touched unless it's by someone I know well."
I also had teachers at school behave in this overly familiar way. They would casually take hold of my arm or even mess with my hair, and would act very shocked and concerned when I refused their touching. At one school there was actually a list of students' rights, one of them being "to refuse unwanted touches." Yet they didn't like it if I said I didn't like being touched and acted as if I were being rude just for asserting basic boundaries.
I still feel angry when recalling these incidents. They were the adults, I was the child, yet I was the one expected to tolerate their inappropriate behaviour, because they were adults therefore it was okay.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Adultism on a School Council
Thursday, May 7, 2009
When Students Were Killed
Killing college students for protesting the war in Viet Nam belongs on the extreme side of adultism, along with incest, child molestation, child pornography. It sent a strong, clear message to young people in the U.S. and around the globe: we don’t care what you think and we’ll shut you up with force if need be…butt out, you’re not wanted, you don’t count. The fervor and fever of protest died down after that…I don’t think we’ve seen it matched since on college campuses.
I didn’t know much about the Kent State killings until I attended school there several years ago. There is a commemorative event each year and I walked with one of the survivors to each of the sites where events occurred and heard his story. I also read a number of articles to gain a better understanding of what had happened. Yesterday, when I read the article about Mary Ann Vecchio, the young woman in the oh-so-famous photograph just after four students died, I learned for the first time that she was a 14-year-old runaway from Florida. Now I realize that her reaction to the death of Jeffrey Miller spoke the horror and anguish of many of us. An adult would have been less likely to show their full feelings…more likely to have gotten right to the business of ambulances and taking control of an out-of-control situation. Mary Ann gave us her unedited reaction…it’s written all over her face: “How could you let this happen?!”