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.”

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Double Standards

The following was submitted to my website by Jessica M. from Ireland. I have a space there for people to share their stories of adultism. (please visit it at:

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?

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